Do you dream of becoming bilingual? It is true that knowing how to express yourself in another language than your mother tongue is a real asset. Whether it be for professional or personal reasons, knowing a second language opens up a whole range of new opportunities! But what does being bilingual exactly mean? And how do we become bilingual? Here are our solutions…
What is bilingualism?
This is a question that is worth asking! Before knowing how to become bilingual, we must define this word. Might as well warn you, the answer is relatively balanced. Indeed, not all linguists have the same opinion on the matter.
According to the Larousse dictionary, bilingualism corresponds to “the situation of an individual fluent in two different languages (individual bilingualism)”. So far, nothing very complicated. But if we look more closely at one of the terms of this definition, we realize that it is not that simple … What does it mean to speak a language “fluently”? And it is on this point that experts’ opinions differ.
Some would say that a bilingual person is one who is able to communicate in a language other than his mother tongue, without having a perfect command of it. In other words, for these linguists, the important thing is to be able to understand and be understood in a second language.
Others however, believe that one must master his second language as well as his mother tongue to be a “real bilingual”. Usually, most people agree on this definition, including non-specialists in the matter.
“Half of the world’s population is at least bilingual.”Courrier International (23/05/2017)
There are also several categories of bilingualism depending on the age at which you acquired your second language. We use the term “late bilingualism” when a person learns a language after the age of 6.
Check out our article to find out if learning a language as an adult is harder.
How long does it take to master a second language?
It is difficult to answer this question with precision. Several factors must be taken into account. The time needed to reach your goal will particularly depend on the language you wish to learn (target language) and on your learning method.
One thing is certain, you can forget about the methods that promise you will become bilingual in 3 weeks! As you can imagine, it takes a certain number of hours of work.
Some languages will be easier to learn than others. It depends on how similar to French they are in terms of:
For example, according to the eLinguistics tool, French and English have a divergence score of 48.7: they are therefore quite similar. On the other hand, this score is of 89.9 between French and Korean. We can therefore imagine that it will take more time for a bilingual apprentice to master Korean than English.
👉 Need to compare the degree of similarity between two languages? Make the test right here!
According to the Foreign Service Institute, it takes about 600 hours to reach fluency in a so-called “easy” language. But more than 2,000 hours of learning can be necessary before knowing how to speak the most difficult languages.
If English is your target language, we usually estimate the number of training hours between 1000 and 1300 to reach a C2 level (perfect or almost perfect bilingualism).
Of course, this information is only given as an indication, as it is difficult to quantify with precision the hours of work required, especially since it can vary a lot depending on your motivation and your way of learning.
How to become bilingual faster? 4 tips
To become perfectly bilingual, there is no magic formula but only one key word: practice. However, there are a few techniques and tips to boost your learning. Here are 4 of them:
Go step by step
Even if your goal is to fully master a foreign language, here is no need to set the bar too high from the start. You have to start by having a solid foundation, and then gradually increase the difficulty of your learning sessions. See your language training as a marathon: you won’t last long if you start with a sprint.
Take lessons with a native speaker
You will become bilingual much faster if you can benefit from the guidance of a native speaker who knows all the aspects of your target language. Trust a professional trainer who will be best able to pass on their knowledge to you through teaching methods adapted to your needs and expectations.
Practise language immersion
Immersion does not necessarily mean expensive language stays. You can of course travel to a country where your target language is spoken, but this is not the only possible method. Watching movies and series, reading books, listening to podcasts, changing the default language of your computer or mobile phone … these are all ways to be truly immersed in the language you want to learn.
To become bilingual quickly, your learning should not be passive. Use your target language whenever possible. Engage in discussions with native speakers: whether it’s your trainer, a language partner, or even complete strangers …
1to1PROGRESS helps you become bilingual thanks to a tailor-made program and professional trainers. Don’t wait any longer, contact us!