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Fluenz Review

Course Overview

  • Course comes on 2  DVD-Roms and 2 Audio CDs
  • 2 Levels with 30 lessons each
  • Classroom-style learning environment with a tutor
  • Homepage: Fluenz

Ratings4th Place

4 stars

VA:RO [1.7.0_948]
Average User Rating
Rating: 3.6/5 (14 votes cast)

Review

Fluenz is an excellent package for those who are looking for something a little more serious than some of what is available at the moment. It’s riddled with technological annoyances, but despite that is still one of the most comprehensive tools for learning a foreign language on the market today. It is still geared up for tourists and travel, and if you’re looking for something that is going to help you to become fluent, then this isn’t the one for you. There’s a hefty price tag, but if you can put up with the software issues, it’s still a great program.

Content

Coming on two DVD-ROMs and two audio CDs, you certainly feel like you’re getting your moneys worth. You do need to keep the DVDs in the drive as you are using it though; there isn’t the option to work from uploaded content on your computer. While this can be a little annoying, at least in this particular pack there are only four discs to think about, due to the much-needed shift to DVDs for information storage over CDs.
Explanations by the tutor
Depending on which particular program you choose to follow, there are two to five Levels of study, with thirty lessons on each level. These lessons mimic a classroom, and are headed by a tutor. While the classroom feel might not be for everyone, I feel that this really enables the learner to feel motivated and encouraged to progress to the next set of lessons.

There are a few practical issues with Fluenz’s software, which I will discuss in more detail further on. While they don’t really interfere with what you’re doing most of the time, they are still a little bit of an inconvenience, and you will probably find yourself thinking of the price tag and shaking your head. For example, you can only use the program in full-screen mode, and not in window mode. Anything else running at the time, like music, has a tendency to confuse the program, so it’s best to give it your full attention.

There are some fantastically useful functions, like that of the subtitles. You will ordinarily listen three times to a sentence, with the option of subtitles, which really helps to get the language into your head. It is always much more useful to learn in a variety of ways, and even something so simple as Dialogue having the words to read on screen while you associate them with an image and are speaking them yourself is the sort of thing that gives this course an edge.

The software recognizes voices very well and the playback function is also incredibly helpful in getting you to see exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie. To hear your own voice compared to that of the fluent speaker really highlights exactly where you’re going wrong. However, you will need to adjust the microphone to your computer, and if you’re using Windows then you will certainly have a little difficulty installing it. However, there are steps on Fluenz’s website as to how to deal with these problems.

Surprisingly, one of the stranger technological annoyances, given the relative modernity of this foreign language package is that it works much smoothly on a less high screen resolution. 1024 x 768 is the optimum setting, and anything higher tends to skew the graphics or even makes the program decide that it isn’t going to work.

Usability

Absolutely suitable for both beginners and those looking to brush Match with the correct translation up on their language skills, Fluenz takes a very different approach to a lot of language courses. Instead of simply working on vocabulary lists, or using picture association techniques, the emphasis is very clearly on a more cohesive approach. Choosing not to focus on these tried and tested means of language learning, Fluenz tries to give the learner the intellectual tools that they need in order to construct and deconstruct sentences, and therefore the language, themselves.

This program is by no means the kind of simplistic language lab style learning that some of us might remember from the 80s and 90s, but really tries to give you an overall sense of the language as well as giving necessary focus to what are often considered the “boring” bits (like grammar and sentence structure) by other contemporary language courses such as Rosetta Stone. You start building up the ability to form your own sentences independently from the very first lesson that you have, while simultaneously building up your vocabulary. This really is the way to build up your knowledge of a language, and any course that says that it can teach you to understand a language without the understanding of the parts of it that might be a bit more difficult or challenging, is clearly not going to actually be giving you the best education that it could be.
Matching words and pictures
The variety of the exercises is refreshing, and gives the learner a welcome break from the tired old activities that they might have worked through in school. The multimedia aspect of this course gives the learner more control over how they learn, although there still isn’t the option here if you know what kind of learning suits you best, to just focus on those skills. Still, the videos are some of the clearest I’ve used, and most people that I know that have used this program either love the teacher (Sonia Gil) or hate her, with the emphasis being on the former. This sort of direct instructional tuition combined with more practical games than you might find elsewhere, e.g. the game where you try to type what you hear, is by far the most focused way to learn, instead of relying on wacky cartoons or flashy games that don’t really teach you anything.

