“How long does it take to learn German fluently?” This is a straightforward question with an answer that differs from person to person. The amount of time it will take you to master the German language relies on multiple factors, including your end goal.
Do you need to be professionally fluent, able to easily speak with others in a business setting? Perhaps you’ve stumbled into a company that does a lot of business in German-speaking countries and you’d like to talk with your clients.
Or, are you looking to learn the language for more casual reasons, such as to carry on conversations with friends and family? Maybe you’d just like to learn German to read Goethe in the original language.
Once you have your end goals in mind, you can more accurately answer the question: how long does it take to learn German? Let’s look at a couple different sources that provide estimates for how long it takes to learn the language.
How Long Does it Take to Learn German?
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and its companion volume exist due to the exhaustive studies completed by some of Europe’s greatest minds on the subject of language learning. These volumes give us an idea of how long it might take you to learn German.
It’s important to keep in mind that each person will have a different, personal learning curve when they work toward learning a language. But we can infer from the CEFR data that it may take around 1,000 hours of dedicated practice time to reach a “high intermediate” level of language proficiency.
So if you’re looking for an estimate of how long it takes to learn German, it can take around three years with one hour per day of practice, or one year at three hours per day.
Across the Atlantic, the United States Foreign Service Institute uses a different measurement for language proficiency: the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale. They suggest that with enough resources, someone could reach a “general professional proficiency” in German in 750 hours.
Note: this study, however helpful, included highly adept polyglots (people who already speak several languages) making up the bulk of its participants.
3 Quick Tips for Learning German
Either way you look at it, these studies show that German might take quite a bit of time to learn. But fear not! There are plenty of ways to speed things up for yourself. Check out the following tips to get started.
Tip #1: Language Immersion
Total immersion is often cited as the best way to learn a language. Moving to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or Liechtenstein presents a sink-or-swim experience that is highly beneficial if you want to learn German quickly.
The difficulty though, is that not everyone has the ability to fly off to Europe for a couple years. This is where finding a language partner (or two) comes in handy.
Tip #2: Find Language Partners
There are many native German speakers who are looking to improve their English skills online. Dozens of sites allow you to connect with other language learners for a “language exchange.” In other words, you help them with their English and they help you with your German.
Another excellent way to practice your speaking skills is to meet other German speakers near you. Check out sites like Meetup to look for opportunities to hang out with other German speakers and students locally. The more you make speaking German a regular part of your daily life, the faster you’ll learn it.
Tip #3: Take German Lessons
A sure-fire way to jump start your foray into German would be to take some German classes or even private German lessons. There are plenty of experienced instructors who offer both in-person and online lessons.
Working with a German teacher will set you up for success right off the bat, as they’ll be able to tailor a structured curriculum for meeting your individual goals.
So, how long does it take to learn German fluently? The real answer is that it varies from person to person. Learning a language is one of those “you get what you put into it” types of skills. But if you put the strategies listed above into practice, you’re already well on your way!