How Long Does it Take to Learn Hindi?

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

When you think about learning any language, “how long will it take?” is always a burning question. How long is a piece of string?

There is no definite answer to give because how long Hindi takes to learn boils down to how well the learner learns!

There are many schools of thought on how to master languages in a shorter time period and many people can become fluent in next to no time with the right approach.

Given that it is considered one of the more challenging languages to try and learn, Hindi might take some native English speakers a little longer.

We may not have a definitive answer but we do have a definitive guide to the factors that affect how fast you can learn Hindi.

How Long Will It Take to Learn Hindi?

The time it takes will ultimately be different for each individual. We will take a look at what The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages says later. They use a measured framework of “Guided Learning Hours”. 

Aside from literal time management which we will look at in detail later the following factors also need to be considered as each will impact how quickly you learn any language:

  • Previous Language Learning Experience 
  • The Native & Target Languages
  • The Learning Method
  • The Dedicated Time
  • Attitude & Motivation

Let’s explore each factor and try to see how they could impact how fast you can learn Hindi.

Previous Language Learning Experience

If you have already learned another language, then the next will be a faster process!

Learning a language teaches you how to analyze words, sentences, and speech. This is an important part of language learning and by already having done it before you will already be a step ahead. 

You will have already faced some of the bigger hurdles such as being able to memorize vocabulary and listening to different sounds.

You learn a little quicker simply because there are fewer surprises along the way!

So if you come from a bilingual home you will be capable of learning Hindi in a shorter amount of time. 

Language studies show that bilinguals pick up a third language far quicker because fluency gives them exposure and the skills are transferable tools.

It might sound crazy but even a year or two of high school French or Spanish could go a long way toward helping you learn Hindi faster.

Exposure to other languages in general is a great boost, so don’t feel down if you aren’t multilingual and have still set your sights on learning Hindi.

Just having the experience of listening to another language regularly can be a big help as far as exposure is concerned. If you have ever had foreign neighbors and have listened to the rhythm and intonation of their native language then you will find it easier to listen to another language. 

The Native & Target Languages

The differences between the language you already speak and the language you want to learn will affect the time it takes.

As a native English speaker, languages that are grouped in category I (which means they share a lot of similarities with English) will be quicker to learn. Hindi is a group IV language so considerably different. 

This is due to its own writing script, many alphabetical sounds that we do not have, and different grammatical structures.

But, both English and Hindi have Sanskrit roots that form many Indo-European languages, such as Baltic, Slavic, and Germanic languages.

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Their paths clearly diverged long ago, but Sanskrit helped birth the two. As different as they might seem there is some common ground to be found.

Not as much as you might find crossing over between English and French. But having a few cognates always speeds language learning up.

Below are a few cognates which you may not know come from Sanskrit and Hindi:

  • Avatar
  • Bangle
  • Bandana
  • Bungalow
  • Chutney
  • Dungaree
  • Guru
  • Juggernaut
  • Jungle
  • Karma
  • Maharaja
  • Mantra
  • Nirvana
  • Pashmina
  • Tank
  • Trigonometry
  • Raita
  • Roti

There are also many English words for modern objects and concepts that have been added to the Hindi dictionary like car, computer, and station. So you can learn vocabulary in less time than you might think.

The Learning Method

How fast you learn Hindi also depends on the method of learning. In a classroom setting, you will be taught at the pace of the class. You have the benefits that come with group learning such as being able to practice speaking and having a teacher on hand but if you are a fast learner you won’t make as much progress as you could if you studied alone.

The best way to cut down the time taken to learn Hindi is exposure.

The longer you are exposed to the language the better!

Full immersion is always going to come up trumps as a language learning method.

But if you can’t travel to India there is still hope for learning Hindi faster. In addition to taking a class, you can read or listen to eBooks, watch Hindi movies, and listen to Hindi music.

Fortunately these days most of us have access to a whole host of apps, videos, podcasts, and other online content that can help keep things fresh.

Diversity of learning methods is important. You might tire quickly of a monotonous study routine, so it is best to inject other media into it and keep your studying engaging.

The Dedicated Time

How long it takes to learn Hindi will rest on how much time you dedicate to learning it. You have to set aside a specific time and use it wisely; this could be with a course or setting your own course.

In high school, you typically study a few hours a week with some homework tasks. But, daily practice is beneficial, hence why full immersion cuts down learning periods.

If you can dedicate an hour a day you will learn significantly faster than someone taking your average weekly class.

Online programs that adapt to the learners’ pace are quickly becoming one of the fastest methods to learn by. You aren’t waiting for the rest of the group to catch up and you also can’t progress and proceed without understanding the subject matter.

Attitude & Motivation

A learner’s attitude and how well they stay motivated also play a huge part in how quickly they can learn Hindi.

You have to maintain an optimistic mind frame. Approach learning Hindi as an opportunity and view the work as fun. That will help you stay motivated.

Learning Hindi will broaden your horizons, and being positive keeps you open to learning. If you make the process enjoyable you will learn faster.

Language studies have shown that lack of motivation is the number one reason that people quit and fail.

Ensure you give yourself manageable goals and remind yourself constantly of your reasons for wanting to learn Hindi. Everyone’s motivations are subjective, picking something personal will serve as a stronger stimulus.

Imagine being able to watch a Hindi movie without subtitles, let that motivate you!

Whatever the driving force behind your learning, know that staying motivated speeds up the process.

Hindi is hard to learn, it differs enormously from English but Indians are very patient with people trying to learn.

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They appreciate it is tricky to master and are often excited when foreigners make the effort. 

If you spend time with Hindi speakers and try to practice your vocabulary you will find them very supportive.

