A key to any move overseas is to learn the local language. It is very hard to feel settled until daily interactions in the local language are possible. Very few people are born with a ‘language’ gene - everyone has to work at learning a language but it is true that once you have one foreign language, others are easier to pick up.
But nothing beats the spontaneous conversation that you can have on your own in the street. The infographic by Voxy, shown below, gives an indication of how long it is likely to take the average English speaker to learn the different world languages. Every learner is different and besides how close the language is to your native language and the complexities involved, learning will always be affected by the hours per week you spend learning and the the language resources available to you.
There are schools of thought that feel language immersion is the only way to learn, but personally I found that to get my head around the basic and grammar having some explanations in my language, English, helped speed up my learning. After the first year, immersion then worked to cement the learning and introduce the sheer wealth of vocabulary that you need for daily life.
In total I have spent over five years in France, but I have never worked in French myself, and now I would still say I am not fluent but maybe about 80% there. My husband started with no French, but has worked all the time in French and is about 90% there. The last 10% is so hard as it contains the nuances of expression and vocabulary that you only learn when needed. I can hold a conversation without having to think before opening my mouth, nor do I now freeze in fear at the thought of picking up the telephone, but every conversation will still be with pausing to search for a word or correcting a pronunciation. So I suggest this info graphic is interesting to look at, but by no means a real indication of how long it takes as most of us also have ‘real life’ to contend with at the same time, so the number hours you can focus on language is small. I found two sessions of two hours each week with a private tutor about as much as I could manage, and I progressed well at that rate.
So now, I have decided it may be worth getting to know some Spanish since my children are learning it and Spain is only a few hours drive from us. If you want to learn Spanish, why not join me in trying to learn through this new free online learning program by Great Escape Publishing. They are still looking for 50,000 volunteers willing to test a fast, new way to learn a new language that doesn’t involve memorising or years of practice. Visit the 50000 People Project to join up: "Whether you speak a little Spanish or none at all, you can benefit from the learning techniques inside this system. The only thing we ask is that fluent Spanish speakers wait until February to sign up when we’re ready to announce another language."