If you’re thinking about having your kid learn Spanish as a second language, you may be wondering how long it will take until your child is fluent. The truth is, it depends on the number of hours and the quality of the time. It’s not an easy answer!
For example, 100 hours of direct conversation practice with a real person over a year’s time (about 2 hours a week) will be one-third of the way to basic fluency. 100 hours of watching a Spanish Netflix show would not help them to the same extent (this would allow them to learn a few dozen words or phrases). We’ll help you figure out just how long it will take to get your child fluent in Spanish based on a few factors.
What does fluency mean, exactly?
When we talk about fluency, we mean your child will be able to have conversations in Spanish about almost any everyday topic, but it will take time to respond and they might have to search for some words. 300 hours of direct conversation practice with a real person is basic fluency. 600 hours is a strong level of fluency. When companies are hiring, they expect this amount of exposure before hiring. It’s called B2 level, or, high intermediate.
Will they sound like they do in English? No.
Will they be fully functional as a communicator? Yes.
Can they travel and possibly get a job as a bilingual person? Yes.
And that is the goal.
What does my child’s age have to do with fluency?
Well, the younger your child starts learning Spanish, is the quicker they’ll get fluent, but it’s not exactly for the reasons you’re thinking. So remember, you can get fluent at any age.
According to this study, the younger the learner, the easier it will be for them to create new sounds and pronunciation. Yes, pronunciation does sound more native-like if we learn at a young age. But I would never worry about this for fluency. Millions of people have accents (like myself) and communicate just fine. While the ideal age isn’t something researchers have been able to agree on, 50% of our learning pathways are developed by age 8. Definitely great to start by 8, but remember, your 13-year old or 20-year-old will learn in about the same amount of time, although they could have an accent (which is not something we consider when discussing the definition of fluency).
One of the main reasons that it’s easier for children to get fluent is they simply have more time on their hands. This would be the same as getting really great at soccer, painting, or any other activity. Older kids have more schoolwork and responsibilities than say an elementary-aged child. And adults have even more, which makes it challenging to find the time.
How much time should my kid dedicate to learning Spanish to be fluent?
Your kid will need to put in lots of hours of contact time with the target language, but only you can decide how much time you have each week. Everyone is different, and you will still learn.
Fluency requires hundreds of hours in general, but we get there one hour at a time. Most of our clients take 2 lessons a week, which is approximately 2 hours of Spanish immersion weekly.
Critical: full immersion. That means they’ll pretty much only hear the target language in the class or lessons. This allows them to truly go into the other language.
If you can travel to another country that primarily uses that language during summer breaks and enroll your kids in activities, this will reinforce their language skills and allow them to practice with other kids.
You can also enroll your child in a bilingual preschool. They’ll have tons of contact time with the target language there.
What your child needs is consistent and valuable time with Spanish. Valuable time includes conversations in Spanish so they can practice how to use the language to communicate which is why we learn to speak another language in the first place.
How can I support my child’s language learning?
There are tons of things you can do to keep your kid on the right track to be fluent in a reasonable time.
Learn basic phrases and teach it to them.
You can absolutely help your kid to be more comfortable speaking a language by teaching them some short phrases. You can get an idea of what phrases to start with by watching our Weekly Spanish Phrase YouTube videos for parents – where we help you with pronunciation and how to incorporate Spanish into your child’s everyday life. And also our blog, which talks about resources at home, or just about not giving up. We like to focus on phrases you can use on a daily basis. Those are usually important phrases and the repetition helps to commit the phrases to memory.
Be intentional with language learning for your kid.
Wishing they’ll be fluent isn’t going to help them to be fluent. You will have to look for Spanish books, Netflix shows and Spanish activities to supplement learning at home. Naturally, these can’t replace real conversations in Spanish. In order to make sure your kid gets fluent, you can arrange conversations with a native speaker several times a week like hiring a babysitter who is a native speaker or meeting a tutor online for games and fun.
If you decide to get your child to learn a second language, consider TruFluency Kids. Our methods are tried, proven and kid-friendly. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our Spanish immersion classes start at only $12 per class and your kid will be getting valuable contact time with Spanish. We know how to get kids fluent.