How easy is Spanish for an English speaker, really?

Oh, the million dollar question. It’s everywhere: on Google, on social media, a top question on Quora and Yahoo. What’s more, it’s not only native English speakers asking us this. Those who speak English as a second language ask the same thing to estimate just how hard it will be. Although we cannot speak from our experience, we have every reason to believe that Spanish is not hard for English speakers. Why? Keep reading.

Spanish & English: how far apart are they?

Actually, Spanish and English are not that far apart. Both are Indo-European, alphabet based languages. But although Spanish is a Romance language (with its origin in Latin), English falls into the Germanic branch. However, it’s worth noting that through language contact and history, approximately 29% of English words today have roots in Latin as well. Then, we need to take into consideration words borrowed from French (another 29%), Spanish and Portuguese. So Spanish and English are much closer than, say, English and any Slavic language or English and any Asian language.

How long does it take to become fluent in Spanish?

Another indicator that Spanish isn’t hard for English speakers is the time that it takes to become fluent. According to the CIA, the American Council for Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the US State Department, it takes less time to learn Spanish than many other languages. The CIA estimates that you will become completely fluent after 780 hours of studying, while the ACTFL suggests that you need only 480 hours to reach an Advanced level. This means that Spanish belongs to “Group I” - the easiest one - along with French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian and German (for example). On the other hand, to learn a language in group IV, like Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or Korean, you would need almost the double: 1320 hours.

But 480 sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Not really. Let’s break it down to an intensive practice of 2 hours a day.  You’ll need 240 days to become fluent - roughly 8 months. Since we are guessing you don’t have 2 hours per day to spare, let’s imagine you have time for 3 classes per week of 2 hours each. Then you’ll need to have 240 classes during 80 weeks - roughly 1 year and 7 months. Now let’s assume you can only have 2 classes per week, 2 hours each. Then you will need to study throughout 120 weeks - 2 years and 4 months. Still less than you spent with high school French, right? The only thing you need is dedication and proper classes.

You can read more about how long until you become fluent in Spanish over here.