A question that is often asked – how long does it take to learn a new language?
In the digital age of instant processing, it can be hard to swallow if the answer is anything more than instantaneously.
But, unfortunately learning a new skill takes time. And if the answer is more than what you want to hear, would you still bother?
What if the answer was: shorter than you think but longer than you can stand?
Despite the requirement to put in work overtime, it turns out any pursuit that requires delayed gratification is almost always worthwhile. Conversely, anything you can get instant gratification for is rarely worth telling your friends about.
So how long should it take to learn another language?
Well, a lot depends on your goals. In an earlier post, I talked about two approaches you can take, that of mastery and that of hacking. No one approach is right or wrong, it just depends on what you what to achieve.
If you are serious about taking the mastery approach then if you read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, the suggestion for mastery might be 10,000 hours.
If on the other hand you are interested in taking the hacking approach, then you may not need anywhere near that.
One of my favourite Ted Talks is by Josh Kaufman “The first 20 hours — how to learn anything”:
Kaufman describes that 20 hours of dedicated practice can go a long way.
And its true.
If you can commit to just 20 hours of dedicated practice, then you progress from nothing can be astonishing.
There are, of course, two caveats and that is that you can commit showing up everyday for 20 days. Then when you show up in each of those daily sessions you actually commit one solid hour of dedicated practice.
Having said that, if you do have moments of weakness and miss a day here or there – it’s no big deal. The question then is how quickly can you get back on the horse?
When people ask the question of ‘how long should it take?’ they fail to include the time lost in between dedicated practice.
If you ask the question of how long should it take and then you are only prepared to put in three hours of practice over three weeks. Then the time taken to get to your current level is not three weeks you could have achieved that level in three days or one if you were able to focus.
You need to start asking better questions. Questions like how can I commit an hour a day for a week, a month … a year?
These are more empowering questions and will take your mind off the focus of lack of skill and the desire to have it quickly. And change your thoughts to a solution mindset.
With an updated mindset and a more empowering set of questions, ironically, you will have less anxiety over not achieving your goals and more control over actually achieving them quickly.
How well can you focus? What questions can you ask yourself to improve your focus?
How can you prioritize a regular routine ahead of other procrastination activities?
So how long does it take – it takes what it takes. Instead how can you make the process more fun? How can you practice more regularly?
When you focus on a goal of achieving something quickly then the process causes frustration. When you focus on simply improving the process for speed, the goal much more likely to come quickly and you are much more likely to enjoy the journey.