If you want to learn to speak English fluently as quickly as possible, listening to this English podcast is a great place for you to start. We offer practical, free and proven English language learning techniques that hundreds of thousands of English language students listen to every month. Today we talk about what your expectations of how long it takes to learn to speak English fluently should be.
I’ve noticed recently a trend on the internet/social media and YouTube for people to make claims about learning to speak a language that is just impractical. Being a language learner myself and being told that some people are learning to speak a new language fluently in a single month is just frustrating. Most, and by that I mean 99%, of us won’t be learning a new language to fluency in a month.
Why do these claims of learning a new language to fluency in a month seem exaggerated? Well, take this example, the
US military spends millions of dollars using the best techniques and experts in language learning in the world. This US military programme per-selects only people who show an inbuilt skill will learn language learning. Guess what? It still takes students on this ultra specialist, elite, best of the best US Military program longer than a month.
You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.
⭐ Richard Branson
I’m not saying learning a new language from nothing to fluency in less than a month is impossible. I’ve just have not met anyone who has done it, and I know a few polyglots who specialize in language acquisition.
Aptitude Timescale Techniques Recognition Obligation Immersion Transcription Expectations Commitment Exaggerated
Today I'm going to share with you techniques for intensive English language learning. Listen to this podcast and you will get some great practical tips to accelerate your English language skills. Can you learn to speak English fluently in a month? While some YouTube videos claim it’s possible, the reality is for most of us you can't! OK, so if fluency in a month isn't possible "How long does it take?". Listen to this English language podcast and find out.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
Let’s look at an example of an intensive language training, see how it works and whether any techniques they use might help you learn English more quickly.
But before we do that, just a reminder to register for our English Consonant Pronunciation Course. I gave you details of this course in the last podcast, number 528. In order for this course to go live, we need enough people to show interest. So there’s no obligation, you don’t have to buy, you just register interest - and in return you’ll receive a 50% discount code. The course will be £60 and this discount code means you can get the course for half-price at £30.
The course won’t go live unless we get enough people registering their interest and showing support for Adept English. And we need you to register interest by 30th April. When you register, you’ll receive a confirmation email. And as long as we receive enough interest, you’ll get another email telling when the course will go live and you’ll be the first to have access to the course at that 50% discount price. So to register, go to vip.adeptenglish.com and just enter your email address. Shape the future of Adept English and help this course go live! Back to today’s topic...
So an example of intensive language training - let’s look at how the US military train their interpreters, their foreign language speakers? An interpreter, INTERPRETER - that means someone whose job is translation. And if you’re an army interpreter in the US army, you’ve got to be good, because lives may literally depend upon your speedy and accurate understanding of a foreign language. So the specialist language training in the US military is run at a place in California called the Defence Language Institute.
This is ‘language learning for soldiers’ - so only available to the US Marines, the US Army, the US Airforce and the US Navy. Or if you work for a US government agency - like the FBI, the CIA, the DEA etc - then you may find yourself required to do intensive language training. And the Defence Language Institute trains 350,000 people every year - that’s a lot! So they know what they’re doing! Although they take all different ages, often the people starting the course are 17 years olds, who have only just completed their basic military training.
Often they haven’t travelled very much, don’t have any foreign language knowledge and they aren’t familiar with the cultural background, which is the context for the language. But by the end of the training, they must be absolutely fluent in the language they’ve learned. As I said, lives depend upon their work - so they’ve got to be good to pass.
There is an aptitude test before the students get onto the intensive language course. ‘Aptitude’, APTITUDE means ‘your natural or your existing ability’. So of course, not everyone can pass this aptitude test. The test is in a ‘made-up’ language, not a real language - so no one has any advantage through prior knowledge. And it assesses your ability to do ‘pattern recognition’.
‘Pattern recognition’ may be something like ‘Oh, that word gets an S on the end, when you use it in this context, so maybe you put an S on the end of this other word, when you use in it the same context’. Pattern recognition is important for language learning. You notice a rule and you learn to apply it yourself.
How are these intensive language learning courses structured? Well, there’s that word ‘intensive’, which means that it’s ‘intense, done to a high degree’. That means people on these courses study their chosen language for 7 hours a day. That’s 7 hours a day in the classroom, five days a week. And on top of that 7 hours in the classroom every day, there is an additional 2-3 hours, doing homework. That is intensive language learning!
And what about that question - how long does it take to learn a language? Well, even at this level of intensity, even doing study like this - you have to be doing it for a quite a while, if you want to be fluent. The US military teach a range of languages which are useful in the field, in practice. And there’s a different timescale depending upon which language is being learned. Bear in mind that for all the languages here, the learners are coming from English .
They’re US nationals, so they are likely to have English as a first language. How difficult a foreign language is to learn - well that does come in part from how different it is to your own language. So the length of the courses is different for different languages. Some take longer than others because they’re ‘harder-to-learn languages’ - or because they are further away from English. So someone in the US military on one of these courses - if they’re doing French, Spanish or Indonesian - then the learning takes 36 weeks. Then there are then some more difficult languages - Russian, Persian Farsi and from the Philippines, Tagalog.
A photograph of a female soldier next to communication servers. Listen to this English language podcast that sets out a sensible approach to achieving your English language fluency goals.
