How long does it take ...
I've often seen the question on the forum: how long will it take me to …
The problem with that question is that the terms are usually poorly defined. So here are some quick and dirty numbers about learning French.
First, the FSI says that it takes 750 classroom hours (and another 500 or so outside the classroom) to get to a score of 3 on both the speaking and reading scales of the Interagency Roundtable Scales. That's called Professional Working Proficiency. (www.state.gov/m/fsi/sls/c78549.htm). But what does that mean in terms of a more readily understandable scale, the CEFR? While the scales aren't necessarily measuring the same thing, the consensus view is that the 3 on the Interagency RoundTable Scales is roughly equivalent to a C1 on the CEFR.
The CEFR has six levels, starting with A1: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. Achieving a B2 is considered being fluent. The best French trees on Duolingo may get to the A2 level. If you want to go further, you'll need to find other sources. (Yes, there's an even lower level of A1.1 on the test for children under the age of 12. Let's just ignore that for the time being.)
I'm not going to estimate how long it will take you to complete a Duolingo tree. There are way too many variables, including what you mean by completing the tree and what tree you're working on.
However, the Alliance Française of Orlando makes a couple of interesting claims for the A1:
An adult complete beginner can reach an "advanced beginner" level (A1) with 60 to 72 hours (5 to 6 days of 12 hours per day) of their extensive courses. Or that same adult beginner can do so within 40 hours (two two hour classes per week for ten weeks) of their intensive classes. They don't list any time estimates for A2, B1, B2, C1, or C2. They also don't provide similar estimates for their teenage classes. (www.aforlando.org/adults-classes.php)
With luck, I'll be in Atlanta (the closest testing center to me) taking the A1 DELF exam on May 28. That's the day they're offering both the A1 and A2 exams. Hopefully I'll be prepared for it. The next time it's offered is November 20. And they offer the A1 & A2 at the same time, so you can't take both. (That's what I would do if I wasn't sure if I was going to pass the higher test so that I would walk away with at least one successful assessment.)
Perhaps we can get Duolingo's buy in to arrange a lunch time (11:00 am) meetup the day of the test if anyone else is thinking about taking the same test. At least there won't be any under age students involved; this test is for the adults (older than 17). However, until I get their buy in, I'm not even going to mention at which of the many area restaurants we could be meeting.
Moderators, please weigh in on whether this last part is a violation of the Code of Conduct. If it is, I will edit this last section out of the post.
I suspect the FSI assumes starting from a knowledge base of zero, which is probably a fair assumption in the anglophone world.
However, you admit yourself that the question is so broad ranging that a single simple answer is impossible. In my own case I was brought up bilingually in French and English and studied Latin during my first 4 years at secondary school up to an "O-level" pass. As a result I chose to study Italian and got to an "O-level" pass (B1) in only 3 months with just a grammar book and 1 hour per week of tuition (I ended up doing a degree in French and Italian).
However some decades later I have been learning Dutch and as a Germanic, rather than Romance, language 12 months of Duolingo plus a variety of other web-based sources has just about got me to A2.
As soon as I have refreshed my Italian (currently in progress by going straight to test-out in D/L and re-reading Cristo si e Fermato a Eboli!) I intend to have a go at Spanish and confidently expect to achieve a higher standard more quickly than I managed in Dutch owing to its similarity to languages I already have.
I have to ask. Are you using your degree in French and Italian? My degrees were in "practical" subjects, and there are times when I wish I had done things differently. So I applaud all those who got degrees in non-practical subjects, and found that they were useful, too.
In short - not really. I worked for over 40 years for the Corporate Division of a major UK Bank (Relationship Management of client businesses with sales of between £25M and £500M pa and usually significant international trade) and though I used French with some of the Parisian Banks it was a bonus rather than a necessity.
The experience of studying the language, literature and culture of 2 separate European nations was both fascinating and enjoyable but though it developed some of the disciplines I used in my career there was little direct bearing on Corporate Finance!
I retired 3 years ago and now spend more time on language learning and leisure travel around Europe - usually, though not exclusively, by the excellent high speed rail network (where a linguistic ability is a definite social and practical advantage).
Is there an English translation available for Cristo si e Fermato a Eboli!. The Italian Wikipedia article on it makes the book sound interesting, but I don't think I can learn Italian just to read a book.
You're correct that knowing similar languages makes learning (or faking in some cases) a language easier. Unfortunately for us native English speakers, Gaston Dorren in Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages claims that all the changes that English has gone through has resulted in a language from which it's extremely difficult to learn another language.
An unusual thing about English is that, due especially to its massive borrowing, no other language is similar enough to make it easy for English speakers to pick it up. For speakers of Portuguese, learning Spanish is a piece of QUEQUE, and my Vietnamese teacher assured me that she found Chinese not terribly difficult. Being a native English speaker has a raft of advantages … but it does have this one major drawback. most English speakers are severely monolingual.
As for faking, my father claimed that he was able to use the operatic Italian he knew to talk himself out of a speeding ticket in Italy.
I think there may be a translation (https://blogs.bl.uk/european/2018/02/rainbow-sickness-beauty-and-despair-in-carlo-levis-christ-stopped-at-eboli.html) which refers to "Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli. (Harmondsworth, 1982 ) X.950/13018." I have only ever read it in Italian and studied it during my 1st year at University - and yes, it is a fascinating study of pre-war Italy and its flirtation with fascism.
English is a curious language, described as both very easy and very difficult to learn. Although it is most definitely a West Germanic language it has little in common with its nearest relatives, Dutch and Frisian, and its spelling is a nightmare. My experience has been that being a French speaker helped me enormously with Italian but being an English speaker was of limited use with Dutch - and I already know that if I speak Italian slowly and a Spaniard speaks Spanish slowly we can have a basic exchange to book a room or a table and order a meal or drinks - no philosophical discussions though!
1200 hours to C1. I am certainly past 1000 and possible past 1200 and am no where near C1. Either my approach is terrible or I am really bad at it. Possibly doing it in one steady push works much better than piecemeal over several years.
I do not trust the FSI, because we learn in different ways. Anyway, just curious why do you need to take the A1 test?
Personally, I like that third party assessment. It gives me a feeling that I've actually learned something.
(It's easy for a vendor to tell you how good the snake oil is that they're selling. But I'd like a second opinion.)
It really depends. French takes 600 hours on average and japanese takes 2200 hours!
I posted this to the French forum to avoid comparing languages. But the FSI says French is 750 classroom hours. You're also supposed to be studying outside the classroom. (Think of an FSI course as equivalent to a full time job.)
Already the fact of trying to define / compare how long it takes to learn a language is a waste of energy and complete nonsense.
It's not if you're trying to plan your life and need to know about how long it will take. They aren't just making the numbers up, it's based in statistics.
With all the respect: You simply can not plan the individual progress of studying a foreign language – and you can not plan your life – or depending it on statistics. Yes, maybe 80 % of all French learners got to "B2" in less than 1000 hours. Cool. But who defined "B2" and for what reason? Anyway. I don't want to make a huge deal here. I'll give you a Lingot and let's stay happy.
Thank you, but I know this. It was more a rhetorical question. I got a B2 Delf / Dalf Level Certificate back in 2011. But look; I am back here on Duolingo because I lost almost all my french. Those certificates are maybe important for your career, but numbers, papers, the amount of hours you have invested are completely irrelevant when it comes to the question if you can speak French or any other language. Cheers.
Another link from a more general source: