Two year turn around
For most people learning languages, there is a degree of uncertainty around how quickly the language should be acquired. Many people who have been learning for a long time consider themselves to be untalented, but on the other hand other people get discouraged after only a week of excellent progress.
To get to a conversational level, there are so many influences that it is impossible to say what the ‘right’ rate of acquisition is to be ‘on track’. But as a VERY general rule of thumb. If you are doing it right, it shouldn’t take more than two years to learn the language to the level that you can have social conversations in that language.
1st- 6th months – summarise text books, take a class, make friends socially and watch movies with subtitles. Try to learn all of the most common grammatical phrases. Don’t get bogged down in learning more and more nouns because these will come later – focus on the structure of the language.
6th- 12th months – concentrate on speaking and listening, this is where you start really making ground on all of those nouns. Your study time should be mainly with native speakers who you also help with their second language. You will make a lot of mistakes, quite down as many notes as you can during the conversations.
12th- 18th months – revise your structural knowledge, read more advanced text books. Watch more movies and try watching with subtitles for the hearing impaired. Read as much as possible. Maintain a few really strong friendships with native speakers but don’t do as much networking. Concentrate on accuracy.
18th- 24th months – Network like crazy, speak to people on the phone, try to work in a restaurant or do volunteer in a community organisation that speaks the language you are learning. You are covering content now, rather than just talking about the language. You will feel uncomfortable as soon as the conversation moves from casual chat to ‘we have to do something’. If you can help with the running of an event for example, you will really get the right language ability to “do” things, and this is the thing which makes you successful conversationally.