How long does it take to learn French? I wish I knew the answer to it. The truth is there isn’t a fixed timeline. Learning a language is a long journey and everyone has their own timeline attached to them. There isn’t a specific time to start or end this process.
Learning French as an English speaker
When we have the idea of learning a language two questions follow us
- What language should I learn and why?
- How long does it take?
I’m guessing you have already cracked the first question and that brings you here. So how long does it really take to learn French?
As an English speaker, you can learn French much faster. How? Studies have shown that there are a lot of similarities between the language.
We have incorporated a lot of french words in English every day. For instance, words like sabotage, etiquette, coupon, etc have their french origin. Linguists have found over 27% of lexical similarities between English and French.
So we have already been speaking French every day without even being aware of it.
Despite the similarities, there are a lot of French words that sound like English words but share a different meaning. They are called false cognates.
False cognates can be quite tricky at first but later helps us to understand the two languages better.
According to renowned institutes, it takes around 23 to 24 weeks to reach the proficiency level in French.
If you are a beginner and have no prior experience with European languages or learning a foreign language in general then it could take much longer.
Factors that set a timeline for learning French
We always idealize ourselves in a place when we start learning a language but do we really get there? If not? Why?
There are various factors that determine how long you will take to learn French starting from your love for the language to your learning environment and much more. Shall we dig in?
1. How do you envision your finish line?
There are 4 key areas to master when you learn a language. They are: Reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I cannot deny the fact that all 4 areas are equally important. However, speaking becomes a judgmental factor for others to grade you.
So how do you envision your finish line? Do you want to be fluent? Do you want to be conversational or do you just want to know the basics to get through your day?
Let’s get the facts straight. If you want to be fluent and by fluent I mean you want to understand a native speaker and communicate without hesitation then it is going to take a comparatively long time.
If you are living in France and you get to speak French every day then make the most out of it and you could be partially fluent in months or in maybe a year.
Not everyone can afford a trip to Paris so we turn the odds in our favor you decide to learn on your own through apps and books or you enroll in an institute. If that’s the case your commitment and effort will provide the result varying from 6 months(conversational) to 2 years(fluent) or more.
There are a lot of people who challenge themselves by learning French in a week or in 2 to 3 months. It’s true that with a lot of practice and long studying hours they can scrape through the basics or even speak few phrases but beyond that, I’m not sure.
If your finish line looks somewhere closer to the native speakers then it could take a couple of years to master French.
2. Know your language level
Every language learner falls into 3 categories
At the beginner level, you can introduce yourself in French, understand simple sentences, greet people and go to a nearby grocery store, and communicate with the vendor to buy your basics.
As an intermediate, you can understand complex information and put forth your views on diverse topics. You plunge into the French culture and are more confident at framing clear and complex sentences.
- Advanced learner
If you are an advanced learner then you are not very far from being completely proficient in French. You are fluent, you can communicate and understand the native speakers. You are comfortable with topics related to business, academics, etc.
So are you just starting out? Do you have past experiences with this language in school? Your journey towards mastering the French language will depend on which category you fall into. Know your level and pick up from where you left.
3. Available time
I’m aware that everyone’s learning process and methods are different especially when learning a language is open to all age groups. You can be a student, working professional, retired, etc.
There can be 2 sides to this question. How much time do I need to spend on French? vs how much time do I have? If you want to see better results then you have to make French part of your daily routine.
Time management is essential. A minimum of 1 to 2 hours a day is sufficient. You can sit for 2 hours straight or split it throughout the day.
Now let’s say you are working and you have picked up French as a side hobby or for your professional growth in that case you can incorporate an hour through a podcast or with French songs while driving or with other fun activities.
An intense study schedule will drain you. Therefore, make sure to take breaks and have fun along the way. In this way, you will want to learn more and that will enable you to learn French much faster.
4. Your love for the language?
How much do you love French? Are you learning French because you have to or want to? If you love French you will spend more time to know more about the language. Learning won’t be a burden.
In fact, you won’t consider it as a study plan or schedule you will simply see it as another language that you love. A simple shift in your mindset as to how you treat the language will determine how fast you are going to learn it.
After all, I bet no one can hate the “language of love”.
Patience is the key
I guess now you have a rough idea of how long it takes to master the French language. In my opinion, the best results are often obtained with time and perseverance. It is not how fast you learn a language but how much you learn from it.