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What Are The Stages of Learning A New Language?
By Debbie Lopez Updated on January 3, 2024
Thomas Mühlbacher Thomas Mühlbacher

What Are The Stages of Learning A New Language?

Everything you need to know about the different stages of language learning

When learning a new language, you typically go through five stages. The amount of time you spend in each stage will depend on various factors, such as your commitment to learning, your age, your  abilities, and whether you are utilizing any language apps or programs to help you with your learning. Below we dive deep into each stage of the language learning process so you can get get an idea of what to expect along the way.


Stage 1: The Newbie

At this stage, you are brand new to the language. It’s where most people start, and it can feel both exciting and frustrating at this stage. As a beginner, you may understand and be able to speak just a couple of words.

At this stage, you will be mainly listening to new words and trying to add them to your vocabulary. You are still getting your head around trying to understand a new language.

During this stage, it may be helpful to use a language app such as Babbel or Duolingo. These types of language apps help newcomers by making the learning process fun. For example, the Babbel Spanish course includes games, podcasts and a digital magazine.

Stage 2: First Steps (Baby Talk)

This stage begins when you start to learn more words and have begun trying to pronounce them properly. You can compare it to the way a toddler talks.

You are starting to accumulate more vocabulary, and it’s at this stage that you accrue about 1,000 words into your repertoire. You will also likely start putting words together in basic phrases that will help you to get by.

stages of learning a new language

Again, language apps (e.g. Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone) can be an extremely helpful tool for vocabulary expansion during this period of time. For example, the Pimsleur German program relies on spaced repetition to ensure you are moving newly learned words from your short term memory to your long term memory.

Stage 3: Improved Speech

Your vocabulary will keep expanding at this stage. By the time you reach the end of this stage, you will know at least 3,000 words in the new language.

You will also feel more comfortable, so you can start speaking in longer phrases and even full sentences, including asking questions. Most will also start being able to read and write in their new language at this point.

During this stage, you may want to consider using a language program that includes speech recognition technology. That way you can receive feedback on your pronunciation. Our team has tested dozens of language programs and recommends Rocket Languages and Pimsleur for this type of verbal practice.

Stage 4: Holding Conversations

You will reach intermediate fluency at this point. You don’t have a full grasp of everything, but you are getting stronger.

When this stage ends, you will have at least 6,000 words in your vocabulary. Your pronunciation will have improved, and you will feel more comfortable talking with people. Reading and writing skills also improve markedly at this stage.

Once you reach this stage, you may benefit from a live class. Both Babbel and Rosetta Stone offer live classes. That way you can start to converse with peers, as well as get feedback from experienced language tutors and teachers.

What Are The Stages of Learning A New Language

Stage 5: Fluency Emerges

This is the goal that everyone strives for when they are taking on a new language. You will continue to grow your vocabulary and improve your capabilities. Your mistakes are fewer and further between.

At this stage, you should feel entirely comfortable talking with native speakers about any range of topics.

Emotions You Will Feel During The Language Learning Process

Learning a new language is a great endeavor to undertake, and it can be a lot of fun. During your time learning a new language, though, you will experience a long list of emotions.

Some of them might even conflict with one another. Some of the most common emotions you are likely to feel include enthusiasm, obsession, shyness, frustration, embarrassment, and excitement.

Of course, you will find that these types of emotions tend to occur whenever you learn anything new.


What are the stages of second language acquisition?

Generally there are five stages of second language acquisition: (1) Silent/Receptive; (2) Baby Talk; (3) Improved Speech; (4) Holding Basic Conversations; and (5) Fluency Emergence.

What is the step below fluent in language learning?

The step below advanced/fluent in language learning is intermediate. In this step, you should be able to interact with native speakers with a moderate degree of fluency. You should have 4,000 to 6,000 words in your vocab at this stage.

What is the biggest difficulty when learning a new language?

For most people attempting to learn a new language, the two most common difficulties are lack of practice opportunities and loss of motivation. You absolutely need a means to practice your new language regularly, and you need to stay encouraged.