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How long does it take to learn French? Tips to learn faster

Wondering how long it takes to learn French? Consider the level of fluency you want to achieve, what type of studying methods work for you, and whether you would want to immerse yourself in the language through a work exchange!



French is a very popular language to learn. French culture is often romanticized in movies, tv shows, books, and other parts of pop culture. Paris is one of the most famous cities in the world, and France is one of the most popular countries to visit in Europe.

Also, French is a widely spoken language around the world! You will find French in Quebec, Canada, parts of Africa, and other European countries besides France such as Belgium or Switzerland. So similar to Spanish, speaking French allows you to communicate with a wide range of people around the globe.

If you’re thinking of learning French, or you’re already trying to master the language, you may find yourself wondering, “How long does it take to learn French?”. There is no simple answer to that question, but there are some factors that can influence the speed at which you can learn French.

This article will dive into the topic of learning French and assess some of the things that can help you learn more quickly. Many of these tactics relate to learning any foreign language!

What does it actually mean to learn French?

“Learning French” can mean different things to everyone. With learning any foreign language, there are different levels of competency you can reach.

In the professional world, people often break down language skills into 5 levels:

1. Elementary proficiency

At this beginner level, you can form basic sentences and understand basic vocabulary. If you’re traveling to a new country for just a short time, you can get by on elementary language skills. But you can’t hold real conversations, just basic sentences.

2. Limited working proficiency

This intermediate level of proficiency means you can hold a basic conversation well. You can communicate simple thoughts independently. You probably can’t have in-depth conversations, but you can definitely get by in a foreign country with these skills.

3. Professional working proficiency

With this type of proficiency, you could work a standard office job in that foreign language. You can converse well and speak with the correct tempo. Your vocabulary is extensive and you can contribute to more complex conversations.

4. Full professional proficiency

At this level, you understand almost all grammar and vocabulary and you can speak with the proper speed and accent. You can converse about almost any topic. You may still occasionally mispronounce something or make mistakes, but overall you are as close to fluent as you can get as a foreigner.

5. Fluency / bilingual proficiency

The only way to gain complete fluency if you’re learning a second language is to spend a lot of time speaking it. Professionally, people are only considered fluent if they were raised speaking the language. But if you want to become completely fluent in French, living in France for 5+ years and speaking French nonstop may get you to the point where you could be considered fluent.

So with all that in mind, the time it takes to learn French depends on how proficient you want to be. Becoming completely fluent, to the point where you have no foreign accent and you don’t make mistakes, can take many years. But if your goal is just to be able to hold a standard conversation with people in French, that takes less time!

Think about what your goals are, and what you want to achieve with your French skills. If you are moving to France and you want to become fluent, you have to be ready to put in the time. But if you’re just visiting a French-speaking country for a few weeks or months, and you want to learn enough French to get by, you would be fine with just intermediate proficiency.

Things that will help you learn French quicker

Once you’ve started learning French, and you know what level of fluency you’d like to achieve, there are certain factors that can affect your learning speed. Anyone can learn a new language with the right dedication and practice, but the speed at which you will learn depends on a few things.

Knowing other romance languages

French is one of the so-called “Romance Languages”. These languages are derived from Latin and have many similarities in terms of vocabulary and grammar. The most popular Romance Languages in addition to French are Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. If you already speak one of these languages, French may come much easier to you.

Even if you don’t speak another Romance Language, knowing the same alphabet as French can also help you. French uses the Latin alphabet, as do many other European languages. Being able to read and write in the same letters can make French easier to learn. If you come from a country that uses an entirely different alphabet, you’ll need to add extra time to learn how to read and write in these new letters.

Keep reading: Learn Italian, the ultimate Worldpackers guide

Being highly motivated

Regardless of what languages you already speak, motivation is the real key to learning French. Learning a new language is a challenge, and it can be very easy to give up if you don’t see progress straight away. 

But the motivation to learn will ensure you keep practicing and persevering, even when it gets really difficult. Those who are motivated to practice more often will see results more quickly!

Having a positive attitude

Similar to the last point, positivity is key when learning a new language. Without a doubt, you are going to make lots of mistakes when you learn French. Especially when you first start trying to communicate with people, it’s very easy to say the wrong thing or misinterpret what someone else says. You need a positive attitude to just laugh off those mistakes and try again!

If you’re constantly feeling negative about yourself, you can easily lose motivation and stop practicing. But staying positive will benefit you immensely! You’ll feel better about yourself and it will feel easier to keep practicing even when you mess up or have an off day.

Choosing a method that works for you

Everyone learns differently. Because learning a new language is such a lengthy process, make sure you prioritize the learning methods that suit you best. Maybe you learn best in a classroom setting, or maybe you do better studying online from home. Maybe you prefer a video chat with an online teacher, or maybe you’re happy just using language-learning apps.

Find out which method is easiest for you, and which method you enjoy the most. Don’t waste time using methods that don’t work for you! If you stick to your favorite French-learning methods from the start, learning will be more enjoyable, you’ll be more motivated to practice, and you’ll learn French faster.

Taking time to study

The time frame to learn French will obviously depend on how often you study! The more you actually take time to study, the faster you will learn. Taking time to study ties into having the motivation and a positive attitude. But if you’re able to schedule regular study times, you’ll see faster results.

Practicing French in real life

As with any language, the best way to learn French quickly is to immerse yourself in it! That means spending time with people who speak French and trying to speak it on a daily basis. There are a few ways you can do this. If you don’t want to travel, find people near you that speak French and schedule regular chats. 

Or if you’re at school, see if you can schedule regular meetings with a teacher or tutor in French. Speaking the language out loud, with another human, is a much more immersive way of learning than just reading and writing.

Of course, the best way to immerse yourself in the language is to spend time in a French-speaking country! Being surrounded by French all the time will have your brain constantly working on the language, which helps you learn faster than just studying a workbook for an hour a day.

Work exchanges in French-speaking countries

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to learn French abroad is by trying a work exchange! Through Worldpackers, you can organize work exchanges that often don’t require a specific degree, certification, or work experience. Moving permanently to a French-speaking country requires lots of paperwork and life changes, but doing a work exchange is a very accessible and easy way to spend time abroad!

Work exchanges are also super affordable. Because you’re working in exchange for free accommodation, you’ll have low living expenses. Whereas if you study abroad or work abroad in a French-speaking country, you’ll have to pay for rent, classes, work permits, etc. So a work exchange is the easiest, most affordable, and most fun way to try living abroad temporarily!

Here are some top-rated work exchanges in French-speaking countries that may help you learn French faster!



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