We might feel a bit overwhelmed when learning a new language sometimes. There are many resources to work with, and as you progress in the
French language, you might start wondering “How long does it take to learn French?” or “How much effort is necessary to
learn French?” Well, let’s dive in.
Ok, let’s talk numbers. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has managed world-class diplomatic training for over 70 years and has created a way of measuring the necessary hours to learn several languages. Based on data, they have placed French as a category 1 language. (From a 4 category system, being category 4 languages the ones that take the longest to learn), so, French as a category 1 language, takes around 24-30 weeks (600-750 class hours) to learn, sharing this category with other languages like Spanish and Italian:
French (30 weeks)
Spanish (24 weeks)
Italian (24 weeks)
Danish (24 weeks)
Dutch (24 weeks)
Portuguese (24 weeks)
Romanian (24 weeks)
Norwegian (24 weeks)
Swedish (24 weeks)
It’s important to remember that among other factors to consider of the categorization, one of the most important is the relation between English and the language you are trying to learn. So, languages that share common roots with English will take less time to learn, even French, being a romance language.
Yes, but of course, nothing is set in stone when learning a language.
According to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), we can separate how long will it take to learn a language by level:
A1 level: It will take you between 100 to 150 hours to get here. You will be able to communicate with others with short phrases and talk a bit about yourself.
A2 level: 180 to 200 hours of learning. Here you’ll be able to communicate with others in work, school situations, and to talk about yourself in a deep, expressive way.
B1 level: 350 to 400 hours of learning. Here you’ll be able to communicate with others in both familiar or commercial live situations, understanding written and spoken words and phrases.
B2 level: 500 to 600 hours of learning experience. Here you can get a job that requires speaking French fluidly.
C1 level: 700 to 800 hours of learning. At this level, you might be able to communicate in most situations, being fluent in French.
C2 level: 1000 to 1200 hours of learning. This level is focused on mastering the language, making you able to communicate in really specific situations and fields of study.
Remember, that if you want to test your level or get a feeling of where you might be, you can learn about the certifications you can get, such as DELF/DALF certifications.
Remember that learning a language is more about enjoying the experience, these hours a related mostly to classes, but you can also do your part to learn French faster:
Motivation is key when it comes to learning a language. If you feel overwhelmed or tired of the way you are approaching the French language, take a step back and change how are you learning. At the Alliance Française, we can offer quality courses to get the most out of learning.
Apart from classes, there are several resources that can make your experience a joyful one. From series and movies to books, comics, and music, all of these are also a great way to go further into your learning process. These hours that you spend enjoying yourself, while learning about a new culture and discovering new things, will definitely sum up to the “necessary” hours to make progress in French.
Remember that is not necessary to conquer all battles when learning a foreign language. If you aim to master a language for using it as a powerful tool in your professional life, then going all the way might be the way to go, but if you are in love with the culture and are planning to go to Paris in the future, maybe you should consider placing your goal into a B2 level.
Wherever your goal is, remember that learning a language is more about enjoying the ride than getting to the final destination. As you progress, you’ll find yourself enjoying the process, gathering tools that will help you keep going. Different learning methods will be the key to keeping you on track.
So, how long does it take to learn French? Try to compare this question with other ones like “how long will it take to be a good dancer? Or how long will it take to learn how to cook?. If you are asking yourself any of these questions, try focusing on the activity you are learning, and most importantly, remember that they don’t have a finish line. You never finish learning all the dance moves out there, you can always learn a new recipe, and you definitely never stop learning a language, there’s always something new to learn, just as in life!
Written by Alejandro Ramirez G
Alliance Française Silicon Valley
14107 Winchester Blvd. Suite T,
Los Gatos, CA 95032