How long it will take you to become fluent in French will depend on a few factors, such as:
- how interested and motivated you are
- other languages you know
- whether or not you’re learning several languages at once
- your memory and language learning skills
- what type of learning material you’re using
- whether you’re learning on your own, through 1:1 or in a classroom setting, etc.
- how much time you have each day
Generally, it’s estimated that it takes between 400-600 hours to learn a language. That’s usually assuming you’re learning in a classroom setting and doing homework or self-study outside the classroom.
However, if you’re studying on your own, coupled with regular 1:1 sessions with a professional teacher who is also a native speaker, you could reach fluency level a lot faster than that (depending on your language learning skills, other languages you know, how and with what material you study, etc.).
But for the sake of this article, let’s stick with the estimated 400-600 hours it takes to learn French. You could roughly break it down as follows:
- If you’re “good” at languages, it will probably take you around 400 hours.
- If you’re “average” at languages, it will probably take you around 500 hours.
- If you’re “slow” at languages, it will probably take you around 600 hours.
Again, please bear in mind that these are rough estimates. It might take you longer or less long.
The quickest way to become fluent in French is by studying on your own a few hours per day, coupled with regular 1:1 sessions with a native speaker (at least once a week, preferably 2-3 times a week). It’s not unrealistic to become fluent in French within 300-400 hours or less using this strategy.
(Please note: language partners are great but they DO NOT and CANNOT substitute a professional teacher! Same for language tutors. They are great and better than language partners for conversation practice but having a teacher to guide you is really essential unless you’re a language learning pro and books are enough for you. But even so, teachers are great for accountability and interaction – if I say so myself. ;P)
In order to help you decide how fast you want to become fluent in French (yes, you CAN decide!) or how long it will take you to become fluent depending on the hours you have available per day, I made this reference table for you.
|Study hours per day||For 400 hours to fluency||For 500 hours to fluency||For 600 hours to fluency|
|1 hour||400 days / 14 months||500 days / 17 months||600 days / 20 months|
|2 hours||200 days / 7 months||250 days / 9 months||300 days / 10 months|
|3 hours||133 days / 4.5 months||166 days / 5.5 months||200 days / 7 months|
|4 hours||100 days / 3.5 months||125 days / 4 months||150 days / 5 months|
|5 hours||80 days / 2.5 months||100 days / 3.5 months||120 days / 4 months|
|6 hours||66 days / 2 months||83 days / 3 months||100 days / 3.5 months|
The amazing thing is that, if you look closely, studying for 2h a day instead of just 1h, is already cutting in half, the amount of time it will take you to learn a language.
If you study for two hours a day, you should be able to become fluent in under a year.
Again, choosing to study for 4 hours a day instead of just 2 hours, is again cutting that time in half the amount of time it would take you to become fluent in French.
Supposing it takes you 45-60 minutes to commute to work (or school, or town) and 45-60 to commute back from work (or school, or town) each day, it would be enough for you to just listen to an audiobook (or textbook dialogue, audio course, podcast, etc.) during that time and you’ll literally redeem or make up for “dead time” or “lost time” in traffic.
(If you work or study from home or are currently unemployed, you have even more time on your hands and could power learn your way to fluency within a few weeks or months – depending on the level you’re currently at.)
Honestly, this is a no-brainer.
Sure, you could read something in French and perhaps if you commute in noisy environments, listening might be a little difficult. But knowing the efficiency of listening in the language learning process and having your hands and eyes free to do something else at the same time, again, this is my go-to choice.
Of course, if you can couple both listening to the audio AND reading the transcript at the same time, you’re choosing the most effective method since you are coupling auditory memory with visual memory, thereby doubling your memory power and learning process.
Be aware that learning in a classroom setting is going to take you way longer to reach fluency.
First of all because the pace is usually very slow and secondly, because most of the material is reviewed only once or twice and then you’re expected to master the subject (grammar point, vocabulary, etc.) which, realistically, is simply not the case.
A lot has been said about spaced repetition, and with good reason. Repetition is absolutely key in language learning, yet there is often no space or time for it in a classroom setting. Added to that, students usually find repetition boring at best.
What better way to repeat and review words, expressions and structure within the frame of an audiobook? It’s entertaining yet instructive at the same time. Make the unavoidable enjoyable.
HOW MANY HOURS A DAY SHOULD I STUDY?
Personally, I find that studying between 2-3 hours a day is the most realistic and feasible scenario. If you can manage to squeeze in 4h per day, you’re golden. It should then take you no longer than 4 months to reach basic fluency if you’re starting from scratch.
However, don’t aim too high and then get discouraged because you can’t follow through. As stated in a previous paragraph, finding 2-3 hours in your day is much easier than 4-5, unless you really have the time and are super disciplined. So if you work full-time, aim for 2-3. If you work part-time or are currently unemployed, aim for 3-5.
Finally, I wouldn’t advise studying a language for more than 6 hours per day.
I feel that at 6 hours per day, the brain reaches a saturation point where learning or studying any more will be pretty useless, if not counter-productive.
The brain absolutely needs repeated times of rest to process.
I usually study for 45 minutes to 1h30 and then take 15-30 minutes break. You’ll have to try out different time spans to see what works best for you. But the important thing is to work as long as you can focus and as soon as you find you’re losing your attention or concentration, take a break. Take a break until you feel your brain is ready to focus again. If it isn’t, don’t bother going back to studying, it will be useless.
Also remember that some language structures and items are more difficult than others and the brain will therefore take longer to process them. That’s totally normal. Only go back to your books (or audiobooks!) when you feel your brain has digested and “filed” the previous information.
If you’re looking for a book that gives you the tools and strategies about how you can become fluent in 4 months, I highly recommend How to Learn a Language in Four Months by Nicole Penn. That author says almost everything I keep telling my own students.
Alright, that’s enough for now! Time to get to work! 🙂
If you have any questions, just shoot them below in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer you!
To your success,