These language programmes are 48 weeks long. And the most difficult languages, or the ones which are difficult because they’re furthest away from English are Arabic - and they learn four different dialects or types of Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and Pashto. These ‘harder’ languages mean a 64 week programme. So 64 weeks of 7 hours a day, plus 3 hours of homework, five days a week.
This gives you some idea of the length of time it takes to really, thoroughly learn a language. It’s a useful measure also if you are a speaker of one of these languages and you’re learning English. Learning English will take less time if you speak a similar European language already. And it’ll take little more time if your language has different roots and a different script. Note also - for students at the Defence Language Institute, each day is intense with 7 hours in the classroom, but they do take a 10 minute break each hour. That’s presumably designed to reflect how the brain works best. So that may be worth noting when you’re studying English.
How do they teach the language? Well, at the start, the students probably know nothing of the language, so much of the work in the classroom is done in English. If it’s a different script - so the writing is different to English, like Korean or Mandarin - they may spend up to a month learning the script. And then longer also understanding how the basic grammar works. And this has to be done partly in English.
It mirrors what I say about beginner’s language learning - you need teaching which moves between your language and English initially. But as the course progresses, there is less and less English - until the language is being taught without any English spoken at all. So that ‘immersion’ technique, IMMERSION. That’s as we’ve discussed before - past a certain point in your learning, everything must be done in the language that’s being learned. That’s the ‘thinking in English’ part that we at Adept English recommend.
What techniques do they use on the courses? Well the answer is ‘a lot of different ones’. Some days the students focus on a single paragraph of text and this introduces them to new grammar and vocabulary. There’s a lot of ‘spaced repetition’. This means they’re introduced to a new word, or a piece of grammar and then the course will ensure that they meet it again and again. So say 25 words will be repeated throughout the same day and then the students will be tested on these words the following day.
The students learn verb conjugations - that’s how a verb changes - and noun declensions - that’s how nouns change - largely in context. So they tend to learn whole sentences rather than individual words. Or the students will be given a word, like a verb or a noun and a sentence with a gap and they’ll be asked ‘What form of this word is correct in this sentence?’ The students learn grammar as you would expect, but they also learn about the roots of the language, the origins of the words, so that they can recognised them or similar ones.
This is like sometimes how I give you the Latin word, which is the root of an English word I’m teaching - or a Germanic or French or a Greek word sometimes. It’s useful to know this because it explains words and their history - and you can then recognise this same root in other words. They’re more guessable then. And this way you really understand a language.
The students at the Defence Language Institute focus on listening, reading and speaking - notice, not so much on writing. And between listening, reading and speaking, what proportion, what percentage of focus is on each - well that depends upon the job the person’s going to do after their training. But understanding is the fundamental one.
The Defence Language Institute programme also gives opportunity for ‘complete immersion’. So for three days, students can live in an ‘isolation unit’, where only their chosen language is spoken. So they have to do everything in their chosen language - all the practical day-to-day things - and the teachers set up role play situations for the students. For anyone who’s ever done a language exchange and gone to live with a family in a different country, you know that this type of experience really moves your language learning forward - massively. And in fact, the students also have opportunity to spend time abroad for six weeks, on a university exchange programme. So again more ‘immersion’ into the language.
And the homework or self study time? Well students must record themselves speaking and they also do a lot of ‘transcription’, that’s TRANSCRIPTION. And that means listening to a recording, pausing it, and writing down what you hear - in the language. That’s a good way to practice.
It’s also a good way to use any of our Adept English material too. You could try it with this podcast - try writing down what you hear. And students on these courses are encouraged to listen to the news in the chosen language or watch TV programmes, even if they’re at too difficult a level to begin with.
So what do we take from this? I think that lots of those techniques and methods of learning are great and many of them are what we offer at Adept English and encourage you to do. I like the idea of listening and writing down - that’s good if writing is important for you. I think what impacted me - the lengths of time taken to learn the various languages - 64 weeks at 9-10 hours a day! That’s a lot! And it’s a commitment that most of us couldn’t make.
It has to take us longer to learn a language - because we have to fit it around our ordinary lives! But it’s also the secret of most polyglots - POLYGLOT. Those are people who speak a number of different languages. Polyglots are people who’ve dedicated lots of time to learning languages. Hopefully that perspective stops you being so self-critical. You might say to yourself ‘Oh, I’ve been learning English for ages!’ Well, yes - maybe you have, but it’s perfectly normal.
It takes a long time to learn a language. You certainly can’t learn English or any other language in a month! But the more time you spend every week, the better you get. And remember to use your ‘dead time’ - Rule Three of ‘The Seven Rules of Adept English’.
But whether it’s 36 weeks or 64 weeks, this does tell us that the amount of time needed to learn a language is finite - there is a quantity of learning that is enough. For most of us, we will achieve that by doing our language learning ‘little and often’, a bit every day, around our ordinary lives.
It will take longer doing it this way - but you can get there in the end if you put the time in! And every single little piece of listening, just like this podcast, counts towards that goal!
Oh - and before I go - don’t forget to register your interest in the new Adept English Pronunciation course - you can do this by going to vip.adeptenglish.com for that 50% discount code.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com