How Long Does It Take to Learn Spanish? 11 Questions That Will Get You Started

Man looking at his watch to determine, how long does it take to learn Spanish

Are you planning to go to a Spanish-speaking country anytime soon?

Then I bet you might be asking yourself the following questions:

How long does it take to learn Spanish? How long does it take to learn it?

Well, Let me let you in on a little secret:

There is no right answer to the Spanish learning journey or how long it will take you.

Why?

Because it’s very dependent on the effort, drive, and dedication you put toward learning Spanish and also your expectations regarding fluency and how well you want to communicate.

In fact:

The US Foreign Service Language Institute published some numbers about how many hours English speakers are required to learn different languages and learn Spanish.

Guess what?

For Spanish the number was 480 hours, based on classroom instruction. But people don’t just learn languages in the classroom. Very often factors outside the classroom are more predominant.

So how long does it take to learn Spanish for English speakers then?

 There are five factors that can influence how long it takes to learn a language, regardless of whether you study in a classroom or not. Four are within your control. 

Ready to learn Spanish?

Let’s get right to it

How long does it take to Learn Spanish? 11 Questions

Person taking time to learn Spanish by reading a book.

1. How Much Time a Day Are You Willing to Invest in The Language?

Man looking at his watch to see how much time he has left before he needs to start his Spanish lesson.

For English speakers, this is perhaps the most important consideration and does not refer to the number of hours you spend in a Spanish-language classroom specifically.

What does it mean then?

It means how much time you spend listening, reading, speaking, or writing in Spanish.

Here’s what you can do:

If you are fortunate enough to live in a Spanish-speaking country, it can be listening to Spanish conversations or podcasts while walking the dog at the park, reading, watching movies, listening to songs in Spanish, or being engaged in a conversation in Spanish.

Believe me:

In many ways, exposure to the language outside the classroom can be more intense than exposure inside the classroom or just studying Spanish, unless you are lucky enough to have one-on-one instruction.

But let’s get more specific.

If we look at the numbers, if one person spends three hours a day in Spanish, the 480 hours amount to 160 days, or less than six months.

However:

If another person spends one hour a day learning Spanish, it will take 480 days, or around a year and a half. If you spend less than an hour a day, it will take much longer.

In other words.

 People spending three hours a day will learn three times as fast, whether they attend class or not. I would even say that they will learn more than three times as fast because the increased intensity of learning delivers additional benefits.

That being said:

You must remember that the goal here is not the accumulation of hours in order to feel a sense of satisfaction but rather to pay more attention to the consistency and quality of those Spanish hours.

2. How Many Hours Does It Take to Be Fluent in Spanish? 

Speaking Spanish could take some time to get a hold of.

In fact:

Research shows that it takes between 480 hours and 2200 hours of language study and practice.

That’s a lot!

Reaching an advanced level in a foreign language will take you at least 480 hours. The majority of people are not able to learn a language ‘full-time’ so it can take a few years.

However:

Speaking Spanish fluently could also be approached in a different fashion.

Let me explain:

If you are wondering about the length of time something will take without having even started yet perhaps you shouldn’t even start at all.

Instead:

Focus on falling in love with the Spanish culture by finding Spanish music that you like or taking some Spanish classes at your local college.

In other words: “Stop overthinking it and start doing”

3. How Similar is your Native Language to Spanish?

Lab person looking through a microscope to illustrate finding similarities between your language and Spanish.

How much Spanish do you already know?

Similarity can apply to vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation. Portuguese is very similar to Spanish in terms of vocabulary and grammar, but somewhat different in terms of the sounds.

In the same way:

Greek is very similar to Spanish in terms of pronunciation, but quite different in terms of vocabulary and grammar.  

People who speak Spanish will learn to understand Portuguese quickly but may speak with a heavy accent. They would take much longer to learn Greek, even though they can acquire good pronunciation almost immediately.

In fact: 

To learn Spanish the greatest advantage comes from the degree of similarity in vocabulary. Spanish and English share a lot of vocabulary. Most of the words are of common Latin origin.

Learning new vocabulary is the most time-consuming part of learning a language. It simply takes a long time to get used to new words.

Let me clue you in on a little secret.

When we begin a language, the new sounds and the new combinations of sounds, seem strange to us.

Not to worry:

Spanish has fewer sounds than English and it can seem like all these Spanish words resemble each other. For the brain to get used to this takes time.

However:

As a speaker of English, you have a head start. 

It also takes time for our brains to get used to the structures of a new language.

Here’s the thing.

We can read explanations about Spanish tenses, or the fact that the personal pronoun is often omitted, but the explanation is by no means enough.  

You need to hear and read enough Spanish to enable your brain to get used to these new structures.

Long story short:

If your native tongue is English or have already learned other languages that share some of these patterns with Spanish, your brain will pick up Spanish faster.

