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LKidKyle1985's avatar

People who learned french, how long might it take?

Asked by LKidKyle1985 (6586points) May 18th, 2009

Okay, i know a similar question was just asked, but I am interested in how fast i can learn it under the circumstances of moving to France and studying it while there. What is the general learning speed for a native English speaker with a mediocre aptitude for foreign languages. I have studied Russian and I seem to do well in it. So I am not totally new to European languages.

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12 Answers

Harp's avatar

I learned while living in France, starting basically from scratch. The answer to your question will depend on how you define the point at which you’ve “learned” the language. First, there’s the structural learning that has to take place: the basics of the grammar, the essential conjugations, working with genders, etc. That takes a few weeks of brute study. Then comes the important milestone at which you no longer have to mentally translate the speaker’s speech into English before understanding it; you simply understand it as it is spoken. That took me a couple of months. The next milestone would be speaking without first thinking in English and mentally translating. This took another month or so.

Once this is out of the way, it becomes a matter of building vocabulary, learning idioms and acquiring the accent. This can span years. It took about 2 years before I could occasionally pass for French, and even then the illusion couldn’t hold up for long.

If all you need to do is negotiate casual interchanges, you’d probably be there within 1 month. But if you want to carry on more that a superficial conversation or be able to watch TV or movies without subtitles, count on 2–3 months

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Thanks for the info, I am interested in studying in france, so I would have to be at a level where I can sit in a class room and understand what is being said. I was reading that maybe a year would be good for this, do you have any other input on this?

Harp's avatar

So, you mean that you would live in France for some period of time to acquire the language, then take classes? Yes, to understand, say, a college lecture, I think a year would be reasonable. French spoken in an academic setting would at least tend to adhere to the rules, not be full of slang, and be clearly enunciated.

jca's avatar

I took Spanish in HS, did poorly (had a lot of trouble with verb conjugations and stuff like that), took French in college because it fit in with my schedule (a stupid reason but logical at the time) and had a lot of trouble with French. A lot. I think Spanish is easier because we are exposed to it on a regular basis. We pick up a lot of phrases even though we don’t try, because we hear people using Spanish a lot. I also think pronunciations in Spanish are easier. I really wish you Good Luck with French. I found it hard to learn.

Harp's avatar

@jca Learning “in country” is so much easier than learning in a classroom, though. You’re surrounded by the language 24/7 and have no choice but to use it.

jca's avatar

i don’t doubt it. i would love to speak French well, because it sounds so nice. I think we tend to regard French speakers as more cultured than Spanish, which i think is perceived as “common.” i think he will have good luck learning it “in country.”

susanc's avatar

@jca: Familiarity breeds contempt. What a pity for all the exquisite things we could be doing with espanol, the language of love. Or was it romanian? I can’t remember that far back.

mattbrowne's avatar

Depends on the quality of your teacher and the number of hours per week. I took 7 years of French in high school and I was able to engage into a simple conversation after the first 2 years. Of course the best way to learn it is in France itself. Russian won’t help you much with French.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

yeah all good points. Thanks for all the advice and insight guys.

zephyr826's avatar

It also depends on where in France you will live. In certain parts of the country the difference between “Street French” and “School French” will be much greater than others. Have you thought about an are of the country yet?

LKidKyle1985's avatar

probably paris

zephyr826's avatar

Paris will probably be easier than other areas of the country, because the French spoken in classrooms, both here and there, is “Parisian French”. However, in my experience, Parisians are less tolerant of mistakes, which may be what you want. If you want a more understanding, friendly approach, I might suggest Brittany (I loved it while I was there, but I did pick up a Breton accent). Wherever you end up, bonne chance.

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