“How long does it take to learn French?” is a question we get often. So we ran the numbers, did the research, and have a detailed answer for you!
Depending on who you ask, the answer will vary. For example, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)1 – the institution responsible for training US diplomats – estimates that it takes 30 weeks or 600-750 study hours to learn French.
On the other hand, according to the Alliance Française,2 it takes 1,060 cumulative hours of study to reach a C2 level. That’s the highest proficiency level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale,3 a globally recognized language evaluation tool for foreign language education methods in Europe.
These estimations are based on the courses and methods offered by both organizations. Additionally, in the former’s case, the assessment is made with native English speakers in mind.
In real life, personal and situational factors surrounding each learner influences how long it takes to master a new language, including French. So, to figure how many hours, days, or years it’ll take you to learn French, you need to consider several variables.
Read along to learn more about these factors or jump straight ahead for a final, more precise answer.
Lastly, we advise you to download the Fluent Forever app and join our Live Coaching program to learn French efficiently. And don’t forget to check out our guide to The Best Way To Learn French for pro tips and a comprehensive list of useful language resources.
First things first: how fluent do you want to be in French? Knowing how well you want to speak, understand, and read French will help determine how much time you’ll need to learn the language.
For example, someone who wants to learn enough French to survive a summer in Paris can probably reach that level of fluency in a couple of months. On the other hand, a person who wants to become the next Victor Hugo and write a sequel for Les Misérables will likely need a few years.
Deciding on a personal and realistic fluency goal will help you gauge how many days, months, or years you will need to master French. The CEFR breaks down different proficiency levels to give you an idea of what to aim for.
However, beyond using these levels, try to come up with a personal fluency goal to reach. The Fastest Way to Learn a Language from the start is to figure out what the end goal is.
How close French is to your native language can give you an idea of how long it’ll take you to learn it. If your first language is closely related to French from a linguistic perspective, it will probably take you less time to pick up French. But if your native tongue is completely different from French, the process will be longer.
For example, if you happen to be a native speaker of another Romance language like Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, learning French will be easier. Alternatively, if your first language is something like Chinese, Russian, or Arabic, French will be a bit harder to grasp.
This happens because closely related languages often share similar alphabets, sentence structures, sounds, and cognates, or similarly spelled words that mean the same thing.
The good news is that if you’re a native English speaker, French is one of the easiest languages to learn. If you’re interested in picking up other relatively simple languages, check our article on the 6 easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Some studies, like this one and this one, show that bilinguals have an easier time learning a third language. This happens in part because bilinguals have developed tools and strategies that aid in learning new pronunciation and grammar skills.
So, if you already know a second language, picking up French may take less time. And if this second language is a Romance language like Spanish, that timeline will probably be an even shorter one.
Naturally, the amount of time you invest in French will shrink or lengthen the hours needed to reach fluency. A person who studies for an hour a day will most likely learn French faster than someone who studies 15 minutes every now and then.
However, putting pressure on yourself to study as many hours as possible won’t help. Au contraire, this usually backfires by stressing you out more than you need to be when you miss a session or two.
You should focus on getting in as many quality study hours as possible, regardless of the amount of time you can manage. For instance, some people can do 1 hour a day, while others can only fit in 20 minutes of French in their lunch break. Both are fine as long as they’re focused on actual studying.
We have a useful list of time management tools for language learners to help you make the most of your French study time!
The more motivated you are, the less time it will take you to acquire a new language. Being super-keen to learn French helps you commit to your study hours and push through learning ruts.
Finding ways to stay stoked about learning, then, is essential if you want to master French in less time. A great way to achieve this is to work with a language coach. A language coach is a language tutor who plays the extra role of keeping you motivated to study and holding you accountable for your progress.
Our Live Coaching program pairs you up with your very own coach, who is also a native speaker certified in language teaching.
How you choose to learn French will also determine how long it takes you to master it. As with most skills, there are effective and ineffective ways to learn a new language.
For example, if you pick up French vocabulary using the traditional but ineffective rote memorization and direct translation method, you’ll actually end up forgetting new vocab more often. On the other hand, if you rely on more effective methods to learn vocab, such as by using flashcards, you’ll learn things faster and retain them for longer.
At the same time, choosing to supplement your French by practicing with native speakers and consuming French media like movies, series, literature, and podcasts will hasten the process. This, of course, depends on whether you have access to quality resources.
For instance, a person living in France will probably learn French quicker than someone living in Tokyo. The former will most likely have plenty of native speakers to practice with and ample opportunities to read, hear, and speak French on a daily basis.
As we mentioned at the beginning, even trustworthy, expert sources like the FSI and Alliance Française differ in the number of hours and days needed to learn French. A host of personal factors also influence the potential time frame.
With that said, considering everything we’ve covered so far, here are some possible – and more accurate – answers to the question How long does it take to learn French?
Beyond numbers, the main takeaway here is that many factors can impact your French fluency timeline, but what matters is the effort you put in and the resources you rely on. Additionally, it’s possible to modify many of these influencing factors to help speed up the process.
Below are a few things you can do to make learning French a faster and easier endeavor.
Train your ears to identify French from day one – it makes picking up the rest of the language faster. By rewiring your ears to understand the sounds of French, you’re allowing your brain to learn vocabulary faster and retain it for longer.
Skip direct translation and learn with the awesome power of flashcards. Using flashcards with images instead of translations makes acquiring new words faster. Additionally, by reviewing your cards with a spaced repetition system (SRS), forgetting vocab won’t be that easy anymore.
Time flies when you’re having fun! So, make your studying sessions seem shorter by playing games to review things like grammar.
There are many language learning games you can check out to supplement your French. We made a mighty fine list you can check out here.
Native speakers are one of the best resources for language learners. They provide accurate pronunciation and immediate feedback, as well as an interactive and social alternative to learning a language solo.
Our 4-step, neuroscience-based method provides the fastest way to learn French. Gabe Wyner, Fluent Forever’s CEO, developed this methodology after he used it to learn several languages, including French, in record time.
Step 1 – First, download the Fluent Forever app and rewire your ears to understand the sounds of French. Through pronunciation tests, the app will prepare your brain to pick up French vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar faster.
Step 2 – With your ears ready, you’ll pick up essential French vocabulary with the amazing power of flashcards. Without relying on direct translation, you’ll pick the most frequently used words in French using images, drawings, or pictures, and our patented spaced repetition system (SRS) algorithm.
Step 3 – With some handy vocab under your belt, you’ll pick up grammar with stories and sentences made up of the words you already know. Plus, you get to choose which of our 1,000+ grammar sentences you’re interested in practicing with.
Step 4 – Lastly, with our Live Coaching program, you can practice with your very own language coach! Our coaches are 100% native speakers certified in our teaching methodology. Additionally, your coach will create sessions based on your interests and goals to keep things interesting and engaging for you.
And that’s how you learn French quickly and effectively! Find out more about our 4-step method here, and don’t forget to download the Fluent Forever app and sign up for our Live Coaching program. Bonne chance!