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letmeknow17's avatar

How long would it take me to learn French?

Asked by letmeknow17 (94 points ) December 20th, 2011

I’ve just turned 18 years old, and I have some experience with formal French study because of the classes I took in high school( 3 years) and most of us know high school isnt enough to get to a good level. Basically, I have a basic French knowledge, and want to know how long it would take, after you learn the basics(which i think i have down), to get to an advanced level(can watch tv, listen to the radio in French without much trouble and of course have little troube with speaking/listening to natives). I have a French-English dictionary, some online french learning websites saved to my favorites, a French for dummies book, I have movies I can watch in French, and I’m getting a computer mic so I can practice speaking with natives online via skype(and maybe other sites) and I’m getting one of my favorite books in French and will continue to read French texts.

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27 Answers

bongo's avatar

It depends how long you spend working on it. I had basic french, moved to Madagascar for 3 months and was starting to get the hang of conversations by the end of the 3 months talking to french speaking people on a daily basis. I was understanding alot. Since I have moved back to the UK I feel like I have forgotten most of it. Get a french friend and speak to them in french everyday. You should be pretty good with it in about 6months quickest, I think if you do already know the basics. But only if you are serious about it and talk to people daily and or live in the country but everyone is different, some people pick up languages quicker than others.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Everyone learns at a different pace, and some people have a flair for languages, while others struggle. I find languages the hardest thing for me to learn – I seem to have some kind of mental block in that regard, but my first husband could speak five languages and could switch back and forth effortlessly. No one can give you a time frame, but it sounds like you are going about it in the right way.

judochop's avatar

Anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 years.

submariner's avatar

If you want to get the kind of fluency you are asking for, you will have to spend time in a French-speaking environment. Once there, if you study and make an effort, you’ll probably gain sufficient proficiency in French for day-to-day needs within 3 weeks. Being able to understand a radio broadcast or academic lecture (really understand it and not just “get the jist of it”) will take longer, probably a few months at least. Gaining a level of proficiency comparable to a native will take years.

I’ve studied a few languages. In French, I studied it from grades 7–12, and for three years in college. After college, I went to France for 5 weeks, and was able to converse pretty well by the end of that time. I was told, “Vous avez un bon base”. The French people I met could tell I was a foreigner but could not guess my nationality from my accent. I’m not very outgoing, so I gained conversational ability by hitchhiking and by staying in youth hostels where I frequently had to share a room. Obviously this way is not for everyone, but it did force me to talk to people.

Over the years, I’ve tried to maintain my French by reading French books, watching French movies, and occasionally joining French conversation groups. I have only been partially successful. I don’t really need to use it, so my ability has decayed, and if I watch a French movie with the subtitles turned off, I miss a lot.

If you want to learn a foreign language, you must do four things: Speak, listen, read, and write. Obvious, right? But many students only do two or three of those things. Writing may require the most self-discipline. Keep a journal in French and write in it every day.

letmeknow17's avatar

Can someone explain to me why I would need to travel to a French-speaking country to reach this level(advanced)? I mean, I can get the same speaking practice through skype. I still plan to visit a French-speaking country but why is it necessary when I can immerse myself from home. I’m sure tons of foreigners could tell you they learned a great amount of english just by watching tv and have a decent speaking level without even stepping foot in a English-speaking country.

judochop's avatar

@letmeknow17 you are only going to get local dialect by investing time in the local area. This includes slang, intonation and true accuracy.
Being invested in to the culture is going to add to the language as well. Even though you can practice on Skype and that is completely awesome, you will still miss certain things.
The goal of truly learning any language is to become unconscionably competent.
I almost studied language in the military and just a few introductions and conversations with Intelligence officers changed my mind rather quickly. I did however take some language classes in my later years of college.
Being invested in local submersion will not only create fluency but you will learn the syllabic pose of certain sayings as well. There is so much that you can only learn from being there. Gestures while speaking is a huge portion of the language, how do you plan on achieving this without going?
All and all there is only so much you can get through Rosetta Stone and Skype with locals. Being a non-native speaker is tricky on many levels but it can be done and I hope that you achieve it but to answer your question of why do I need to visit to “get it?”
Word stress, rhythmic intonation, and most importantly phonetic analysis.
Good luck.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I agree with @submariner . I studied Spanish in school, and on my own at one point, and I learned more from my boyfriend (later to be my husband) and his family in one year than I ever was able to learn on my own. The funny part was, they weren’t even Spanish speaking, but would use it when teasing each other and stuff.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@letmeknow17 Yes, where else would find out that “manteca” is how you call your sister fat! Ha-ha. Or that “ojo muerto” means “dead-eye.”

