Surprising cost of learning a new language

A new handy guide for travellers seeking to pick up a new language has revealed that Indonesian is the cheapest tongue to master while Korean will set you back the most cash.

Money saving gurus at Voucherbox.co.uk looked into the costs and required hours for English speakers to start from scratch learning a new language and go all the way through to fluency.

It was discovered that Indonesian is the cheapest language for Brits to crack, costing around £5,175 in total to learn.

At the other end of the scale, Korean is the most expensive language to study for English speakers with a staggering price of £41,155.

The data was compiled using the average prices from a cost-per-hour language learning website, and calculated the estimated expenses of learning 28 languages from around the world.

As well as the cost per hour, the research also looked into the difficulty of learning each language – with average hours needed ranging from 600 to a staggering 2,200.

The 28 languages were picked from around the world and included European languages such as Spanish, Italian and French, as well as the more exotic languages such as Persian, Mandarin and Thai.

The results showed that although Indonesian took longer than more basic languages to learn, with around 900 hours needed from start to finish, it had the cheaper average hourly rate of tuition of £6.35, meaning the cost was particularly low.

Coming in at second place in the cheaper languages was Portuguese, with a total cost of £6,138. This differed to Indonesian as although the hourly price is a costly £10.23, only 600 hours are needed to speak fluently.

This was then followed by Spanish with a total costing of £6,157. This included 600 hours of language priced at £10.26 per hour.

In terms of typical school-taught languages within the UK, it’s those who study German compared to French that should be pleasantly surprised. Within the research, it was revealed that students on German courses at school could be saving £12,013 in money compared to just £8,171 if they had chosen to learn French.

Tipping the costly end of the scale as the more expensive languages to study included Korean, Mandarin and Japanese.

To learn Korean, you must set aside a whopping £41,155, as well as dedicating 2,200 to the language. It was revealed that as well as being one of the most difficult languages to crack, it will also cost £18.71 per hour.

Mandarin, also known as Chinese, will set you back a total of £29,367, while Japanese is also expensive, priced at an average of £24,375.

Shane Forster, UK Country Manager for Voucherbox.co.uk, said:

“The information we uncovered was quite startling. Although we understand that few people would end up learning a full language at an hourly rate, our calculations can be used as a way of working out the cost expectancy for studying various languages.

“Even with a tuition bundle discount, such as a crash course, Korean is still highly likely to cost much more than Portuguese or Spanish due to the higher rates of tuition and the recommended time taken to learn the language.

“Our calculations also don’t take into account the cost of learning materials such as textbooks which would also be necessary in learning a language, with harder languages likely requiring more resources than easier ones, which would additionally raise the cost.

“We think this is really interesting research when taking the summer season into account, when many people may be looking to jet off somewhere abroad for a holiday or explore the world.”

The table of languages, the hours to learn and average hourly cost, along with an overall learning cost, can be seen below:

Language Difficulty (Hours) Ave cost per hour Overall cost to fluency


900 £6.35 £5,715
2 Portuguese 600 £10.23 £6,138
3 Spanish 600 £10.26 £6,157
4 Swedish 600 £10.32 £6,191
5 Romanian 600 £10.83 £6,500
6 Urdu 1100 £6.24 £6,864
7 Italian 600 £11.67 £7,004
8 Hindi 1100 £6.79 £7,466
9 Danish 600 £12.47 £7,484
10 French 600 £13.62 £8,171
11 Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik) 1100 £7.50 £8,250
12 Polish 1100 £9.03 £9,932
13 Serbian 1100 £9.85 £10,834
14 Greek 1100 £10.18 £11,195
15 Dutch 600 £18.71 £11,224
16 Russian 1100 £10.31 £11,338
17 Croatian 1100 £10.51 £11,556
18 Latvian 1100 £10.51 £11,556
19 German 750 £16.02 £12,013
20 Bulgarian 1100 £11.82 £12,999
21 Czech 1100 £11.82 £12,999
22 *Thai 1100 £12.80 £14,082
23 Hebrew 1100 £14.44 £15,886
24 Arabic 2200 £8.89 £19,548
25 Turkish 1100 £18.27 £20,097
26 Japanese 2200 £11.08 £24,375
27 Mandarin (Chinese) 2200 £13.35 £29,367
28 Korean 2200 £18.71 £41,155

But if all this studying seems like a bit too much hard work, you could always blag it….


Peter Rettig July 13, 2016

Hmm, not really surprising, but if you take the opportunity cost of the learners into account, the cost would even be higher, (and obviously depend on the learner’s assumed hourly rate!)
In any case, learning a foreign language as an adult comes with a considerable time and money expense.
You can, however, reduce the instruction cost quite a bit by using the many free courses, podcasts, videos etc. on the internet…

the furious engineer Author July 13, 2016

Great points you raise, Peter. We often ignore the cost of ‘not earning’ whilst learning, it’s true! I read a great book from an engineer recently on how one can become ‘fluent’ in 3-months – by immersion in the language and culture – from foreign media, to Skype calls with a ‘language buddy’. ‘Fluent in 3 months, by Benny Lewis.


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