The great thing about Fluenz is that it doesn’t restrict you to one level of study. You can skip ahead if you’re following the classes really well, and l. One of the most irritating things I found in certain other programs is that you aren’t allowed to skip ahead until you’ve finished a section, which is great in theory, but if the software is malfunctioning and you are certain you’re getting it right, it can be very annoying to have to wait on one Level. Here, even though it doesn’t save your progress and you have to skip through each lesson again to get to the one that you need, you can dive into whichever section is interesting you. Also, the navigation around the classes only goes one way – forward! – so if you miss your section, you have to go back and start again to find it.

Cost

Here’s the catch. With all this great software, and innovative methods of learning, one would expect Fluenz to be absolutely fantastic. At the very top end of the language learning market, this package is one of the most expensive that you can buy, and quite rightly so, for hundreds of dollars you would expect the software to be perfect and the course to be great. While the course certainly has the ability to broaden your language knowledge, the software is riddled with bugs and freak-outs. If you asked me if I thought Fluenz was a great foreign language package, I would say yes, but if you asked if I thought it was worth the price, I would have to say no.
Listening comprehension
Despite the broad classes, and easy to use interface of Fluenz, the fact remains that they have a lot of work to go on their programming, and it’s debatable as to whether this version should even have been released at all without more testing. There are bugs in every lesson, and while some of them are small annoyances like the computer asking you to type with accents even if you’re in “without accent mode”, some of them are incredibly frustrating like writing words down as you hear them only to be told that you are wrong when you know that you are not. You can see the quality shine through with other aspects of this course, but there are just so many problems with the software that I would definitely advise waiting until the next wave of Fluenz material comes out on the market. On a more positive note, Fluenz at least seem aware of the problems that they’ve had, and will be sure to fix them by the time the next generation of foreign language packs comes out.

Summary

Though this is a very stylish looking program, and one of the few products of this sort clearly geared up for more use on a Mac than a PC, Fluenz will not, as the name suggests, made you fluent in whatever language you have chosen to study. Still, this program is a really great way to begin learning a language. It’s perfect for beginners, without feeling like it is talking down to you, and is one that I would certainly recommend to adults (particularly tourists) who don’t feel comfortable with the immersion technique so frequently discussed in contemporary foreign language courses.

Pro & Contra

private teacher environment bugs in every lesson
good explanations on grammarsometimes missing explanations
varying exercisesusability problems

Screenshots




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8 User Reviews

  • #1 by Amanda Brawn on May 18 - 6:51 pm

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    I have used various language products such as Rosetta Stone French, Tell Me More French online version and a number of paid podcasts previously since I really require understanding French. This is a better-quality product if you desire to understand French and not simply use fancy software. It does not contain voice recognition yet it is very well designed. Its advantage comes from the technique and clear explanations. It is different from the teaching technique like with Rosetta Stone’s which is fit for children as for me. Tell Me More on the other hand is too confounding for starters; you may have a hard time understanding this with no trainer. For me, Fluenz French is the most excellent product available in the market at this time. I’m really looking forward for them to release a Japanese or German edition.

  • #2 by J. Mills on July 6 - 9:39 pm

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    I bought Fluenz Spanish 1 and 2, 6 months before the planned vacation to Costa Rica. I’m very glad that I did so because I am already 48 years of age and very much envy people who are multilingual. I was really thrilled to discover that I’m not that old to start learning another language. I’m the type of person that requires things to be drilled repeatedly in mind in order to pick them and too uncomfortable to be in a class. Being motivated is a significant matter and staying in this state is another factor, yet this package makes me look forward to the succeeding lesson.