They will accommodate you by slowing down, using simplified language, and employing gestures and actions to help explain. 

The sense of accomplishment that comes with managing to hold your own in a Hindi conversation should be all the motivation you need to maintain a positive learning attitude.

A Realistic Timeframe for Learning Hindi

So as you see some complex factors go into determining how long Hindi will take to learn.

But if you’ve found yourself reading this article you are probably after a realistic timeframe. 

We get it you want the numbers crunched.

So how long does Hindi take to learn?

Well, there are a couple of studies that give their opinions and offer some all-important numbers!

Annoyingly, the measurement of language fluency is a much-argued topic. So we have to keep that in mind and not take study results verbatim.

How fluent a person is with a language is not a strict set bar. Most agree that the upper-intermediate level is required to be considered fluent. But, many low intermediate-level speakers can hold their own in Hindi conversation. So let’s see what The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages and The U.S. Foreign Service Institute have to say about how long it takes to learn Hindi.

The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages

The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages set up a proprietary “Guided Learning Hours” framework that they use to measure the total amount of classroom time needed to reach a B2 level. This is considered a high intermediate level and generally accepted as more or less fluent.

Their guide suggests two hours of independent study for every classroom hour with an estimated total of 1,000 to 1,200 hours spent learning.

But this can be spent throughout a short period or a long one so still doesn’t tell us all that much. We can examine a few proposed scenarios:

Scenario 1: Online bitesize courses…

The student takes a Hindi course that is 3 hours per week and lasts for 8 weeks. The course sets a weekly homework task that we call an additional hour. 

Let’s imagine the independent study per week equates to 2 hours taking the weekly learning up to a total of 6 hours per week and the company runs 3 courses per year. 

During that year the learner would spend 144 hours studying and would require 25-30 eight-week courses to achieve the 1,000-1,200 hours!

Even with 3 courses per year, it would take over 8 years to reach an intermediate level of understanding.

Scenario 2: Course in an educational setting…

The student attends a Hindi language learning school with a minimum of 5 hours per week and  2 hours of homework and 3 hours of independent practice. The course runs for 2 semesters.

With this kind of language learning you would cut the 8 years down to 4 or 5. 

Scenario 3: At-home daily independent study…

Although you are going it alone and have some disadvantages such as sourcing your own study material and no one to practice speaking with dedicated study can take your journey down to just 3 years. This is with just one hour of practice a day which you could double up and half the time further!

Scenario 4: Full immersion…

With active dedication and a minimum of 8 hours of exposure to the language each day you can reach an intermediate level of Hindi in approximately 3 months.

Although the above only gives a pie-in-the-sky estimate, you can see the work you put in pays out. How long does Hindi take to learn?

Well by this calculation anywhere from 3 months to 10 years at the upper estimate!

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The U.S. Foreign Service Institute Timeline for Learning Hindi

The Foreign Service Institute focused its study on a group of native English speakers aged 30-40. They used the students’ results as a measure to help calculate the length of time to reach general language proficiency.

The FSI data demonstrated that the closer the language is to your native language the less time it takes to learn. 

Of course, the study neglects other factors which we have outlined such as whether or not the student had other languages under their belts already. It is also a very small demographic who were examined. 

But it did allow them to come up with a concept of five language categories and a projected timeframe. So let’s take a look:

Language Group I contains languages that are closely related to English

  • Afrikaans
  • Catalan
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Italian
  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Swedish

When an English native learns one of the above languages it is expected to take a minimum of 23/24 Weeks of study totaling somewhere between 575 and 600.

Language Group II  is for languages that are considered similar to English but not closely similar and oddly enough this category has just one language…

German which is expected to take around 30 weeks instead of 23/24 taking a minimum of 750 hours to reach general proficiency.

Language Group III consists of languages that present linguistic and/or cultural differences from English.

  • Indonesian
  • Malaysian
  • Swahili

The differences kick the timeframe up to 36 weeks with around 900 hours of study.

Language Group IV which is the one we are interested in is the category for languages that feature significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English. You will notice many of these have non-Latin alphabets.

  • Amharic
  • Bengali
  • Burmese
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Finnish
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian
  • Mongolian
  • Nepali
  • Pashto
  • Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)
  • Pilipino
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Thai
  • Tamil
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese

The FSI study estimates that group IV languages are expected to take a minimum of 44 weeks averaging 1,100 hours of study. So if you want a timeframe for learning Hindi, this could be a good gauge.

If you are interested Language Group V includes the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • Chinese
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Korean

Each is considered an exceptionally difficult language for native English speakers and will take a predicted 88 Weeks (literally double the amount of time to learn) at 2,200 hours.

Using this study as a rule of thumb you are looking at around 1000 hours to put into learning Hindi. 

As you saw above that can be spread out as you like and immersion can cut the time down. Remember the study was in educational settings. The quality of your study is more important than the quantity so take some of the above with a pinch of salt!

How Long Does it Take to Learn Hindi? – Final Thoughts

Hindi may be one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn, but don’t be discouraged, it only means it will be all the more rewarding!

A motivated learner with the right attitude can and will learn Hindi and probably faster than expected.

No one can tell you how long Hindi takes to learn. We can only provide a vague idea. But it needn’t be a lifetime with the right learning method. 

There are cases of people reaching fluency in less than a year and as you’ve seen many linguistic bodies consider it to be around the 1,000-hour mark making 3 months to 3 years a reasonable ‘guesstimate’ for the majority.

How much time it takes to learn Hindi depends on the factors we have laid out. Hopefully, they serve as a guide to getting to your goals faster. 

Time management and dedication are key but ultimately you decide how quickly you can learn Hindi.

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