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    If I learn a language from scratch, how long would it take me to be good enough to be able to read literature from that language approximately? How much faster would it be if I studied the language at uni compared studying it alone? I am thinking about German.
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    It depends on how well you want to understand the book. Do you want to understand every single word or just t know the meaning of each sentence?
    I have had two years of German in school and I can read books, that is I know what it's about and can follow the storyline fairly accurately. (But my native language is more similar to German than English).

    And it also depends on how much effort you're going to put into it if you're studying a language on your own.
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    (Original post by PhilandTheo)
    If I learn a language from scratch, how long would it take me to be good enough to be able to read literature from that language approximately? How much faster would it be if I studied the language at uni compared studying it alone? I am thinking about German.
    There are so many variables to this that it is impossible to give a straight answer. Some factors which will have a positive impact on the speed with which you learn a new language are:

    1) The closeness of the new language to your native language (or another language you already speak pretty fluently). For example, Dutch and German are very close, as "dutchstudent123" has indicated, and so (s)he has only needed two years to get to the stage where (s)he can read German literature. On the other hand, I am learning Turkish (which is not even an Indo-European language) for a good five years now and I'm just starting to understand children's books with the help of a good dictionary. German and English are not totally dissimilar in many ways, but they're not that close either.

    2) Your level of motivation and commitment. The more time you spend learning the language, and the more you actually need to learn the language, the quicker your progress will be. If your commitment is very strong, and if you have a high level of self-discipline, you can work on your own but I should think that most people would benefit from lessons if only to keep them going, if nothing else.

    3) The opportunity you have to spend time in a country where your target language is spoken - not as a passive tourist but in a situation where you are forced to speak the language, such as a job. Ideally this is combined with instruction during the same period.

    4) Knowledge of other languages. People who already speak a foreign language well will find it easier to learn a new language.

    5) Psychology: people suffering from low self-esteem, anxiety or inhibitions tend to find language acquisition more difficult.

    Based on this, I would suggest that if you are really keen to be able to read German literature quickly, you would be well advised to studying German in a formal setting as this will probably give you more exposure and structure than if you try to learn on your own.
 
 
 
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