¡Felicidades! Mazel tov! Auguri! Congratulations on beginning your language-learning journey! One of the hardest parts of studying a language is sticking with it because it takes a long time to build up proficiency. While it will take years to sound as smart as you do in your first language, there's good news: You can feel comfortable and even conversational in your new language after a few months!
How to develop language goals
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: You don't need to be "fluent" to be conversational. You can be conversational as a beginner, at the intermediate level, and as an advanced learner! Instead, decide what proficiency level you'll need to accomplish your goals. The levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2 come from the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR), the international standard that Duolingo uses to guide course development. Many learners are surprised by how much vocabulary and grammar are covered in the "beginner" levels A1 and A2!
Here are other factors to consider when deciding how long it will take to reach your goals:
- Time spent studying. Building a consistent study habit is important for language learning. You'll need to practice a little at a time for a long time, instead of binging occasionally.
- What your goal is. If you’re aiming to reach higher proficiency levels, like B1 or B2, that will naturally take a lot longer than to reach the end of A1!
- How much you use the language. You'll learn more, and faster, the more you use the language, so it'll be important to incorporate it into your hobbies and routines! That can include watching movies and TV in the language, building your own playlists, switching the language of your phone, and even using video games to learn!
- Whether you know other languages. The more languages you know or are familiar with, the easier it gets to learn a new one. Your brain becomes better able to adapt to new grammar patterns, different ways of expressing ideas, and even new sounds.
- How similar your languages are. For English speakers learning similar languages like Spanish, French, and German, you'll often be able to guess about new words and will already be familiar with some grammar. But that doesn't mean that everything will be easier!
If you're studying on Duolingo, you'll see that courses are divided into sections. You'll start with "Section 1: Rookie" (also called the "Intro" section) and then move on to "Section 2: Explorer" (Foundations 1), "Section 3: Traveler" (Foundations 2), etc.
Here's what's covered in our CEFR-aligned courses, which include our Spanish and French courses for English speakers:
|Course milestone||CEFR level||Some things you can do at this stage|
|End of Section 3: Traveler
|A1||Understand slow, clear speech about where something is located
Recognize familiar words and phrases in signs, headlines, and menus
Understand short, simple texts to make plans
|End of Section 4: Trailblazer
|A2||Understand basic information in structured events, like a museum or city tour
Give opinions and preferences about familiar topics, locations, and plans
Explain in your own language the basic plot and ideas of TV and radio news
Talk about events and activities in the past
|End of Section 6: Discoverer
|B1||Follow a professional presentation or lecture about a familiar topic
Understand most of a movie or TV show, especially if it's very visual or direct
Describe in detail personal experiences and interests and feelings about them
Write formal and informal emails to ask for information, plan events, and describe activities
|End of Section 8: Navigator
|B2||Understand scripted and unscripted shows about a wide range of topics, including new and unfamiliar topics
Develop complex arguments that rely on evidence, examples, and details
Write a detailed report analyzing a problem and offering solutions
If you want to travel or chat with friends and family, you might satisfy most of your language needs at the A1 level. If you'll be living, studying, or working in the country, you'll typically need a lot more time learning the language in order to reach B2.
How long does it take to learn Spanish, French, and other languages?
As we said, it all depends on your goals and how much time you can dedicate to learning! In general, it's better to rely on your progress in the course—and how that matches the CEFR levels—to estimate your level than how long you've been studying. What takes one person 2 months to learn could take another 6 months!
Here are some general guidelines to help you plan:
1 month of study
After 1 month of consistent study, I had gotten to the early units of Section 2: Explorer (Foundations 1) in German and was just at the beginning of A1 proficiency. I could say all the most important greetings and pleasantries, and I could recognize lots of words on signs, menus, and even when eavesdropping 👀 I was really surprised by how many fun things I could do with the language—but I was not conversational, and even when I could ask a question properly, I usually didn't understand the response! 😅
6 months of study
After almost 6 months studying Italian, I was well into Section 3: Traveler (Foundations 2) before my trip to Italy—and I used my Italian a lot! I read signs and menus, talked to hotel staff and taxi drivers, made reservations on Italian websites, and had conversations with many Italians. And that was all with A1 proficiency! That said, there were still many things I couldn't say or understand, but I could usually express myself. It also helped that I knew Spanish and had studied several other Romance languages.
1 year of study
If you study consistently and seriously for a full year, you could finish Foundations 3—or more! That would put you at the end of the A2 content, which is comparable to 4 semesters of university study. The grammar at this level allows you to express more complex ideas, including telling stories, and the vocabulary covers a wider range of needs. Because you'll be covering so much more language, it's especially important to put it all into practice with Duolingo Podcasts, music and movies, and getting creative with your learning!
Time is on your side!
Language learners have a lot of control over how much they can learn—it's up to you to decide what your goals are and how much time you can commit to studying! With Duolingo, you'll have all the tools you need to make sure that time is well spent. 💪