4. How Motivated Are You to Learn Spanish?

Small flask with a motivational quote to get you inspired to start learning Spanish

Motivation when learning Spanish is fleeting that’s why you can’t rely on it all the time, instead a better way to stay motivated and reach conversational fluency is by having a clear productivity system in place.

What does that mean?

It means knowing the learning method you’re most comfortable with and exactly how much time you will be dedicated to doing something in Spanish in the form of a Spanish class with a Spanish teacher or hanging out with friends or even if you like to study Spanish by yourself.

The point is:

You don’t wait to feel motivated to do something in Spanish or to use and practice your Spanish-speaking skills but rather make yourself do it because you have a clear understanding of your time and priorities.

Focus on:

  • The learning method
  • Finding your own learning method
  • Discovering your learning pace
  • At least one hour a day
  • Having a Spanish community
  • Having a progress journal
  • Finding an excuse for speaking Spanish at any given moment.
  • Learning process awareness

Never forget:

Motivation is usually a byproduct of action You can’t be motivated without taking positive steps forward toward Spanish learning.

As Harvard psychologist, Jerome Bruner said,

“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action.”

5. How much do you like Spanish?

Happy old man expressing agreement with his thumbs up to illustrate enjoyment when learning Spanish

Here are a few more questions when learning Spanish:

Do you like the sounds of Spanish? Maybe you like something about the history or the culture of countries where they speak Spanish? Do you have any friends who speak Spanish? Do you have a favorite singer or movie star who speaks Spanish?

See where I’m going with this?

 The more you can answer yes to these questions when learning Spanish, the faster you will learn.

Why?

Language learning engages many parts of our brains. Your emotional commitment to a new language not only influences how hard you study but also influences the efficiency of your learning.

It will make all the difference to speak Spanish.

6. How Supportive is Your Environment of the Spanish Language?

Couple dancing on Spanish streets to illustrate the importance of the environment when learning a language.

No matter what people say, your environment is vital for a better and faster learning experience.

By the way.

Are you going to visit and spend some time, and not just a couple of weeks, in a country where the main language is Spanish?

or even better:

Do you have Spanish-speaking friends with whom you can get together for hours at a time listening to them speak to each other and occasionally speaking yourself?

 Simply put

There is nothing quite like being thrust into an environment, a real-life situation, where you need to use Spanish.

The sheltered environment of the classroom is not as impressionable as a real-life Spanish-speaking experience. You may well be quite reluctant to use what you have learned when confronted with real Spanish-speaking people.

However,

When learning Spanish if you can train yourself to overcome this shyness, you will take a big psychological step forward.

Real-life exposure also lets you know where your gaps are and sends you back to your various Spanish learning activities with renewed determination to improve.

 The good news?

You can make this an exciting experience too:

Why not plan a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, and maybe include a few weeks at a language school?  

Not only that:

I have always found it best to go to the country where the language is spoken, not when I start in a language, but after I have achieved a level where I can take better advantage of being immersed.

In other words:

When learning Spanish I already understand a fair amount and want to push myself to the next level.

So what are you waiting for?

 Plan to put in at least six months on your own, and then, if you can, set yourself the goal of going to your favorite Latino country as a reward.

Most Spanish countries, all with their own attractive cultures, offer Spanish programs to live and learn Spanish.

7. How Much Confidence in Yourself Do You Have to Learn Spanish?

man in a suit in front of a laptop reminding himself to stay confident and trust the process for learning Spanish

You probably already know this, but it’s so important that let’s cover it anyway.

When learning Spanish the level of confidence and belief in yourself will spill over everything else you do communication-wise.

That being said.

Is it even your goal to become 100% fluent? or are you simply hoping to learn a few phrases?

Think about it:

If you want to become fluent, it’s very important that you believe you can do it. That is why experienced language learners, who have learned other languages, often do better in new languages. They have done it before. They know they can do it.

 Never forget:

Your attitude will have a determining influence on your language learning progress when learning Spanish.

Your determination to succeed and your commitment to staying the course will depend largely on whether you can visualize yourself achieving fluency, even before you achieve it.

In fact:

When you begin to learn Spanish, you should have a clear picture of the end result.

For example:

Imagine yourself conversing freely and fluently with Spanish speakers, and enjoying books, movies, and television programs in the language.

The good news?

Once you are able to engage in these activities, however imperfectly at first, your Spanish language skills will just take off.

If you have not yet had the experience of having become fluent in another language, give yourself the benefit of the doubt.

How so?

Because if you want to climb a mountain and don’t think you can make it to the top, the chances are you won’t and it’s pretty much the same when you learn Spanish.

8. How Can I Find a Spanish Tutor Online Right Away?

Two females having a chat on an online meeting platform to illustrate that you can hire coach to practice Spanish.

Finding Spanish tutors online to learn Spanish has become one of the easiest things possible thanks to the internet and multiple language learning sites such as:

  • Preply
  • Verbling
  • Italki

are amongst the most popular to learn Spanish.

