Expats: What’s The Cost Of Learning A New Language?

If you’re thinking of moving abroad post-Brexit, a new tool helps you calculate exactly how long it will take to learn the local language, and how much it will cost.

The thought of leaving the UK is certainly appealing to many – it has been widely reported that there have been record numbers of people applying for passports for countries such as Ireland and New Zealand.

But if you’re not moving to one of the many countries where English is widely spoken, you’ll have to prepare by taking lessons in your new language. Translation service LanguageLine has created an interactive map. This shows where the world’s top 20 languages – after English – are spoken; it also shows roughly how long they take to learn, and therefore how much it might cost to pay for lessons.

You might be surprised to see how many countries share the same language. For example, French is spoken in many more countries than you might think; it is widely used in parts of Canada, and a host of African countries including Mali, Senegal and Madagascar. In fact, over 220 million people speak it around the world. LanguageLine estimates that it would take around 550 hours of lessons to become fluent in French, and at £26 an hour, that’s a total cost of £14,300. But it may be worth it to be able to set up home confidently in a different country.

Similarly, learning Spanish means you can pick from a host of different exotic countries, rather than just Spain and South America. Swathes of the Caribbean would open up to you, so you could choose to live in the newly modernising Cuba, or get yourself to Argentina. The more intrepid travellers could head to Equatorial Guinea – the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. In total, over 585 million people globally speak Spanish, meaning the 600 hours you’d spend learning it (at £22 an hour, it would cost you £13,200) could be a wise investment.

However, if you want to learn the most widely spoken language in the world, you’ll have to learn Chinese. Over one billion people speak Chinese, or Mandarin, as the country’s official language is known, and the 2,200 hours it would take you to become proficient would cost you just over £66,000, at £30 an hour.