How much time did it take to get fluent?

To french learners: If you're fluent in the language, how much time did it take you to get to that level? Was it hard or relatively easy and are you happy with what you achieved? Thanks in advance, I am asking just to get a bit more motivated.

January 18, 2019


For me, I found that learning French, my first foreign language, was an amazing experience that also provided me with an unexpected skill: the ability to acquire other languages much faster and with considerably less difficulty. I studied French formally in high school for three years, and would say that after that point, I achieved a conversational level. I have continued to study French at university, but don't feel like the courses are as rigorous as the ones I took in high school (I know that's quite unusual, but I was in a very challenging program). I've read novels and plays in French and can have a conversation on most topics without much difficulty. Sometimes if I want to express an especially complex thought or speak about something more technical, I'll have to think for a moment about what I'm going to say or ask for certain vocabulary words related to the subject, but otherwise, I have the same level of conversation with my French friends as I would with my English-speaking friends.

What was particularly useful about studying French in an intense manner in a formal classroom setting with a professor was that I was able to get feedback, helping me to correct my mistakes and get answers to more nuanced questions about grammar structures/vocabulary/culture. Besides that, I learned about grammar in a more general way as well, which was helpful because it was something that I hadn't previously studied in school. I know about direct/indirect objects, definite/indefinite articles, auxiliary verbs, past participles, demonstratives, the difference between pc vs l'imparfait, when to use the le subjunctif etc. Even though some of these terms might seem intimidating to the uninitiated, they’re really not after you learn them, and they are very, very helpful because otherwise, language learning can be extremely frustrating, and you'll more often than not keep making a lot of little mistakes without understanding why they're wrong. For example, in the first year or so of studying French, I wouldn't really know when to use "que" vs "qui", and would frequently make this mistake when writing compositions. Finally, I stayed after class one day and asked the professor to explain it to me, and I never made the mistake again.

So now let’s contrast this with my attempt to learn Polish as a child. I attended these Saturday Polish classes for several years where the teacher only spoke Polish. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the class was not really for beginners; it was more for students who spoke Polish at home with their families and wanted to learn how to read and write in the language. Basically, I was the only student who didn’t have a Polish-speaking family, so I didn’t learn anything from the classes and in hindsight, they were a total waste of my time. My parents also bought me Rosetta Stone, but I didn’t really find it that helpful as in only taught me a bunch of random nouns and verbs without any grammar lessons or anything that would be useful in a real-life situation. I know that Rosetta Stone courses are considerably better now, but I’m honestly a fan of textbooks.

This experience really warped my concept of what it means to learn a language, and I actually thought it was almost impossible. I never believed that I would be able to speak a second language fluently, and if someone had told me at the start of high school that I’d be able to read a novel in French or have the same level of conversations as I do with my English-speaking friends, I wouldn’t have believed them.

On a whim, I decided to start learning Romanian. I’ve been studying the language for about a month, but in that time, I think I’ve learned almost as much as I would have in a first-year course, or at least an intense semester at university. I’m really shocked by how much progress I’ve made in such a short time and how easily I’ve been able to “pick up” the language. Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that if you learn a second language and learn how to learn a language, learning additional languages will be so much easier.

Ok, well there's my two cents. I hope that you find this helpful. Bon courage!

January 19, 2019


You know, your comment is worth more than 10 lingots ;)

But I wanted to say "thank you" for spending your time writing this longer comment and sharing your experiences with us.
Quite interesting!

Please make a local (offline) BACKUP on your computer / NAS (raid) device so it will be saved if something happens to the thread or the discussion forum and you can reuse it in another threads.

January 19, 2019

I think that your profile pic is scary. JS

January 19, 2019


I am subscribed to your thread, up-voted it and I am interested to hear about the experiences from French learners.

I have been learning Portuguese (easier listening / pronunciation than French) totally from scratch for two years in self-paced mode (no grammar book yet!) and honestly I still lack those skills in reading longer comments, writing or speaking skills (lets not even speak about listening to fast spoken native speach/accents).

With not any teacher, 1-on-1 drills or classroom group listening/speaking practices you will take quite a long language journey (3-5 or 7+ years) if you ask me.

I have been training myself over 23 years (not counting in the first 16 school years) in English - with zero speaking opportunities here in Germany - to be able to write at least on an acceptable level ;)

To give you a headstart, I would simply multiply the FSI (or DLI) estimated 750h classroom to reach a S/R3 proficiency level with a personal factor of x2-x3 and add the expected 300-450h homework hours (2-3h per day x 5 days x 30 weeks) to get to the total hours.


This thread contains a link to an ILR table on a blog which shows:

  • S/L/R level 1: 150 hours
  • S/L/R level 2: 400 hours

for category I Romance and Germanic languages.

Another calculation approach

Are you in the mood for some fancy numbers and tables?

I found an interesting blog article:

10,000 hours to become an expert rule, comparing four different language learning scenarios:

"How long does it take to become fluent in another language?"


"How do I get my 10,000 hours of study and practice to become fluent in a new language?"

January 18, 2019

Here's a link to the latest estimates from the FSI:

January 18, 2019

I initially learnt French at school. After 400 hours of classes (plus homework) I could read simple books and converse in a limited manner with friends. But I wouldn't call it anything like "fluent". A further 200 hours later, I had made progress but still off the "fluent" label. Basically, an hour a day wasn't enough.

January 18, 2019
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.