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This paper addresses the question of how long it takes to learn a second language in order to provide the best possible estimate of the time required for Japanese speakers to develop a high proficiency level in English. The data examined come from assertions made by Japanese educators in English, Japanese learners' TOEIC scores, English speakers' acquisition of Japanese at the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, and the time needed for Japanese speakers to acquire native-like English vocabulary. Results indicate that Japanese speakers need around 2,500 hours to attain a high level of English proficiency and at least twice as much to attain native-like English vocabulary. Given that Japanese students normally have approximately 1,000 hours of exposure to English in secondary school and university, the findings suggest that, first and foremost, we should be realistic about the outcome of English language teaching in Japan without expecting too much from it.
言語と文化 4 19-29, 2005-03-01