The language learning concept of Time To Learn English for English Education. Cropped image of a man's head looking up with a chalkboard behind him showing part of a clock and the words "Learn English"

At Fluency Corp, we’ve helped countless professionals improve their English skills. While our clients come from a variety of fields, they all have one thing in common: They’re eager to know how long it will take to accomplish their goals and reach a certain level of competency.

So what’s the answer to this question? Well, it varies for every learner. So let’s break down a few of the factors that will affect how quickly you can learn English.

What Level of English Fluency Do You Need?

First, let’s be clear that “learning English” can mean different things for different people. To clarify your goals, you may want to check out the levels of English fluency as established by the CEFR, which we use here at Fluency Corp, and is most used globally at language learning schools and organizations.

CEFR describes the highest level of language fluency as “being able to understand practically everything heard or read.” But you may not actually need this level of fluency in your specific situation. For example, a professional who works daily with English speakers will need more fluency than one who talks to English-speaking colleagues only occasionally.

Getting from one language level to the next typically takes 250 hours or more. We know this sounds like a big number, but it’s actually not as intimidating as you might imagine. We typically break down those levels into 50-hour increments so that you can record progress in 6 mini levels instead of one enormous level.

Each CEFR level is such a huge jump in language ability, and we believe they should be broken down into these smaller levels in order to bite off smaller goals as you progress. Let us explain even more when it comes to understanding levels …

What Is Your Native Language?

It may not seem fair, but native speakers of some languages have an advantage over other English learners. Dutch and German have similarities with English, which can speed up your learning if you speak those languages.

Speakers of Romance languages — Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian — also have a head start on learning English. If you’re a native speaker of one of those languages, then it will take roughly 500-600 hours of conversation (you speaking to someone else) to get to a high level of English (CEFR B2 level- also considered the level needed to efficiently work in the language) if you are a complete beginner (CEFR A0).

Speakers of some other languages aren’t so lucky. If you’re a native speaker of Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin or Russian, the same progress in language levels would take closer to 1,200 hours. Ouch!

One of our employees is taking Japanese language coaching, and she is still considered an advanced beginner after 1000 hours. Painful, but true. This helps you understand what a huge goal it is for a Japanese speaker to work in English.

(A special note here for learning and development professionals and others who make language training decisions for an organization: Please keep in mind that expats from different countries will learn English at different paces. So, for example, an employee who’s moving to the U.S. from Japan will need more hours for English training as part of their relocation package and development working in and English-speaking setting.)

What Are Your English Classes Like?

All English classes are not created equal. If your classes focus on generic vocabulary words instead of material that’s tailored to your needs, you’ll probably be less motivated, since you’re able to apply the knowledge on a daily basis — which can increase the time it takes for you to learn English.

As you select an English instructor, ask each candidate how they make classes relevant to learners’ needs. Will you be able to walk out of class and immediately use what you’ve learned?

Here’s one more thing to find out from any English language teacher you are considering: How much of the class time will you spend speaking English? The more time you spend talking in class, the faster you will learn English. If your coach talks most of the class, then it’s harder for you to make progress. Imagine watching tennis instead of playing it.

How Much Time Do You Spend with English?

Like we said earlier, English classes with a native-speaker instructor are the #1 factor that will help you learn the language more quickly. But every bit of additional exposure to English — even if you’re not speaking it — can speed up your learning.

That’s why it’s important to be around English even when you’re not in your English class. So how can you accomplish this? Here are a few strategies that work for our Fluency Corp clients:

  • Practice with language-learning apps. You might be surprised to hear a language training firm recommend apps like Duolingo or Pimsleur programs (better than Duolingo, but not free). But we think they’re a great supplement to English classes. Just don’t depend on them as your sole resource for building fluency.
  • Read a fiction bestseller in English. Look for a novel that you’ll have fun reading and that contains lots of dialogue. Dialogue will help you improve your skills with everyday English conversation. You also want to read books with current (don’t choose a literature classic!) English words, phrasal verbs, idioms and slang.
  • Listen to English-language podcasts. We encourage language learners who are at a CEFR Level B2 (upper intermediate) or higher in English to improve their skills by listening to English-language podcasts that tell compelling stories. You don’t constantly have to think about improving your English as you listen, and it doesn’t need to be a podcast for learning English. Just enjoy the stories you’re hearing, and language learning will happen on its own.
  • Watch English-language shows. Choose a sitcom, reality show or another program with lots of dialogue in everyday, conversational English. Put on the English subtitles from time to time if you feel yourself getting bored, or spacing out.
  • Eavesdrop (seriously!). If you’re super-busy and the rest of these ideas feel like too much work, just head somewhere like a coffee shop and listen to people speaking English all around you. You don’t have to interpret everything others are saying. Just sit back and listen. Your brain will be working in the background to build your understanding of English.

Have Questions About Your English Fluency?

Do you have questions about improving your own English skills? Are you an HR professional looking for ways to help your company’s workforce improve its English communication skills? Contact us at or (800) 401-3159.