A common question among language learners is how long will it take me to learn <insert language>?, and the usual answer, for a native English speaker, is to refer to the FSI list, which divides languages into different categories of difficulty and gives good time estimates for serious students to go from 0 to B2/C1. That is all great and very useful in terms of helping a learner choose a language based on how much time they are willing to put in.

But another question that could be useful for language learners is to know how much time it takes to achieve each of the different CEFR levels. Specifically, what are the times to go from:

0  -> A1
A1 -> A2
A2 -> B1
B1 -> B2
B2 -> C1
C1 -> C2

We can probably expect the time to increase between each level. I assume any answer will be based on criteria similar to what FSI used, i.e., experience of training many students. For the sake of answering this question, use English as the L1 and Spanish as the L2.


3 Answers 3


How long it takes to reach the CEFRL levels in Spanish depends to some extent on your native language; I assume it would take a bit longer for people whose native language is not related to Spanish or who have never learnt a Romance language before.

Some language schools provide information about how many hours of instruction it takes to reach specific CEFRL levels. The data below is based on data from a language school in Leuven, Belgium, that also has entrance tests for new learners (Centrum voor Levende Talen, CLT). Of course, you need to add self-study time to the classroom instruction. Depending on your native language and your knowledge of other Romance languages, this would add one to three hours per week. The courses at CLT are for native speakers of Dutch, which is very close to English. For example, both Dutch and English have many words with a Latin or French origin. So the figures below should not differ significantly from those for native speakers of English.

  • A1: after one year with 120 classroom hours.
  • A2: one more year with 120 classroom hours. (Cumulative sum: 240 hours of instruction.)
  • B1: four more semesters (!) with 70 classroom hours each. (Cumulative sum: 520 hours of instruction.)
  • B2: two more years with 120 classroom hours each. (Cumulative sum: 760 hours of instruction.)
  • C1: two more years with 120 classroom hours each. (Cumulative sum: 1000 hours of instruction.)

This comes down to 8 years of Spanish language classes in order to reach C1, unless you take the fast tracks, which are available only for levels A1 and A2. CLT does not offer Spanish courses that take you to level C2 because the number of years of language instruction is capped at 8. (Beyond that, the language school probably wouldn't get government funding for those courses. The courses aren't free, but the funding makes them cheap compared to languages courses in many other countries.)


If you compare the hours indicated above with the hours of instruction provided by Cervantes institute it becomes obvious something is fishy. For example, A1 course at Cervantes lasts only 60 hours. A2 is 60 hours again. Only B1 and B2 demand more time (120 hours), but not outrageous 280 hours as per above.

I did not do Spanish specifically, but I took a Catalan course at my university which is absolutely the same in terms of complexity and vocabulary for an English speaker, and surprise, it does not take so long either. During a university term with 2 classes a week (and fair amount of homework) we somehow managed to do 2/3 of a CEFR level per term. Simple maths: 2 hours * 18 weeks gives just 36 hours of instruction, two terms = 72 hours correspondingly and that is 1.5 CEFR level. We kept that pace for 2 years and after 2 years we all have achieved a B1 level. I don't know what you guys are doing in Holland, but obviously what you do is horribly wrong and is a waste of time. There is no logic, nor reason to study Spanish so slowly, it is not rocket science after all :))


From personal experience, I got to a B2 level in Spanish in about 9 months of self-study, so the first post sounds a bit far-fetched to me. I will say, I "learned" Spanish in high school but never actually learned how to speak or understand. I only studied grammar, and after a couple of years, I forgot all of it. In my opinion, learning in a school will significantly slow you down. It's great to get an overview of some grammar, but it's much more useful to spend your time immersing yourself in the language and gaining an intuitive understanding of how it works rather than learning from a textbook. Listening (to podcasts, YouTube videos, etc) as much as you can, speaking 100% in Spanish to native speakers and other students, and reading will get youfar quickly! I like the comprehensible input method, and there are a ton of resources for that on YouTube.

  • It might be that the fundament built in school, even if mostly forgotten, has still helped later learning you did. Happened to me with Swedish/Danish/Norwegian.
    – Tommi
    May 14 at 6:40
  • How was your CEFR level after those 9 months of self-study tested?
    – Tsundoku
    May 20 at 14:55

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