For how long must one study the Talmud in order to have a great understanding of it.
Of course, some would use more time than others but there must be a general answer?
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The most popular Talmud study program is daf yomi ("a page a day") whereby many Jews around the world study the same page of Talmud every day, typically spending 40-60 mins on a page (2-sided). To go through the 2700 pages of Talmud Bavli takes 7.5 years this way. And there are hundred more pages in Talmud Yerushalmi.
Now most people studying Talmud this way would agree it is still quite superficial and only gives them a broad overview but without the mastery needed to plumb the full depth of each page.
So the answer to your question is many many years - possibly all of one's life. As Ben Bag says in Pirkei Avot (5:26)
Turn the Torah over and over for everything is in it. Look into it, grow old and worn over it, and never move away from it, for you will find no better portion than it.
Rabbi kook said following a Midrash in Masechet Hagiga (chapter two) of a salamander that is under the fire for 7 years, that a person only can know if he is fit for the Torah studying if he studied 7 year... If he saw a blessing in his studies he shall be a Talmid Hacham (if not...).
Also I remember from my Rabbi in the Yeshiva (I forgot his "mekorot") saying that just after 40 years a person can understand the set of mind of his Rabbi.
Of course it is understood that today it is hard (but not impossible) to devote your self to so much Torah (unless someone started young), but I just wanted to pass the answers I got.
Ofcourse the knowledge in gmara differs and someone that studied only one year has more knowledge than one that didn't and one of 7 year etc.