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English as an Additional Language: How long does it take to acquire English Fluency

Demie, F.



Policy-makers and mainstream teachers have long been concerned with the best way to help English as an additional language (EAL) pupils to learn English. Yet very little empirical work has examined the time it takes EAL pupils to become fully fluent in English in Britain. The key question posed in this research, therefore, is: how long does it take to acquire English fluency for EAL pupils? The empirical data for the study consisted of EAL pupils’ longitudinal assessment data on the stages of fluency in English from Year 6 to Year 11. The main finding of this study suggests that it takes about 5–7 years on average to acquire academic English proficiency. However, the speed of English language acquisition varies between stages of levels of English. On average, pupils are classified at Stage 1 (beginner) for about a year and a half, before moving to becoming familiar with English (Stage 2), where they typically remain for about two years. It takes about another two-and-a-half years at Stage 3 (becoming confident in English) before they can then be classified as fully fluent. Policy and research implications are discussed critically in the final section.


Demie, F. (2013). English as an Additional Language: How long does it take to acquire English Fluency. Language and Education, 27(1), 59-69.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 2, 2012
Online Publication Date May 28, 2012
Publication Date 2013-01
Deposit Date May 18, 2017
Journal Language and Education
Print ISSN 0950-0782
Electronic ISSN 1747-7581
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 59-69