Remember that learning Spanish doesn’t have to be a solo task and the progress you make will ultimately be dependent on how much time and dedication you put into it.

In other words:

If you have the budget for it, having a language coach like myself or finding an online tutor will be extremely helpful.

Never forget that:

Language learning is supposed to be a social activity and it’s through interaction with others having someone that will hold your hand along the way might not be a bad idea at least for the first few months.

9. Can I Learn Spanish in 3 to 6 Months?

Motivational Reminder on a notebook when learning Spanish

How long does it take to learn Spanish?

I get this question all the time.

Learning Languages is no joke guys.

That being said.

The answer is:

It depends!

If you are willing to commit at least one hour a day, seven days a week to learning Spanish and take every opportunity in your day to work on the craft by not only intentionally practicing but also socializing with native speakers then the answer is YES.

However:

Don’t expect to reach perfect conversational fluency in only 6 months, you can definitely get pretty good at engaging in everyday simple conversations but the story might be different if you want to take a college class.

Know what I mean?

Here’s the thing:

To learn Spanish there’s no definite time frame.

In fact:

You can get conversational fluency in the target language and develop your Spanish skills in only one month if you want it bad enough but in order to thrive in the language and become really fluent in Spanish you need to embrace the long-term over short-term gratification.

Because guess what?

Anything that is worth having takes time and native speakers know it.

10. Find Native Spanish Speakers

People socializing at a networking event to illustrate the importance of talking to other people to learn Spanish

I’ve mentioned how to find native speakers before.

A few years ago:

I moved back to Peru after living in an English-speaking country for 13 years and I thought I could never practice with an English Speaker or a native speaker again.

I was so wrong.

Not only do I get to practice it more than ever but something interesting I’ve noticed when learning languages is that you improve and level up when you make it intentional.

but I’m getting off-topic.

Native speakers are everywhere and eager to practice your native language with you.

Here are some of the sites you can check out to find native speakers in your city:

  • Internations
  • Meetups.com
  • Facebook groups
  • Social Media

In case you live in a remote city and far away from venues like this, you could always hire a native-speaker tutor online who will definitely help you shorten the learning Spanish curve.

In short:

Actual speaking practice with native speakers and language classes are available to you at your fingertips or rather at the click of a mouse.

If you are looking to achieve fluency in conversations and have to practice with I’m happy to help.

Check out my blog Byond Language for more info.

11. What Level of Fluency Do You Want to Achieve?

Woman talking through a megaphone speaker to illustrate the importance of knowing your goals when learning Spanish

First things Last!

Right?

To Become fluent in Spanish you must have clarity.

Why?

Spanish fluency is possible if that’s what you have set your mind to and so you need to know what having Spanish fluency means to you.

For example:

If you decide to be fluent in Spanish you need to be having native-level philosophical conversations with your Spanish friends in Madrid or mastering all the cultural expressions in Spanish-speaking countries then hold that image in your mind and let’s get to work on achieving that native level!

Similarly:

If you decide to be completely fluent means having simple interactions or following simple directions when you are traveling with minimal interactions then there you go.

12. Conclusion

So how long does it take to learn Spanish?

There’s no real-time frame to learn Spanish and there’s no real answer to that question. I am a native Spanish speaker and Spanish is my native language but I’m still learning it every day.

In fact:

Here’s a better question: How much time are you willing to invest to learn Spanish every day?

Answering this question will help you focus on what you are doing today that is moving you forward in the language rather than keeping you anxious about future expectations when you haven’t even started yet.

In other words:

When learning Spanish the more you want to keep track of your progress the more it will feel like a task and take away from the fun and curiosity you should be approaching this language journey with in the first place.

Learning Spanish or any other language is something we should take seriously and get into for life.

Ask yourself:

How long does it take to learn Spanish to have simple interactions or travel for a few months?

The answer to this question is completely different because that’s something you can do in a few months with guided lessons.

However:

I want you to speak Spanish fluently and master it so you can enjoy it for the rest of your life and that’s why I want you to have the right language-learning mindset.

Why?

In the grand scheme of things, learning Spanish is something we should expect to be endless because it’s something we love and enjoy so much that we don’t want it to end.

See what I mean?

Your ultimate goal should be a complete detachment of the HOW LONG question and total surrender to the I DON’T KNOW HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE ME BUT I’M HAVING TOO MUCH FUN TO CARE.

As John Wooden put it:

“The score will take care of itself when you take care of the effort that precedes the score”

It’s the same in language learning and in life.

It’s a learning process!

Want more?

If you want to read more articles like this, don’t forget to check out the Byond Language blog.

Meet Daniel

Since he was a child, Daniel has been passionate about Social Dynamics. Learn how Daniel got his start as a Language Coach, and why he decided to start this language blog. If you want to send Daniel a quick message, then visit his contact page here.

Leave a Comment