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Full Fluenz Review: Solid Academic Approach but May Feel Slow-paced for Some Learners

Fluenz is a premium language learning program that is designed for those who want to learn at a slow and even pace in a fairly traditional way. I wanted to put it to the test, so I studied Spanish on the program for two weeks.

Overall, I found that the program’s academic approach is easy to use and quite effective, but its videos aren’t interactive and it moves at a relatively slow pace, which could be frustrating for some learners.

Overview
Fluenz logo

Name: Fluenz

Description: Fluenz is a U.S.-based holistic language learning program and is centered on well produced tutorial videos.

Languages offered: Spanish (European and Latin American), Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian and Portuguese

Offer price: From $179.99 for one level to $349.99 for the complete program

Visit the Fluenz website.

7/10
7/10

Summary

Fluenz is a video-tutorial simulated classroom type language learning program. It’s a solid program with an effective user experience that gives beginning learners a head start, but it lacks some advanced content, and it may feel slow paced for some learners.

  • Use Friendliness - 9/10
    9/10
  • Delivers on Promises - 8/10
    8/10
  • Authenticity - 5/10
    5/10
  • Value - 6/10
    6/10

Pros

  • Effective video tutorials
  • Easy to use and functional user experience
  • Explains concepts clearly in English
  • Includes all language learning skills

Cons

  • Slow pace for some learners
  • Structure can be repetitive
  • Not very interactive
  • No authentic materials
  • Expensive

Contents

The Key Features of Fluenz

Fluenz app and site

Fluenz uses a simulated classroom type structure, with each lesson centered around a video tutorial that explains the key concepts of the lesson.

Each lesson starts with a video introduction, then a tutorial video after you listen to a custom dialogue. All of these video lessons are given by the personable founder of Fluenz, Sonia Gil, who’s a native Spanish speaker. (Other languages’ videos are given by equally qualified native speaker teachers of those languages.)

For each language, there are five levels with 30 lessons in each level for a total of 150 lessons ranging from 10-30 minutes each, so, as you can imagine, it can take a while to get through them all, especially if you do most of the given exercises for each section and level.

You can use Fluenz online or via their well designed app. Each level is clearly labeled with what it will cover.

Screenshot of level descriptions on Fluenz app

Video tutorials

The heart of the Fluenz program are well produced and well written video tutorials. If you study Spanish, you get to have these given by Fluenz co-founder Sonia Gill, but the other languages also have well spoken and encouraging native speaker teachers.

Each video tutorial is based on a listening dialogue that you’re supposed to do before watching the tutorial, although you will still learn something from the videos even if you don’t listen to the dialogues first. 

In general, each tutorial introduces a few new vocabulary words and something else that’s either really useful or a grammar point.

Curated authentic video library for all levels
  • Thousands of learner friendly videos (especially beginners)
  • Handpicked, organized, and annotated by FluentU's experts
  • Integrated into courses for beginners
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

I especially appreciated being reminded of the polite (subjunctive tense) version of the Spanish verb querer, which is quisiera. This word is super useful because it’s the form you use to politely order things in Spanish, like quiseira un café, por favor (I would like a coffee, please). 

But that’s not to say that this program is designed for traveling to Spanish-speaking countries, because it’s not. It’s actually designed to be used as a holistic program, meaning you should be able to go from beginner to upper-intermediate with just Fluenz.

Other video tutorials focus on things like past tense verb conjugations or themed subjects like how to ask for directions.

Screenshot of video tutorial on Fluenz

Workouts section

Before and after the videos, you’re given lots of activities in a section called “Workouts” that includes all the skill types from reading and writing and pronunciation and listening.

These Workouts activities range in format and skills required, so there’s always something new you can do. I particularly liked matching up Spanish words with their English equivalents and answering multiple choice questions. When you get one right, you hear the most satisfying little beep.

I also like the creative imagery, photos and illustrations that the Workouts use. They make learning fun for someone like me who can get bored easily.

Video player for learners like you
  • Interactive subtitles: click any word to see detailed examples and explanations
  • Slow down or loop the tricky parts
  • Show or hide subtitles
  • Review words with our powerful learning engine
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

It’s all organized under five neat categories. 

