Learning a language (how long does it take to learn it?)


I just want to share with you some important facts about learning another language no matter if it is as a Second or a foreign language. It is important to mention that this has been my experience.


There is no magic when learning or even teaching English Language. Thus, there is no course that will teach you a language within 8 days; moreover, it is impossible to learn a language in the same period of time. Just check the spam attention average for an adult and a kid.


If you consider that 4 to 8 months are enough to speak a new language I cannot prove you that it is not true due to different aspects such as the ability of the person to learn from oral interaction or the context in which the individual lives the process. What I can say is that speaking a Language is not the same as learning it. Learning and specially teaching a language have to go through different stages. It is very important to know not only the oral utterances but also the other aspects of the language, which include the semantics and morphology as well as the pragmatics of the language.


Coming back to the period of time spent learning a language,  you might know that it is very big. Let’s analyse the phenomenon in the mother tongue -the language that people first learned and use because of their context.

It takes children about 12 years to learn properly their first language. Even though they have spent 12 years learning their mother tongue, it is impossible to say that they have learnt it all. If it were true, specialised courses on the topic wouldn’t exist and everyone would be expert and would have the possibility to teach it.


The time used in learning a second language  is not that much as in the mother tongue. Thanks to our developed consciousness we can learn a language in a shorter period of time. Let’s say that we spent 6 months learning how to speak a language, this gives us a great advantage when we try to learn the other components of the language. It would take us at least one more year to understand the basics of the morphological and semantical aspects of the language. Remember, it isn’t just the grammar or lexicon. This gives us a year and a half in the best cases to understand a little better the target language.


I would like to add some information about the way the CEFR evaluates language proficiency. The CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference of languages: Learning, teaching, assessment has a 6-level proficiency scale. The CEFR includes different areas including competences and skills.


These are just some facts about learning a language, imagine know all the pedagogical and technical aspects regarding to language Teaching! This is considerably more worrying. Fortunately I don’t want to talk about it here.

I would like to ask you as a future teacher of languages. Is it possible to learn a language in four-month courses? Moreover, is it possible to dominate it?  Would you feel confident to teach it?




Break a leg; it will cost you an arm and a leg

Before the event in which I gave a talk, one friend of mine told me “break a leg!” I thanked her and thought a little bit on that idiom.

There are many opinions on the origins of this idiom according to different contexts and times. Above all, the most frequently explanations of the origin are the ones which say that it was superstition the reason for this idiom.

I could mention and give further information on the origin of idioms. But what I want to express here is not the origins of idioms or their uses. What interests me is the use of idioms among English, specially in Academic contexts.

I do understand that idioms are part of the culture and enrich the language.

But, how often are idioms used in academic contexts?
Are idioms a colloquialism use of language? Do people use idioms to avoid formality?

I have these doubts and some others. I will appreciate if you could answer some of my questions.

On the Anglo Forum Experience

…So we arrived in time, rather a little late. As soon as we received our packages and checked in, we walked towards the first plenary session.

Simon Brewster was there giving his speech. Soon his words made us to look at each other. Surprisingly, he was talking about the same things we were going to say in our introduction. Then was Paul Seligson who said something related to our topic. -That’s not a big deal, the forum is on one topic and so many presentations might be related to each other.

We, 1st time speakers, were anxious and didn’t know what to expect. -Why our proposal was accepted?- At first we thought many unpleasant things. But suddenly, after the first plenary, we knew that we had something interesting to share. We got more confidence after Paul Seligson’s plenary. Our presentation perfectly fit the content of the forum…

By the time our participation finished, satisfaction filled our souls. But that, that is another part of the story.