The time it takes someone to learn a language fluently can differ depending on the complexity of the language and its similarity to English. Languages such as Spanish or French can take as little as 600 instruction hours to master, whereas languages such as Arabic or Mandarin Chinese can take as many as 2,200 hours to master.
There is no standard period of time for becoming fluent in different languages. The time it takes to become fluent depends on several factors. The difficulty level of the language plays a large role. For English speakers, European languages such as Dutch, German, Spanish and Italian are the easiest to learn. These typically take 575 to 600 class hours to learn.
Medium-level languages include Polish, Russian, Hindi and Hebrew. These take an average of 1,110 instruction hours to learn. Languages that are very different from English, such as Korean, Japanese and Arabic, can take much longer. These languages can take an average of 2,200 class hours to learn proficiently. The U.S. Department of State determines these time frames.
The difficulty of a language is determined by its complexity and its similarity to the learner's native language. Languages such as Chinese and Arabic are very complex and share very few similarities with English. However, many Western European languages share similarities and vocabulary with the English language.
Motivation can also play a large role in learning a language. Learners willing to devote more hours per week and who truly want to learn languages can learn faster than less motivated students. In addition, prior experience with learning languages can help language students learn a foreign language faster.