ucme's avatar

Je ne sais pas.

gailcalled's avatar

@judochop: You make a lot of sense.

And since we are discussing accuracy in language, I need to mention that you mean “unconsciously” and not “unconscionably” when you say, “The goal of truly learning any language is to become unconscionably competent.”

Unconscionably means unreasonably. (You knew that, right.?)

I had five years of French when I graduated from high school. Then I spent the summer living with a French family in Burgundy. My school learning gave me the skeleton; the total emersion fleshed it out.

I also fell in love; that is, by far, the easiest way to master listening and speaking.

flo's avatar

It is no different from apptitude for math or carpentry etc. isn’t it? People have different levels of apptitude I’m thinking. There is too much irregularity in French according to some experts.

whitetigress's avatar

Even French people are still learning the French language. It’s more like, are you willing to live the French language as a lifestyle.

flo's avatar

Is it supposed to be “ecole de conduite” or conduire” by the way?

gailcalled's avatar

@flo : If you mean driving school, it is neither.

L’auto-école is thé official term, approved by L’Academie française.émie_française

flo's avatar

@gailcalled but if you want ot use an alternative term, which would be accurate between the two?

gailcalled's avatar

You would be speaking Franglish and not French.

There is something called cours de conduite, which are tricks for driving well, and they are taken from the “forums auto-écoles.”

Terms that exist:

“Cours de conduite”
“Conseils de conduite”

letmeknow17's avatar

@gailcalled would you think practicing with someone on skype could get me to a decent level where I could watch tv/movies in French without much trouble?

gailcalled's avatar

The only way to find out is to try.

Watching movies is good; you have English subtitles and can watch the film several times. Once you have understood the plot, rerun it for the language.

You don’t need to worry about mot-á-mot. You want the gist.

I found, as a young woman, that listening to and learning the words of the popular French songs and folk songs was also very helpful. I listened to nursery rhymes also because the vocalists sang clearly and slowly.

“Sur le pont d“Avignon, on y danse, on y danse.”

flo's avatar

@letmeknow17 it depends on the quality of French spoken by your skype friend maybe, and how much of a teacher she/is. Some people don`t know how to correct.

@gailcalled but why is it not ”... de conduire”.why the “t”

The other thing is what do you call tense in “je vais manger” I don’t see it in the conjugation sites.

gailcalled's avatar

It’s how the French say it; you could simply call it usage.

The tense is called “the immediate future”;

It is generally formed with the verb aller (to go) and an infinitive.

Je vais manger. I am going to eat (pretty soon).

Je vais faire du ski ce soir. This evening I am going skiing.

flo's avatar

Thanks @gailcalled, that is what I thought.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’d say about 1800 hours. Subtract 600 hours if you already mastered another foreign language. Subtract another 300 hours if that foreign language is Spanish or Italian.

So when you start from scratch and move to a French-speaking country this translates into half a year assuming that you study and speak French for about 10 hours per day.

If you stay in the US and take courses this translates into several years.

letmeknow17's avatar

@mattbrowne it seems you are trying to discourage me with your incorrect math if you say 1800 hours is the amount of time i need divide that by 10 hours a day and you get 180 days which is about half a year not a full year and a half. so if i study 3hrs a day at home you get 600 days of study which is a year and a half not several years!

letmeknow17's avatar

@mattrowne and that would be starting from scratch at that!

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