This post is courtesy of a Special Guest Blogger:
Americans are famous for not being fluent in a second language. This situation is captured in this classic joke:
What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
What do you call someone who speaks one language? American
So how long does it take to acquire a second language?
The US Foreign Service Institute estimates basic fluency in the “easy” languages (examples: French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili) should take 480 hours, and for “difficult” languages (examples: Greek, Hindi, Persian, Urdu, Amharic, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean,) 720 hours. Putting in ten hours of study and practice per day, this equates to two months for “easy” languages and four months for “difficult” languages.
How do you get started? Web sites such as DuoLingo can teach you 27 languages for free. Book stores, travel stores and libraries (including of course, Seattle Public Library) contain bi-lingual dictionaries and textbooks to teach new languages and audio courses in major and obscure languages. There are also DVDs of movies in these languages to help enjoyably improve your listening skills.
If you are super-human far beyond what the US Foreign Service Institute anticipates, you can always take advantage of books such as this one the Friends have come across, titled: “Do You Want to Know French in Ten Days?”
Thank you, Dear Guest Blogger. I wish I had known of this book in college!