How long will it take me to learn French?

Black and white clockOne of the most common questions my students ask me, and rightly so, is how long it takes to learn French. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to say as there are a number of factors that come in to play. Everyone is different. It comes more naturally to some people. Generally it depends on factors like individual learning pace, previous grammar knowledge (if you understand grammar in your own mother tongue then you can make comparisons, understanding French grammar becomes easier). Usually student who have already learnt a foreign language find it easier to learn French, just because they’re used to switching languages, they can make connections. Of course if you can speak a latine language, you’ll probably learn faster the vocabulary and grammar are similar.

But in my opinion, what will really define the speed of your progress is your degree of motivation. If you are a complete beginner but very motivated, if you are proactive during the lessons, do the homework (at least 1/ 1.5 hours per week) and try to practise French between two lessons (for example by listening to a French radio, watching a French film or the French TV, try to read French newspapers or magazines), then in a few months your level in French should be enough to get by in daily life situations. On the contrary, a student who only attends the lessons but doesn’t do any homework or activity mentioned above will need twice more time to reach the same level.

Of course having several lessons of French means faster progress but it is not simply about the number of lessons you will get. Revising regularly what you have studied is crucial.

It is more efficient to revise in short sessions and often rather than do longer sessions more seldom.

So briefly, if it better to work your French 20 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week, rather than a whole day once every 2 weeks. Don’t forget, we forget quickly. Unless we revise we forget of what we have learnt within 24 hours!

Of course, it takes time, of course there is always something else to do and yes, sometimes we are tired and it is so tempting to collapse on the sofa rather than to do the French homework ; ) I know, we are all the same. There will always be a good excuse to postpone it or not to do it. But the truth is, often, they are excuses and if you really want to learn French you’ll find ways to find the time to do your homework and practice it between two lessons. Think of it, the more hours you spend practicing French between two lessons, the faster you will progress and the cheaper it will be for you!

Here is a rough guideline to how many hours it usually takes to reach each language level. This is a very rough estimate, and can vary considerably between individuals, but it may at least give an idea of what to expect.

Level

Description

A1

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

A2

Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

B1

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B2

Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

C1

Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

C2

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

*lessons, homework, any type of practice.

I hope this helps,

A bientôt sur Skype! : )

Stéphanie.

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