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Fluenz Review

Course Overview

  • Course comes on 1-5 DVD-Roms or as digital download
  • 5 Levels with 30 lessons each
  • Classroom-style learning environment with a tutor

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Editor Rating3rd Place

4 stars
User Ratings

3.4
3.4 rating
3.4 out of 5 stars (based on 13 reviews)
Excellent39%
Very good15%
Average8%
Poor23%
Terrible15%

 

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.


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 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

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.

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.


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 grammar sometimes missing explanations
varying exercises usability problems

Screenshots

 

User Ratings

5.0 rating
October 28

I purchased Fluenz German Levels 1-5, and got started on it right away. It absolutely floored me how much and how fast I was learning, and just how much fun it was to use. I was using it an average of 2 hours a day because it was so much fun. Really sucks you in. I only got to Lesson 5 on Level 1 before I ended up putting it aside because I just didn’t have enough time and energy after work each day. A year later, I found it again and popped the DVD in and did Lesson 5 again (a review) and I was amazed at how much I remembered, and how quickly I returned to comprehension of what I didn’t remember. Never had a chance to use any of it in the mean time, either. I’m going to try to do one lesson a day every day now. It’s hard to have the mental energy after a day of the kind of work I do, but it’s so much fun to learn that I find myself really wanting to continue. Customer service seems to be good, and responsive. I have seen them fix a LOT of issues over the time I have had this program, and the latest update was over 942 megabytes.
I used Version 2 of Rosetta Stone, and I have to say that it did not impress me. Fluenz impresses me. I have a subliminal program from Indigo Mind Labs (subliminal-shop.com) to help me learn faster and more easily, too. Maybe I’ll do disk 1 and 2 without and then see how much difference the subliminal makes.

Shannon
2.0 rating
July 20

My rating is 4.5. Because nothing gets rated at 100% perfect or 0% worthless. It takes work and effort but is the best language course I ever tried. (have tried several!!) And it proved to be valuable while traveling in Panama. If a 66 year old can learn, you people can do it! Recommend paying attention to Sonja´s suggestions to increase your spanish on your own too.

Sylvan
1.0 rating
March 21

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.

Karen J.
5.0 rating
March 17

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.

Amanda Brawn
5.0 rating
March 1

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.

J. Mills
4.0 rating
January 8

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.

James G. Moose
4.0 rating
October 30

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.

Paul
2.0 rating
September 29

I am trying to like this program, but sadly I cannot entirely be eager about it. Actually, I am starting to believe that there is no excellent language course yet that has been created.
I will talk about the good sides first. The technique is really conversational and does not appear to be extremely repetitive. Possibly you will be able to understand matters very rapidly. The associations and explanations create vocabulary building to be pretty simple. This is very opposite to the immersion method of Rosetta Stone. For instance, check out their online demo and you will be shown with images of 4 different individuals and you will have to link them with the 4 words given. But, if you have zero familiarity with Spanish and have no clue what the differences are, then you might get lost. A person who is attempting to study a language for the start would possibly feel the same way.
Another positive part of the conversation topics is that it appears to be natural and applicable. This is different with Pimsleur series, where most of the conversations appear to be extremely constricted and somewhat useless. I am neither a book editor nor an engineer and spending as much as an hour in language learning does not seem to be an excellent use of time, when I could spend that time for other more useful matters.
The above mentioned are the points in which this program excels in contrast with its rivals. But in any kind of product, there are possibly some drawbacks. I’ve learned that Michael Thomas is not really a native Spanish speaker and for me this is not the utmost method to learn the language. The worse part is the students and their terrible pronunciations. Listening them talk for a long time is truly irritating and will actually reinforce wrong practices that a learner should avoid in the first place. Listening to individuals who would not even attempt to spin their R is not a good approach when you are attempting to study Spanish. I am just anxious that the more I listen to the CDs, the poorer my pronunciations would turn out, then I could try listening to Pimsleur, but I would not have the chance to converse my imaginary engineering developments.

Dany Seloul

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