Workouts menu section on Fluenz

Listen

This is the section where you hear the dialogues that the video tutorials use as a jumping off point. 

Not only do you get to hear the dialogues, you can also read them (with English, Spanish and English or no subtitles). 

There are also cool photos and illustrations that make the dialogues more fun and creative. I found most of these quite natural and they all contain useful language points that you would use often in a Spanish-speaking place.

Dialogue on Fluenz app

Write

This is the section of Workouts where you get to practice writing and spelling Spanish words. A cool set of extra characters pops up when you use this that includes all the letters with accents and tildes that you need to spell the words correctly. 

Master words through quizzes with context
  • Learn words in the context of sentences
  • Swipe left or right to see more examples from other videos
  • Go beyond just a superficial understanding
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

I appreciated that the program wasn’t as stickler for accent marks, unlike Duolingo, which marks a word as incorrect just for a missing accent mark. Skipping the accents sometimes just makes things faster when you’re learning.

Writing exercise on Fluenz

Talk

This section is where you practice speaking. It’s done in a very simple way. You get asked a question and you record your answer.

It’s simple but effective because you get to record your voice so you can listen back to it. It can be a bit cringey, but I found it to be a really helpful way to improve my accent.

I also liked it because it puts you in a situation where someone is asking you a question and you have to think fast to respond. In this way, it feels a little like real life.

Speaking exercise on Fluenz

Read

Though not “reading” per se (there are no authentic articles, short stories or novels), you do get to read Spanish words and phrases aloud for practice.

Stop memorizing words.
Start building sentences.
  • FluentU builds you up, so you can build sentences on your own
  • Start with multiple-choice questions and advance through sentence building to producing your own output
  • Go from understanding to speaking in a natural progression.
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

I find that even though there’s no teacher there listening, saying the words aloud really does help. It gets your mouth warmed up for the language and practicing sounds like that famous Spanish “r” really does take practice.

Pronunciation exercise on Fluenz

Fluenz flashcards

Fluenz also has flashcards that are organized by theme, or you can just let the program decide which cards to show you.

The flashcards are all translation-based, so you can choose English-Spanish or Spanish-English (or English to whatever language you’re studying).

I like flashcards and these were no exception. I just find them super helpful with memorizing words and phrases.

Pros of Fluenz

Helpful and effective explanation videos

I really liked the video tutorials. They were well produced, the teacher was super friendly and encouraging and the concepts (grammar, new vocabulary, conjugation, etc.) were explained in a really easy to follow way that worked well for me.

The teachers are encouraging and sometimes funny and I never got bored watching them. I also appreciated the high production value and the fact that they seemed really well organized and prepared.

Accurate, detailed word explanations made for you
  • Images, examples, video examples, and tips
  • Covering all the tricky edge cases, eg.: phrases, idioms, collocations, and separable verbs
  • No reliance on volunteers or open source dictionaries
  • 100,000+ hours spent by FluentU's team to create and maintain
Learn more about FluentU
Learn more about FluentU

A still from a Fluenz tutorial video

Includes all skill types

Most language learning programs leave out at least one of  the skills that a good language learning program should be teaching. But not Fluenz.

With this program, you get explicit grammar instruction, pronunciation tips, chances to write, read, listen and speak. That has to be one of the best attributes of Fluenz and one that I really appreciated. 

And if you don’t feel like writing, which I sometimes don’t, you can just skip it, because what Workouts you choose and what order you do them in is completely up to you.

A workout exercise on Fluenz A word matching exercise on Fluenz

Cons of Fluenz

Translation method is almost always used

Many researchers say that the immersion method just works better, and although it can feel disorienting (to say the least) when you’re learning a language, using that language as the language of instruction works well—at least it has for me in the past when I was first learning Spanish and Japanese.

If immersion is something you love like I do, then you may find that Fluenz uses too much English in its explanations. They translate almost everything in their video tutorials and in their Workouts activities into English. 

That said, I think this approach works really well for beginners and for those who’ve never learned a second language before.

Hi, I'm Alan! I became obsessed with learning Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in 2001, and managed to get good enough to work professionally in those languages as a management consultant.

I started FluentU to build a new kind of language app.
Want to learn more about how FluentU got started?

