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AZByzantium's avatar

How long did it take for you to learn French?

Asked by AZByzantium (206points) April 25th, 2010

How long did it take, and how did you do it? What problems are the most difficult to over come?

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19 Answers

janbb's avatar

I had four years of high school French and one year of auditing a class in college. For the past 10 years or so, I have gone to France once every year or two for a vacation. My French has steadily improved during that time, but I am a long way from speaking fluently or grammatically correctly.

bob_'s avatar

I don’t speak French, but I have experience with foreign languages, so I can tell you that it takes about a year to learn the basics, and two years to have a decent understanding of it. It helps if you study several times a week, and if you watch movies/TV shows or read texts (such as newspapers and books). While it could be frustrating at first, it’s worth the effort.

marinelife's avatar

What @janbb said excepting the part about the French vacations.

Fyrius's avatar

I’ve been working on it for a little under eleven years now, but not very hard.

Eleven years ago I started high school, where I followed French classes for six years, without particularly much enthusiasm. Then for some three years I’ve pretty much disregarded my skills altogether, and about two years ago I picked it up again.
Since then I’ve been having a weird obsession with all things French, to a point where I run my operating system in French and prefer to watch the mediocre French dub of Harry Potter instead of the original English version.
French dubs of Disney films are fun too, and surprisingly easy to follow.
As a result I think I’m now approaching a level I’d dare call “near-native” with a straight face.

Had I been at it with this much zeal for all this time, I think I could have become fluent a good while ago.
So it depends.

laureth's avatar

One semester in third grade.
Three years in high school.
One semester in college.
Occasional use at my job.

I still don’t speak it very well or fluently, but heck, I’m a native English speaker and I still learn things about that sometimes, too. ;) At my job, I have to translate many languages occasionally, though, and I’ve found that a grasp of English and a rudimentary grasp of French help so much in figuring out other European languages, almost like binocular vision helps us see things in more depth.

The best way, I’ve found, is by working with a language often.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Better than half my family is French and i still do not speak it.I simply refuse!! LOL
good luck:)

gailcalled's avatar

I started 59 years ago and still have things to learn. A summer in France with a French-speaking family when I was 17 got me the accent, the rhythym and the phlemy r. That tides me over many a grammatical hump. (I can mix metaphors in French, also.)

Jeruba's avatar

At one point does one say that one has learned a language?

gailcalled's avatar

When you can understand everything, do math without translating and also make the hand gestures…a vital part of speaking French.

jeanmay's avatar

I did a bit of French in high school, then when I was 19 I went and stayed with a French family for three months. Prior to my leaving, I did one semester of night classes, but when I arrived I found they weren’t much use. Nothing can really prepare you for suddenly being surrounded by a new language. It was awful at first, so isolating and frustrating. The family I stayed with were extremely supportive, however, and spoke to me in French as much as possible. They patiently waited while I struggled to find the words during conversations, and gently corrected me when I made mistakes. In the evenings I studied, copying out verb conjugations over and over. In the mornings I listened to France Info, a radio station that repeats the same news report every 20 minutes or so. I avoided the company of English speakers and spent as much time with my host family as possible.

After the three months was up, I was fluent. I took an exam called the A level, which is High School equivalent in the U.S. I believe, and I achieved an A grade. To this day, though I don’t practice regularly, I can speak, read and write in French. I can get by in most social situations, but would probably come across as a blithering idiot in a formal setting. I have read several novels in French (with the help of a dictionary) and can just about follow a film.

Although I learned French under a set of unique circumstances, I will say that spending time in a French-speaking environment will improve your understanding and knowledge of the language tenfold, and speed up your learning. Having a native speaker as a teacher is one way of doing this, and could easily be arranged no doubt.

Confidence is key to learning a language, and if you’re timid about trying out the things you learn, this will inevitably hold you back. Being scared to try is one the hardest things I had to overcome as a language learner.

Arisztid's avatar

I had three years in high school. However, I have had two severe brain traumas, and one not so severe, since then and I do not remember more than a petite peu. I lost all languages other than English, other than in my sleep when I speak Rromanes (and a smattering when awake that comes and goes… sometimes I come out with a sentence or phrase bu cannot remember it the next minute). I also remember a little gutter Spanish.

susanc's avatar

4 years in high school with very strict native French speakers, then a forty-year lapse until I went to France and to my great suprise, I rambled away with only some stumbles over missing vocabulary. Like Gail, I learned a good accent early, and I believe that helped, because people didn’t condescend. Not once.

aprilsimnel's avatar

J’ai eu six ans de classes Français; 4 dans le lycée et 2 à l’université, mais je voudrais la parler plus souvent. Je ne connais pas toute personne qui parle français.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

@aprilsimnel show-off :)
I took 3 years and I had the biggest problem conjugating my far past and future tenses. Still do.

Fyrius's avatar

Good point.

I think you’ve mastered a language by the time you can effortlessly think in that language, when your thoughts can coalesce directly into French words and idioms, instead of still speaking English (or whatever) in your head and then translating it. I think that’s what fluency is about.

I’ve only managed to learn this once so far, with English. I suspect it might be easier to get the hang of earlier on the second time. In that case, I’d say fluency means not having to use words from a more familiar language as place holders any more.

Sophief's avatar

I can speak it fairly well, read and write it reasonably. I have been to Monaco 3 times which helped a lot. I tried not to speak English unless I had to.

mattbrowne's avatar

I took 7 years in high school. But a significant part was my participation in the German-French student exchange program.

What really matters is the quality of the teachers.

xRIPxTHEREVx's avatar

hahaha! I’ve been in french classes for 5 years of my life and I’m still at the bottom of my class! XP I guess it doesn’t help that my french teacher hates my guts.

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