I want to say:

How long does it take to learn a new language?

I arrived at:

Wie lange braucht man um ein neu Sprache zu lernen?

Is the um ... zu formation correct here?

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is correct.

As a sidetone: be aware that Sprache is feminin, and that a question is usually closed by a question mark. Also, regarding an infitive clause introduced by um, it is mandatory to separate the clause by comma. Hence it must be:

Wie lange braucht man, um eine neue Sprache zu lernen?

Just one comment on the necessity of the comma: Duden says that the comma is mandatory before infinitive clauses that are introduced by one of the words als, anstatt, außer, ohne, statt or um. See https://www.duden.de/sprachwissen/rechtschreibregeln/komma#D117 for the rule. (Since it is being discussed in the comments: For the general question of rules in German language, have a look at the discussion at Meta: Normative Fragen and at Welche normative Autorität hat der Duden? / What's the normative authority of the Duden?). Besides Duden, also the rules of the Rechtschreibrat, who decides on the rules being taught in school, says so (§75 of the linked document):

Infinitivgruppen grenzt man mit Komma ab, wenn eine der folgenden Bedingungen erfüllt ist: (1) die Infinitivgruppe ist mit um, ohne, statt, anstatt, außer, als eingeleitet [...]

  • Alternatively: > Wie lange braucht man, um eine Sprache neu zu lernen? Sep 1, 2019 at 14:08
  • That sentence actually has slightly different meaning, it would mean "to learn a language again, after you have forgotten it". It does not make much sense though, but from the grammar, that would be what it means. So this is not a proper alternative.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Sep 2, 2019 at 9:36
  • Your observation is correct in so far as this is one possible meaning. It might be common in cases of apoplexy when a person "das Sprechen neu lernen muss". Anyway, googling for "Sprache neu lernen" will provide many hits in the meaning in question. Maybe it's colloquial or regional, but it is used and well accepted. Sep 2, 2019 at 11:26
  • Sorry, I disagree. This is not colloquial; maybe regional; but I would not consider it standard German. I think your answer should reflect this; if it is a regionalism, I think your answer should also state that and tell which regionalism it is.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Sep 2, 2019 at 12:54
  • Did you try a Google search "Sprache neu lernen"? I don't agree with your point of view that all the hits you get there are regionalisms. They all (at least the first 20) are talking about learning a new language from the beginning and not about learning a language for the second time. Please look it up and reflect your opinion after having seen what Google is listing. Sep 2, 2019 at 22:28

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