Asking how long it takes to learn French and master all its sources - French vocabulary, French grammar, conjugation, phonetics, pronunciation, accentuation, written expression, and oral expression - is a question without a closed answer. The forecasts for the evolution of linguistic spaces - for Spanish, Arabic, French, Portuguese and German - give French an exponential growth.
According to the experts, the French language would today find 421 million speakers against 451 million Spanish speakers and 402 million Arabic speakers. Still, French will overtake Spanish around 2022, and we may even reach 1 billion speakers in 2060. French will thus become the second or third most used language in the world!
This is a good reason for Nigerians, who are non-French speakers, to learn French! But how long does it take to learn French?
The number of hours needed to learn French
First of all, let's be clear from the outset: it is absolutely impossible to quantify the optimal duration of learning the French language because it is not homogeneous and differs from one individual to another. However, according to a report from America's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) - a specialist in teaching languages to diplomats and the military in the United States - the French language is among the most easily understood modern languages globally, especially for English-speaking countries like Nigeria.
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Indeed, the FSI sought to estimate how long it took English speakers to learn a foreign language until they acquired a level of advanced professional skills. This is actually Language Learning Level 4 on the Interagency Language Roundtable, the US Federal Government's standard language proficiency rating scale. In Europe, its equivalent is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
This defines six language levels from initiation (A1) to mother tongue level C2 through level B2 (advanced or current level), generally required to enter French universities or to teach French in the civil service (to be admitted to the Capes de Lettres Modernes, for example).
The FSI, therefore, classifies modern languages according to four categories, from the easiest language to the most difficult to assimilate, corresponding to the learning time necessary to become an advanced speaker:
- Group 1 (24 to 30 weeks of learning): French, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish,
- Group 2 (36 weeks of lessons): German, Indonesian, Malay,
- Group 3 (44 weeks of lessons): Armenian, Burmese, Czech, Farsi, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, Serbo-Croatian,
- Group 4 (88 weeks of lessons): Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean.
Therefore, it would be necessary - still according to the research of the FSI - to take courses of French as a foreign language (FLE) for 480 hours to acquire a basic level corresponding to the beginner level (A1 and A2), that is to say, to have oral comprehension of the basic needs of everyday life.
Language levels A1 and A2 measure the ability to understand simple speech if the speaker speaks slowly and clearly, to describe situations with simple French words. According to the FSI, English speakers would require between 600 and 750 hours spread over 24 to 30 weeks to reach a B2 to C1 level in French as a second language. This is colossal because few international students can afford to take French language and culture courses full-time for 6 months. Also, this prevails for English speakers who already have a good ability to learn languages.
On the other hand, what about a non-French-speaking learner who does not know anything about the French language, for example? There will be more hours of language lessons: on the web, some advance 900 to 1,000 hours so that international students can work towards a B2 or C1 level in French.
How long to learn French? We summarize: it would take, with an intermediate level, 48 days at the rate of 10 hours per day to acquire a basic level in French. The time is extended if you want to go further to acquire a linguistic improvement if you do not work during weekends and holidays or only do 4 or 5 hours of French lessons per day.
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French learning variables
Of course, French acquisition for Nigerians and other foreigners depends on the time they spend learning and the will. But several other factors come into play.
First of all, the methodological work: the method with which one acquires language skills varies according to how one learns the language. Learning spoken French in a language school or within a university or online French course will be done much more quickly than if one chooses self-study to know the language in France.
This is quite logical: listening to and following courses given by a French teacher will provide the learner with complete learning - on French culture, the history of France, the place of French in the world, or the teaching of FLE - throughout the academic year. However, you have to regularly review your French courses, because even language training will not improve if you work as a dilettante.
The framework of the study
It is essential to practice the language daily: language immersion is one of the best ways to learn French more quickly. If, on the other hand, the learner only meets students of his mother tongue, then the effort risks being counterproductive. It all depends on the ambitions: to prepare for the DELF, DALF or the TCF (test of knowledge of French), we will opt for intensive face-to-face courses: it is even one of the conditions for coming to study in France.
The second semester is coming to an end, and you are still stammering over many words? Several sites allow free revision: Campus France, Le Point du FLE, Bonjour de France, Cned or Alliance Française. But if you are looking for how to learn French quickly, then take private lessons at home with our Superprof teachers!
The type of memory
Learning French also depends on the brain's memorization process, which comes down to questioning its motivations. By working on-site, for example, we will memorize the French vocabulary specific to the sector of activity concerned (hotels, restaurants, bar service, construction, tourism, etc.).
Conversely, if we do not devote or only a little time to French, if we do not regularly use what we have read, seen or heard, learning tends to be forgotten mechanically: the synapses and neural connections are no longer stimulated. That’s why a popular English adage says, “Use it or lose it!”
A neuropsychologist study conducted by Harry P. Bahrick concluded that people who studied Spanish forgot 60% of their vocabulary within 3 years of learning without practising. It is therefore important to stimulate your higher cognitive functions to become French-speaking!
How to learn French fast? Always use every new thing you learn!
Living in France to become French-speaking
According to linguist and neurologist Eric Lenneberg (1921-1975), who developed the concept of innateness to support ideas on language acquisition and cognitive psychology, acquiring a native's accent after puberty is impossible. If you have bathed exclusively in your mother tongue's phonemes and if these are far from the language to be assimilated.
This is called synaptic pruning, the fact that one loses language skills over time if one does not have a complete immersion in the language of a country. In other words, the more one is immersed in a French-speaking environment from childhood, the more one can speak like a native of France or one of the French-speaking countries.
It is, therefore, recommended to learn French from childhood!
But you do not learn French so quickly depending on your language level in your own mother tongue and depending on the ages of advancement in life. Neurologically speaking, the foreign language is considered to be an extension of the mother tongue. In the sciences, expertise in a given field decreases the cognitive load necessary for the acquisition of a new related or related field: the more you know languages, the less time you need to learn them!
Also, a learner will find it easier to learn French if his own native language is close to it: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, for example. Therefore, the learning duration will be reduced if the person goes to France to learn the French language, and all the more so if he is a speaker of a Romance language.
So, in this sense, how long does it take to learn French in Nigeria? The answer, in essence, comes from you.
Take a French course with a Superprof today!
Click the below links to further your knowledge on why learn the French Language?
- Why Learn French as a Nigerian
- Do You Know the French Words Used in English Language Today?
- Why Learn French as Nigerians?