How Long Does It Take To Learn a Language? A Guide to FSI Language Ranking


  1. Why learn another language?
  2. How long does it take to learn a language? 
  3. FSI language difficulty ranking system
  4. What is the easiest language in the world?
  5. Best language-learning tips


These days, it can feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. How much time should we allocate to all our tasks for maximum efficiency? How long to spend on social media? On self-care? How long to learn a language? How many hours should we sleep even… 🤷

Well, when it comes to learning a new language, it turns out that depending on the level of difficulty, languages will take different amounts of time to learn. According to the FSI, there is now a way to measure how many hours are required to learn a new language. Let’s take a look at their estimations below. Hardest-languages-to-learn

Why learn another language?


Overcoming the fear of learning another language can feel like a daunting task – loads of unfamiliar words, an entirely different grammatical structure, embarrassing mistakes, not to mention the hours of practice required. 💪

How quickly can you learn a language anyway? How long does it take to learn a language fluently? No matter how long it takes, we think it's well worth it!

Mastering another language has been proven to help you develop superior reading and writing skills as it increases your ability to focus, decipher the most relevant information, remember it and recall it. Overall, multilingual people have stronger analytical, social, and recall skills than their monolingual peers. 🧠

If getting an academic advantage isn’t enough of a draw then perhaps some of these clear benefits will encourage you to invest the hours:

#1 Easy travel experiences

Being able to speak a second language makes travelling to the countries where they speak that language more accessible and enjoyable. ✈️

#2 Enhanced social success

Engaging in genuine conversation with people around the world will boost your social skills and lead to a greater sense of global citizenship. 🤝

#3 Sense of personal identity 

If you are in a bilingual household, speaking both languages may help you to feel more connected to your ancestry. 

#4 Access to different cultures 

Enjoy a more immersive and direct way into different communities, their customs, ideas, and perspectives. 🙏

#5 More job opportunities  

The global job market is increasingly international. Being able to speak more than one language will make you a more useful and desirable candidate. 👔


How long does it take to learn a language? 


How long does it take to learn a new language? Better yet, how long does it take to become fluent in a language?

Needless to say, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. There are several variables – the number of languages spoken at home, access to formal education, general emotional wellbeing and age – which can impact how efficiently you are likely to learn a new language. 👌

However, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in the U.S. believes that categories of languages emerge when languages are ranked by difficulty. From there they have estimated the amount of time it takes a native English speaker to learn languages in each category. According to the FSI, it can take anywhere between 575 and 2200 hours to learn a new language.

So, let’s assume you dedicated 25 hours during the week to practising the language of your choice. How much progress you make in learning that language will depend on which category that language belongs to. 🤔


FSI language ranking system


The Foreign Service Institute is the United States federal government's primary training institution for employees of the U.S. foreign affairs community, preparing American diplomats as well as other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs interests overseas and in Washington.

The FSI has developed a ‘language difficulty ranking system’ and categorised all languages into five groups based on difficulty and study time required to learn. 

Category 1

 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours)

Languages closely related to English











Category 2

30 weeks (750 hours)

Languages similar to English



Category 3 

36 weeks (900 hours)

Languages with linguistic or cultural differences from English




Category 4

44 weeks (1100 hours)

Languages with significant linguistic or cultural differences from English











































Category 5 

88 weeks (2200 hours)

Languages that are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers


Cantonese (Chinese)

Mandarin (Chinese)



* Languages preceded by asterisks are usually more difficult for native English speakers to learn than other languages in the same category.

So, how many hours does it take to learn a language? According to the FSI and their chart for native English speakers, it depends on the language difficulty. Languages in Category 1 will take a solid 600 hours or six months to learn whereas languages in Category 5 require 2200 hours or nearly two years to attain proficiency. 😲

One thing is clear, no matter your circumstances and chosen language, there is no shortcut – it just takes time to learn other languages! ⌛


What is the easiest language in the world?


What is the most easy language in the world? And how do we go about determining language learning difficulty anyway? 

In essence, this depends on the individual. As well as your mother tongue, the makeup of each language – its alphabet, grammar, pronunciation, and rhythm – ultimately determines the simplicity or complexity of learning it. 🗣️

So, although the FSI have created their own ‘language difficulty ranking system’ as a guide, no one language is universally easier to learn than another but it's safe to say that – if you are a native English speaker – you will find Italian much easier to learn than Japanese.


Best language-learning tips


We are all individuals with our own strengths, weaknesses and preferred ways of learning. Whether you are in the early stages of taking up a second language or you are already a multilingual mastermind, these three tips will make learning your next language easy, inspiring and enjoyable. 

1. Get an App

Apps can help you work on your language skills and learn in the most effective and convenient way – what's more, they are often free to use! These great platforms offer a huge amount of content and their dynamic design and interactive gamification approach make keeping up with your lessons easier and more appealing. 📱

2. Practice every day

Just like exercise or musical instruments, we recommend practising for a short amount of time on a regular basis rather than occasionally taking a deep dive. Without a consistent schedule, the brain struggles to make connections between new knowledge and previous learning. An hour a day will serve you better than a five-hour session at the weekend. 📆

3. Immerse yourself

The best approach is undoubtedly exposure and immersion – the more you are surrounded by the language you are trying to learn, the more you will develop those essential multi-tasking skills. The easiest way to immerse yourself is to engage with media in that language – youtube channels, books, magazines, podcasts and tv shows. 📚

Language cafes and online tutoring with a native speaker are great ways to learn another language. Our experienced language tutors come from all over the world. Book your free trial lesson today and see if we can help you to master a second, third or fourth language! ​​🎒

Best of all, if you have the means, we recommend that you try to visit a country where they speak the language – that way you can really immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and associated culture – which will really help you learn. 🌍

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