Whether you’re studying French as a foreign language through free lessons in your community, partaking in language services online, or practice your French with other anglophones – you’ve probably asked yourself the same question: how long does it take for an English speaker to master French?
Whether you’re in Ontario, Los Angeles or London – learning world languages has become an even better, more efficient process, even by just translating English to French online.
According to the Francophone Observatory, the French language is now spoken by 421 million people. To put that into perspective, Spanish has 451 million speakers and Arabic has 402 million. A fun fact that might not come through in your French class is that the number of Francophones is forecasted to surpass Hispanophones around 2022.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about the influence of vulgar Latin, are striving for and intermediate French level, or simply want to get a Job in France – understanding French is a powerful tool!
The Number of Hours Necessary to Learn French
Whether you’ve tried going to language schools, are currently taken a French for beginners course or are part of a Facebook group for French learners – it is impossible to know how many hours it will take for you to become fluent in French.
However, as French teachers or any polyglot will tell you, French a global language that is one of the easiest to learn. According to a study by the American Foreign Service Institute, or FSI, the Romance language is one of the easiest living languages in the world to learn.
As with all language programs around the world, the levels of French language have been set out in a framework created by the European Union known as the CEFRL for European languages. These levels aren’t just for English speakers, but for everyone trying to gauge their knowledge of French. There are six levels ranging from the basic, A1, to the level of complete fluency, C2.
The B2 level, an intermediate step that means you are able to listen to French audio and express yourself easily in both written and oral terms, is the one normally required for entry into public universities for a language study or maths and sciences. Oral expression is particularly important in French universities, meaning you will have to work on perfecting your accent.
The FSI study has grouped some popular living languages into different groups corresponding to the amount of time it will take to reach an advanced level of knowledge.
- Group 1, 24 to 30 weeks of learning: French, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish
- Group 2, 36 weeks of courses: German, Indonesian, Malaysian
- Group 3, 44 weeks: Armenian, Czech, Farsi, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian
- Group 4, 88 weeks: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean
According to this guide, you might be able to get by in French by trying out some coffee break French podcasts or by listening to some modern French radio channels – something that would be near impossible to do with a language like Mandarin Chinese.
However, looking at the study, if you’re interested in learning more than just basic grammar rules or French verb and syntax rules, you’ll need to put in more than 480 hours. Using a coffee break or podcast method should, theoretically, be enough to get you to a level A1 or even A2.
If you’d like to reach a more advanced level, however, you might want to consider taking a French lesson either online or with a language institute. According to the study, the FSI recommends spending 600 to 750 hours over 24 to 30 weeks in order to reach a B2 or C1 level in French.
This is pretty significant, considering that as a foreigner, you will be able to reach high degrees of autonomy in a language in as little as 6 months!
In conclusion, to reach an intermediate level, you will need to study 10 hours a day for 48 days – which is the some actually many choose.
However, many of us don’t actually have that sort of time to set aside for language – unless you’re Canadian French and probably spend most of your day practicing anyways. Here are some tips on what to expect on your journey towards becoming fluent.
Discover the best French classes London here.
What Are the Components in Learning French
Whether you’re studying through a language exchange, French classes or simply by memorizing your phrasebook – it’s clear that the amount of time you spend learning is one of the most important factors in language acquisition.
There are, however, several other components you’ll have to take into account when studying both French or any of the other Romance languages. Not mentioned below, but can be found with this guide, is a price comparison between the different types of courses you're likely to encounter.
What is the Right Methodology?
The methodology under which you learn French will vary significantly from the type of learning you’re engaging in – be it through Duolingo or through live, conversational French practice with French people.
For most people, taking French courses at a university or through private lessons with a native French speaker will result in a much quicker understanding of the language than through self-teaching methods.
From walking you through the basics of the French alphabet to understanding the complex rules of French verbs, following a French course has many benefits – the most important one being regularity. A French language school or tutor won’t just guide you to your desired level of French, be it beginner French or bilingualism, but it will also help you appreciate French culture and history.
The Framework of Studies in French
As with studying any of the many unofficial and official languages around the world, practising French daily is an imperative step towards mastering the linguistics of the language.
In order to do this, it will be important to define your goals from the beginning. Whether your goal be in the form of a French internship to living and working in the country, chances are you’ll probably have to take a standard French exam.
The acronyms for these tests are the DELF, DALF and the TCF, all of which do not have the same levels. In order to prepare for these, the ideal framework would be to study under an intensive program.
If you’re looking for free French language resources, there are plenty of French online options: Campus France, Le Point du FLE, Bonjour de France, and the Alliance Franciase. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a master at French to be able to access these sites.
Learning French, as with all languages, will involve some memorization skills. The recommended way to learn French vocabulary is to divvy up the words you want to learn by what they deal with. For example, for vocabulary words concerning the hospitality sector, you will have to learn specific vocab like the words for hotel, restaurant, bar service, building, tourism, etc.
Learning vocabulary doesn’t just deal with memorization, but also the frequency with which you learn these words – a lesson along the lines of the phrase “use it or lose it.”
A study by Harry P. Bahrick concluded that without practicing, people who had studied a language forgot about 60% of their vocabulary in the 3 years after they stopped actively learning it.
Living in France to Become a Francophone
While a French course might teach you about French pronunciation or French conversation, there is no language course that can teach you – whether it be online French or through a private French teacher – better than your own ears.
In the mid-1960s, linguist and neurologist Eric Lenneberg developed an important theory on language which stated that acquiring an native accent in a language after puberty is impossible if someone has only been surrounded exclusively in their maternal language their whole lives.
More generally, this is known as synaptic pruning – a process in which your brain gets rid of informational ties it has not used until then.
While this might seem like a dreary picture for those looking to acquire perfect French as an adult, a French immersion program might be in your best interest. While learning a new language is always stressful and language courses can sometimes conflict with even the most flexible of schedules - becoming a native speaker through intensive French lessons is highly effective.
While acquiring your second language can be accomplished through beginners and intermediate level courses, where your language skills will be refined by learning about French language and culture - you can also consider moving to France. Whether it be through an student, internship or another professional opportunity - you will learn new words and phrases daily just as a product of living there.
If you'd like to learn French while living somewhere that you can still speak your native language, there are many options to start learning French in the UK. From tutors on our website to UK universities - your journey to master French doesn't have to start tomorrow.