How long will it take me to get better at English?


| - Tim Lake |

how long till I reach the top

One thing that most learners are concerned about, and that we’ve talked about before, is improving. But, how long does it take to get better at English? It is a difficult question to answer, but there are some guidelines we can give so that you have an idea of how much you need to work to jump up a level.



Most textbooks, and a lot of language schools around the world, use the Common European Framework (CEFR) as a guide to a student’s level. This ranges from A1, complete beginner, to C2, which is considered to be native level. Each level is measured by a number of “can do” criteria, which tell you what someone should be able to do at that level across a range of skills - reading, writing, spoken interaction, spoken production and listening. This doesn’t just apply to English but to all European languages.

ほとんどの教科書、そして世界中の多くの語学学校では、生徒のレベルに関する指針として、ヨーロッパ言語共通参照枠(CEFR)を採用しています。レベルの範囲は、A1の完全な初心者、からC2のネイティブレベル、までと分かれています。各レベルは、Reading、Writing、Spoken interaction、Spoken production、Listeningの各範囲において、本人が「できる事」に照らし合わせて判断されます。これは英語だけでなく、ヨーロッパの全言語に当てはめられています。


According to Cambridge English, who administer the IELTS exam among others, it takes about 200 guided hours to progress from one level of the CEFR to the next. By “guided” hours they mean lessons with a teacher and study that is monitored by a teacher.

IELTS試験の実施団体Cambridge Englishによると、CEFRのあるレベルから次のレベルに進むまでには、ガイド付きで約200時間かかるとされています。「ガイド付き」の時間とは、教師による授業を指し、教師による監督のもと行う学習時間を意味します。


This chart gives you an idea:




Of course, this is just an estimate, and the amount of time it will take to move from one level to the next will vary from person to person, so just use it to give you a rough idea.



A quick bit of math will tell you that if you only take a one hour lesson once a week, it will take you three to four years to progress from one level to the next. Another reason why you need to make time to review and study between classes if you want to see more improvement. Understanding the amount of time required will also help you to set realistic goals for improvement. However learning a new language takes considerably less time than mastering a lot of other skills, such as chess or jazz piano, where 10,000 hours is considered the rough amount of time required to become an expert.



Factors that might affect how quickly your English improves are:

+ your background in learning, and particularly learning languages
+ the amount of English you meet outside of the classroom
+ the amount of additional study you do on your own
+ the techniques you use to study
+ your motivation
+ the quality of the lessons & teachers
+ your age



Obviously, the biggest factor for people not living in an English speaking country is the amount of English you meet outside the classroom. The number of hours between each level is likely to go up for people learning English as a Foreign Language in a non-English speaking country. You can compensate for this in some ways, for example by using extensive reading, but if you are learning English in an English speaking country your progress is likely to be quicker, which is one of the main advantages of studying abroad.



Keep in mind, that if you enjoy learning and speaking English, then perhaps it doesn’t matter how long it takes. The journey is often more important than the destination.