A still of a tutorial video on Fluenz

Lesson format can get repetitive

Since each lesson starts with a video introduction, then you move onto a listening exercise, then back to the tutorial video and so on, the format does feel quite set.

I personally didn’t mind this structure, but I know that some people with shorter attention spans or more craving for novelty might find it a little repetitive, or want to change it up more.

Videos aren’t interactive

I wish the videos were more interactive. For example, if the video gave out a multiple choice question once in a while, and you could push the button for what you think is the right answer.

These videos are like well produced simulated teacher lectures and lessons. They’re really well done, the instructions are clear and Sonia and the other teacher are super encouraging, but I couldn’t help getting spaced out once in a while because there was nothing expected of me as a student.

I couldn’t help but think about FluentU‘s videos once or twice when I was testing Fluenz. That’s because the videos in FluentU’s library have interactive subtitles so you can immediately look up any word, or find other videos that the word appears in. You also have a quiz after each video and you can keep track of key words or words that you’re having trouble with.

Fluenz just doesn’t offer these options.

Fluenz Versus Other Language Learning Programs

All language learning programs have their advantages and drawbacks, so I thought I’d compare Fluenz with some similar language learning programs. Here’s how they match up:

Fluenz vs. FluentU FluentU New iOS App Icon

Since one of the features I most missed while using Fluenz was authentic video, I wanted to start this comparison section with FluentU, which has video at the heart of its program.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from friends who are non-native English speakers who’ve told me that they learned English through watching movies (and TV shows and skateboarding videos, etc.). In fact, I’ve heard it so many times, I definitely believe it. 

FluentU works really well for me because I’m a person who really likes to watch movies, TV, music videos, news and vlogs on YouTube already. So it feels like a really sustainable and fun way to learn a language.

I find myself spending hours on FluentU, all while feeling engaged, while 15 minutes sometimes felt like a lot on Fluenz because of its dryer and less authentic learning style.

Overall, I’d choose FluentU here.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

FluentU Ad

Fluenz vs. Duolingo

Duolingo logo I mentioned Duolingo in this review because one of the elements that I was missing the most while using Fluenz was the fun colors and other visual elements like illustrations that Duolingo has.

I think that Duolingo is more fun and more gamified, and that cute little bird is always encouraging you (some would say pestering you), but for more serious types, Fluenz might feel like a better fit.

Here’s our full review of Duolingo.

Fluenz vs. Ling

Ling logo Ling, which is based in Thailand, has the same stated goal as Fluenz: to teach the words, phrases and sentences that you really need in a language.

But while using Ling, I found myself confused by some of the example sentences and word choices. I thought to myself: would I ever say this? No. They’re often too formal, or just not useful.

Also, Ling doesn’t teach the writing system of the languages that use them. If you can’t read Mandarin Chinese, for example, you’re going to be very lost as a beginner, and Fluenz started off with Mandarin, so they’re really good at teaching it.

Lastly, Ling is good for beginners, but it sometimes lacks content for advanced learners. Fluenz has more content for advanced learners, so if you’re advanced and they have your language, I’d go with Fluenz. 

Fluenz vs. Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone logo Rosetta Stone teaches words and phrases in context like a native speaker would learn their own language, while Fluenz uses more English and explicit explanations of grammar and translations of words, phrases and sentences. 

This, for me, makes Fluenz more of an “adult” language learning program. You can immerse yourself in your target language, but you can also get a well written explanation of a grammatical concept in your own language to make sure you know what’s going on. I like that personally, so I’d choose Fluenz here.

Here’s our full review of Rosetta Stone.

What Does Fluenz Cost?

Fluenz isn’t cheap. It costs $179.99 for access to one language level up to $349.99 for the complete program.

And this price covers only one language.

The Final Verdict on Fluenz: Is It Worth it?

I ended up really liking the Fluenz program. I appreciated the intuitive user experience, the well designed app, the super helpful video tutorials and the whole academic approach. I also appreciated the variety of activities you could use for practice in the Workouts section.

On the other hand, I did crave some authentic content and I kept thinking that some learners may find this approach a little too slow-paced, or a little too traditional.

If this sounds like the right kind of program for you and you’re willing to make the investment, give it a try. 

And One More Thing...

If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.

With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:

FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.

Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.

You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

 

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