Often, I had students ask me; “How long does it take to learn English?” This question has stumped me in the past but I believe I have come up with a succinct response.

Learning a language is not something that can be quantified with conventional units of measurement; it can’t be placed on a scale and weighed nor timed on a stop watch. There is no World Record for learning a language the fastest and consequently, this is not something that can be broken or rewarded with medals of gold, silver and bronze.

I would like to mention that if you have read up until here and understood most of what is written, it means that you have already spent a generous amount of time learning and understanding the English language. Would you be able to say exactly how long it took you to understand each word, phrase and grammar point? The answer is, almost certainly, no. (This is true even for native speakers, for we had to learn the language too.)

If you want to work towards an answer, you first need to ask yourself the question; “Why am I learning this language?” What is your personal reason for learning English?

Is it because you would like to study in an English speaking country, such as England, The USA or South Africa? Are you learning to open up more opportunities for work? Do you want to meet new people? Perhaps it is for travelling purposes? There are so many doors linked to language and every time we learn something new we get closer to opening up another door.

Personal reasons aside, there are certain professions, such as aviation and medicine where the English language is compulsory and certain levels of English understanding needs to be attained before one can become a practicing professional in their respective field.

Bottom line – once you have answered the question, you can start moving towards your goal. This can be done by enrolling in Basic English lessons, doing private courses or specialized courses such as IELTS or Business English. There are many resources online and of course coming to an English speaking city, such as Cape Town and enrolling in a course at Oxford English Academy will have you proficient in no time.