We live in a world of great technological advances that were created with the promise of saving us time, and recent studies have shown that modern technology does, indeed, save the average person two weeks each year. If all that is true, which research has shown it is, then why do we seem busier than ever these days?

Time does seem to be one of the biggest factors when students decide to learn Arabic. Wouldn’t we all love to have 25 hours in a day and 8 days in a week to have time to improve our Arabic language acquisition?  Like most people, however, both our work life and personal responsibilities seem to be at odds with that. This leads us to one of the most often asked questions we get. How long does it take to learn Arabic?. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question. In an attempt to answer it, this article will explain why some people learn Arabic faster than others.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Learning Arabic, like learning any language, is a complex process. It is different for each individual based on several different factors. Let’s take a look now at these different factors and how they impact how fast you learn Arabic:

1. What Other Languages You’ve Already Learned

Are you already bilingual? That can help save you time learning Arabic. As studies have shown, being fluent in one language aids fluency and skills in another. Since bilinguals adapt more naturally to different languages, they find it easier to learn a third language. Just by studying another language’s grammar, memorizing its vocabulary, and listening to its different sounds, your mind already pretty much knows what lies ahead when learning Arabic. Knowing what to expect means that there aren’t as many surprises, and language learning becomes easier and faster.

2. How Much Arabic You Already Know

Yeah, yeah. We know that you’ve heard all of the rumors and you’ve read all of the “Most Difficult Languages to Learn” lists about how hard Arabic is to learn. However, when you start to learn basic Arabic words, you just might find that you already know some of them as Arabic borrows some words from English and vice-versa.  

Some of the words Arabic has borrowed from English are words like:

  • كومبيوتر / Kompyuter / computer
  • تليفون / Telifone / telephone
  • ميكرويف / maycrowayf / microwave

In turn, Arabic has loaned some words to English, as well, like:

  • سكر / sukkar / sugar
  • قطن / qutn / cotton
  • الكحول / alkuhul / alcohol

These words are definitely helpful to know and can make learning Arabic vocabulary much easier and faster.

3. Your Learning Style

How you learn and the learning methods you use also play an important part in how fast you learn Arabic. For example, if you’re limited to learning Arabic in a classroom environment, then it will probably take you a little more time to learn.

On the other hand, you can cut down the time needed to learn Arabic if you’re also exposed to it outside of classes by reading Arabic literature or eBooks, listening to the Arabic radio, finding a speaking partner, watching Arabic movies, and if you get the chance, traveling to Arab speaking countries.

4. The Amount of Time You Put Into Learning Arabic

It goes without saying that the amount of time you put into learning Arabic directly relates to how fast you’ll learn the language. In fact, if you’re willing to study just one hour a day, studies show you’ll learn considerably faster than if you only attend a weekly class. That’s why Arabic learning apps like Kaleela work so well for many Arabic learners; it’s convenient enough to study anywhere, anytime you have an hour to spare.  And you know what they say about time flying when you’re having fun. The Kaleela app is so engaging and fun that the hour will fly by so fast, you’ll want to out two hours a day into your learning. 

5. Your Attitude Towards Learning Arabic

Your outlook also plays a very big role in how fast you learn Arabic. If you have a positive attitude regarding learning Arabic and see how fun and exciting learning the language can be, your chances of learning it faster are greater. You’ll feel like studying more and learning as much as possible, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable learning experience as a result.

6. What Motivates You

We don’t have to tell you that staying motivated is crucial to learning any language, including Arabic. A plethora of studies have been conducted that prove just how important motivation is in language learning. So, if you want to be successful at learning Arabic, stay motivated by reminding yourself why you want to learn Arabic, how it will improve your life, and all the benefits that come with learning it, and that will help you reach your goal.

The multifaceted interaction between all of these factors decides how long it will take you to learn Arabic; however, yeah, that all sounds great, but you want an answer to your original question: “How long will it take me to learn Arabic?”

The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages Timeline

Linguistic studies have led The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages to use the “Guided Learning Hours” framework in order to measure the amount of total classroom time it would take to reach the High-Intermediate level (B2) in Arabic. They assume that you will spend 2 hours doing independent study for every one hour of classroom study and, therefore, conclude that it will take you somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 hours to learn Arabic.

Let’s take a look at this in several different scenarios:

If you’re studying Arabic… Estimated time to reach intermediate proficiency
 In a classroom course that meets:
– 3 hours per week for 8 weeks +
– plus a 1-hour weekly homework assignment
– plus 2 hours of any type of independent practice
3 courses per year, or 25 – 30 classes, or 8.3 – 10 years
 In school for one year of Arabic language:
– at 4 hours per week
– plus 2 hours of homework
– plus 2 hours of independent practice
24 weeks a year, or 5 – 6.25 years
through dedicated independent study of 1 hour per day
approximately 3 years
through total, active immersion of 8 hours per day 
approximately 3 months

Based on another study that looked at a group of native English speakers between 30 and 40 years old who were studying foreign languages, researches at the Foreign Service Institute created the Interagency Language Roundtable Scale with the goal being to calculate how long it took students to reach “general professional proficiency” or higher based on the respective languages that they were learning.

What they found was that, the closer a language was to a student’s native language, the faster they learned that language. The findings were divided into five basic language groups according to the languages’ similarity to English which established how long it took students to reach general professional proficiency or higher. Here is that timeline:

Foreign Service Institute Timeline

Language Group Languages Estimated time to  reach general professional proficiency or higher
Group I: Languages Closely Related to English Afrikaans, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish 23 – 24 Weeks (575 – 600 Hours)  
Group II: Languages similar to English German 30 weeks (750 hours)  
Group III: Languages with linguistic and/or cultural differences from English Indonesian, Malaysian, Swahili   36 Weeks (900 Hours)  
Group IV: Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English Amharic, Bengali, Burmese, Croatian, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mongolian, Nepali, Pashto, Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik), Philipino, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Thai, Tamil, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese 44 Weeks (1,100 Hours)  
Group V: Exceptionally difficult languages for native English speakers Arabic, Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean 88 Weeks (2,200 Hours)  

As you can see, the FSI’s research found that Arabic is a Group V language and it will take you around 2,200 hours to learn. Don’t let these findings discourage you, however. You can and will learn Arabic faster than you expect. People have, after all, learned Arabic in less than a year. Yes, Arabic can be a challenging language to learn at times, but think of all the rewards you gain by learning it!

But don’t be discouraged

Now that you know how much time it takes to learn Arabic and which factors can help you achieve your goals faster, perhaps the biggest takeaway from all of this is that learning Arabic is tantamount to practice. In the end, you’re the one who’s in control of how quickly you’ll learn Arabic and how you’ll sustain it. With the right attitude, dedication, situation, and motivation, Arabic is certainly within your reach. 

So, what’s the best way to learn Arabic if you want to start today? Why, of course it’s by downloading the Kaleela Arabic learning app that is presented in a variety of languages including English, Spanish, Indonesian, and Chinese – with more on the way!

How does it work? Well, after downloading the app to either your iOS or Android mobile device, choose from a variety of courses including Modern Standard Arabic (also known as fusha) or delve a little deeper into the Arabic dialects. There are even special courses on the Arabic alphabet and how to write Arabic letters for those learning Arabic for beginners.