When I first began learning French as a second language, I had one burning question on my mind. How long does it really take to learn French?
It seems this is a common question. After all, it’s totally normal to wonder how long it’ll take before you start seeing returns on your time investment. It’s difficult to dedicate many hours of learning a new language, especially when we all want to see quick results as a reward for our hard work.
Honestly, humans aren’t so great with uncertainty, and it’d be nice if we could predict with certainty how long it would take to learn French.
However, as with most skills, it’s difficult to answer how long it’ll take for you. After all, what does “learning French” really mean to you? Would you like to know the core basics so that you can get around France while knowing how to ask where the toilets are en français? Are you looking to be conversational, so that you can easily have conversations in French with friends? Do you need to converse in French for business meetings or business trips? Perhaps fluency is your eventual goal, either because you’re looking to emigrate or simply because you have a passion for linguistics.
The most important thing to first define is your level of “done.” When will you know if you’ve “learned French”? Only you can say, based upon the goal that you’ve set for yourself.
Pour moi, my goal was to learn the absolute basics, so that I could take a trip to France with confidence in my ability to speak the language as a beginner. Here in this post, I’ll share with you how long it took to learn beginner French.
How I Started Learning French
On April 13, 2021, I embarked on my French language learning journey with the Duolingo app. That afternoon, I took my cat, Pesto, to the vet for a check-up on a swollen bump on his lower lip. (He is doing OK, by the way! Poor Pesto had an allergy to plastic food bowls, so swapping to stainless steel cleared up the issue.)
Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, my boyfriend and I waited in the car for the examination to be complete. There was so much downtime in the car as we first waited for Pesto to be checked in, then examined, then returned to us. I thought to myself, “Why not take this time to open up the Duolingo app and start learning French?”
At the time that I’m writing this, it’s now early July of 2021, so it’s been nearly three full months of learning how to speak this new language avec Duo.
My French Learning Stats
As of today, I’ve clocked a total of 20 hours and 19 minutes learning French on the Duolingo app. This averages out to approximately 15 minutes per day.
On the Duolingo app, they offer something called a mastery quiz, that allows you to test your progress in learning whichever language you select. I’ve now mastered 11% of the coursework on the Duolingo app.
I haven’t done any learning outside of Duolingo at this point. I personally needed to get a grasp on French fundamentals before engaging with other learning tools.
I look forward to exploring Paris some day soon, with my new French language skills in tow!
My 3 Month Progress: An Overview
Now that my stats are out of the way, you’re probably wondering how I’d rate my current French skills.
Well… I am still very much a beginner. Sorry if you’re looking for a story of overnight mastery, but that’s the realistic answer.
If visiting France, I would feel confident introducing myself, giving and receiving basic directions, ordering food, engaging in some small talk, shopping at various stores, and speaking about myself in basic terms. (For example, where I live, what I like to do for fun, and what I do for work.)
I also know how to ask where the toilets are. (They teach you that phrase fairly quickly. THANK GOODNESS. What a nightmare to need a toilet and not know how to ask for directions to one.)
Honestly, my learning routine has been fairly inconsistent. Some days, I’ll feel a huge surge of motivation and power through 45 minutes or more of lessons. Other days, I’ll log on to complete a two-minute lesson only so I don’t lose my learning streak. I don’t think it would be taking me as long to learn French if I had a regular routine and could increase the amount of dedicated learning time per day.
C’est la vie.
In any case, after about 3 months of learning at only 15 minutes a day, I would feel confident to make my way around France with a basic understanding of the language.
Would I recommend Duolingo for learning French?
Yes, I absolutely would recommend Duolingo to beginners! I am unsure if Duolingo will allow me to achieve my eventual goal of fluency, but I think that the approach is fun, easy and effective for those who are just getting started. Their lessons introduce you to the French language basics in a simple way, and they slowly ease you into new phrases, scenarios and grammatical concepts. In addition to their lessons, they also have audio lessons available, as well as interactive stories and a French podcast.
All in all, my criticisms of the platform are pretty nit-picky:
- Not enough opportunities to practice your French pronunciation. If you’re looking to gain confidence in your French speaking skills, you will want to repeat every phrase you come across at least 3 times.
- Not enough opportunities to come up with your own sentences and phrases. For example, it would be nice if there were more options to engage in “fake conversations” in French. I find myself being able to repeat the phrases that come up in the lessons word for word, but piecing together my own sentences outside of the word-for-word phrases in Duolingo is still a little shaky.
- I wish there was more interaction available on the app. It would be nice to engage in live chats, forums, or otherwise test out your French speaking skills with other members on the platform.
If you’re wondering how long it will take to learn French, you need to first define your actual goal. Ask yourself if you’re looking to gain the same level of confidence in speaking French as I’ve achieved. If that’s the case, commit to 20 hours of learning to see the results you seek.
If you spend an hour a day to the cause, and that’s less than 3 weeks to learn the basics!
As I mentioned above, this will include basic directions, basic adjectives, how to order at a restaurant, how to tell someone where you’re from, how to ask if someone speaks English, etcetera. Essentially, you’ll be feeling confident to make your way through France without constantly having a translation tool on hand.
Dedicating this time has been totally worth it to me. Even though I still wonder how long it’ll take me to learn fluent French, I’m happy with my current progress. It’s truly awesome at how much learning can be accomplished at only 15 minutes per day.
What’s My Next Goal?
Now that the burning question of, “How long will it take me to learn French?” is no longer lingering, what’s next for me?
It’s time to define my new goal!
I can only imagine it’ll take me many more years to achieve fluency in French. That’s a far-off goal. It may even take up to a year until I can confidently say I speak conversational French.
Therefore, rather than focusing on conversational fluency, I’d like to narrow my focus on the following goals:
- Master 25% of the Duolingo French course
- Practice speaking and writing the language with others
- Begin consuming beginner French language media (some ideas include Duolingo’s podcasts and children’s books)
I promise to report back in another 3 months, so please be sure to hold me accountable to my goals!
Have you learned another language? How long did it take for you? Let me know in the comments below.
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