  • #3 by James G. Moose on August 31 - 1:36 am

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    I have not tried other language products like Rosetta Stone, but I’ve completed already 10 lessons and in fact I appreciated this one.
    I enjoyed the drills that drive you to remember the matters that are being instructed and this is the thing that interests me the most about this package. It is as if you are in a true classroom. When you reviewed the lesson, you will be amazed of the amount of information which you have sustained. This package along with other Spanish CDs I have really assisted me in understanding the language.

    Previously, I visited Mexico and was totally blown by how much I could understand. I would really suggest that you buy this product. However, I cannot award 5 stars for this since it is somewhat expensive.

  • #4 by Karen J. on September 23 - 8:47 pm

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    Fluenz is a lecture style language program that performs like a first-rate individual tutor leading you progressively through the comprehension of Spanish. The issue is that it is awkward to arrive at several topics or subtopics. You are restricted to one menu screen that provides numbers for different lectures instead of pictorial or verbal descriptions. This confuses you whether what the numbers are referring to.

    In addition, when you are in a particular section, you will find no label that indicates which section you are already in. One more serious error that I see is that you will not find a method to bookmark the point where you are in, so each moment you desire to go back where you were, you will need to restart and try to navigate the menu system in order to discover where you have been. It is just disappointing that this system is very time consuming to navigate otherwise it is a very nice program.

    Moreover the program is full of bugs. Every lesson has at least 6 bugs where it tells you that what you have typed is wrong although it is correct. This is something that is REALLY annoying and time consuming.

    However, all the problems that I have encountered when using the program caused me to ask for a refund.

  • #5 by Peter G. on October 5 - 10:51 am

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    This is a nice program that will engage you into learning Spanish but it has several defects. There are a number of slip-ups throughout the exercises which you might find frustrating especially when you are a beginner. You might be confused as well if it is an error or not.

    In addition, one of the guy students during the exercises speaks very softly so you have a hard time understanding what he is replying to the instructor. Possibly the greatest issue with this program is that it concentrates on how you deal with situations like when you are in the market, taxi, airport or restaurant. It does not discuss much about real conversation or verb conjugation.

    When you have completed Spanish 1 and 2, you will definitely be able to answer the exercises, but you will not be able to converse perfectly in that language.

    To become proficient in Spanish, I started to read Spanish books for kids and even comics. I also tried viewing films and having casual conversations with native Spanish speakers.

  • #6 by Frank on October 9 - 7:42 am

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    The content is insufficient for the cost. It has 60 lessons that appear to be very short. When you reach lesson 60, you will end up having quite a small number of tools to sustain a conversation. This will only assist for you to not get mislaid when you are ordering at a restaurant, purchasing a ticket as well as situational chat.

  • #7 by Sean on August 16 - 6:59 am

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    Before I had Fluenz 4 weeks ago, I knew how to say Como estas? Muy bien, y tu. Gracias, Nothing more. And I decided to learn more languages, so I bought Flunez 1~5 levels. I had this for about 4 weeks and people think i’ve been studying for a year.

    Also English is my second language and if I had a fluenz 10 years ago I probably didn’t need to work as hard as I did, best tip is no one will do the work for you, you gotta put yourself out there. Stop trying to depend on a product. This is an amazing learning program.

  • #8 by Paul on October 18 - 5:37 pm

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    I purchased Fluenz in July 2012 while still studying German in Berlin at a language school. As soon as I got back to the states, I downloaded it on my new computer and have been enjoying the program. It is much more effective than Rosetta Stone. It really is much more effective in explaining in English, German grammar. I know there were alot of bugs but to Fluenz’s credit, they have resolved almost all of them. I purchased levels 1-3 and find them quite interesting. One major improvement is the use of flash cards which I really find effective!!! The support team is very friendly and helpful.
    I would strongly recommend Fluenz to anyone serious about wanting to learn a foreign language.

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