So, I must admit that I kind of bought Fluenz French on a whim during their Black Friday sale. I got the complete course Levels 1-5 for only $278. Why did I suddenly want to learn French? Well, I had actually started using Duolingo to learn late last year and into early 2016, and actually kept up with it for a while. However, I broke my old laptop’s screen (which had a built in microphone), and my external mic wasn’t compatible with my other laptop (which seems to lack an internal microphone). Duolingo is speaking heavy so that was a no go, since I’m lazy, and didn’t want to figure out the recording function with my laptop. In this review, I won’t include the section of Fluenz that involves speaking (which is only one workout per lesson) until I get my audio resolved.
Beyond that, why did I want to learn French? I’ve always really enjoyed reading literature from France (novels, philosophy, etc) and reading about the French Revolution and Napoleonic eras has been a historical study interest of mine as well. Plus, eventually travel to France, French Polynesia, Switzerland, and Vietnam…might make learning the language useful or at least encourage me to stick with it.
Why Did I Buy Fluenz?
I took Spanish in high school and college…I still speak very little but can comprehend some. Many hours and dollars spent and I really haven’t gotten much out of it. That kind of bothers me and so if all goes well here I might have to follow up with Fluenz or some other company’s Espanol program. For now though, I want to learn French, and I thought that this might be an ideal entry for someone like me.
First of all, I think that I needed to pay money for a program, in order to stick with it long-term. It’s really easy for me to blow off something if I don’t have any capital investment in it. I know, not everyone is like that, but the truism ‘Know Yourself’ applies here.
I also recognize that I need a well established structure to succeed in a pursuit such as this. Waking up each morning and doing at least one lesson is simple enough and so far in level 1, it is only taking 30-40 minutes to complete. I will probably ramp it up at some point but I’m really just trying to establish a groove and consistency with the learning. Plus, I know in the later levels the time it takes will increase along with the difficulty.
I had no real knowledge of this software besides some positive reviews I’d read and that people were saying it was better than Rosetta Stone for learning French. Pretty close to a blind item purchase.
How Does Fluenz Work for Learning French?
The complete Fluenz French program is broken up into 5 Levels. These five levels are further broken up into 30 individual lessons which build upon each other and present a new aspect of the language. Now, you can buy each level separately but I just dove in and picked up the entire series…so, I’ll have a busy 4-5 months of Fluenz it seems.
What I especially like so far about this program is how useful it is for a traveler right off the bat. You learn how to conjugate verbs and structure sentences while picking up useful phrases and commands for ordering in a cafe (lessons 1-7 in Level 1). I remember from my classroom Spanish learning experiences, that these sort of things took a semester or more to actually get to, and Fluenz gets right into things I actually want to know.
Don’t worry if you have zero experience with French. Fluenz breaks everything down and explains/relates the material in English, so that you’ll have no trouble picking up the language through these lessons. They don’t just throw you into French without any context and expect you to understand through immersion. All the lesson are fully explained by the presenters.
What Are the Lessons in Fluenz Like?
Each lesson starts with an introduction video with a presenter. In Level 1, it is Fluenz co-founder Sonia Gil, who is walking you through things. This is usually only a minute or so long before you get into that lesson’s conversation.
The conversation is presented by actual French speakers, who act out a given situation. Such as ordering from a cafe or meeting a friend and having a conversation about other friends and their whereabouts. It is recommended that you listen to the conversation 3 times and this is exactly how I do it. Once with French and English subtitles. Once with just French subtitles. Then, finally, with no subtitles and just listening to the pronunciation. I find this quite helpful in terms of learning the sentence structure, spelling, and just getting the material to stick.
After the conversation, you go back to Sonia where she explains in detail what you’ve just listened to. These video explanations are like 9-10 minutes sometimes, however, they are extremely helpful in terms of tips on pronunciation, translation, and sentence structure. Don’t skip them.
The next workout presents a list of new vocab words that you can listen to. The words are presented individually which is great for hearing exactly how a word is supposed to be pronounced.
Then comes the matching exercise, where you are given an English phrase and have to match it up with its French equivalent. Later, there is a matching exercise where you are given a word in French and have to match it to a picture of what that word means.
One thing, I actually really like about Fluenz is the writing exercises. When you are given an English phrase and have to write it in French or you have to transcribe what a French speaker says. This has been immensely helpful so far in being able to distinguish sounds in French and learning how to spell or structure sentences correctly. There are a variety of these workouts, which covers a different aspect. It helps to drill an idea into your head. The beginning conversation will come back at the end and you will have to type out the talk by listening to each part.
I think that the writing is one of the things that separates this program from some of the others that I’ve had experience with (Spanish class) or have looked into online. Fluenz does feature plenty of writing, which yes, it can be boring at times. However, it is so utterly useful, to get different types of learning. Auditory, visual, speaking, and then just plain old writing the sentences out step by step to help you think critically in the language.
What is Included with the Program?
I bought it directly from the Fluenz website in its downloadable form. As such, I don’t have a physical copy (which is also available). I know that if you buy from Amazon, they ship you the physical disks for use on your computer and will email you within a few hours so you can access the program through the iPhone, Android, or tablet app and get started before your physical copy arrives.
Here’s what i received:
- Download of Fluenz for Windows
- Access to Levels 1-5 on Fluenz website. This is usually where I do my lessons.
- Fluenz for Mobile Devices. (Haven’t tried these yet)
- Fluenz Flash Cards
- Pronunciation MP3’s
- Comprehension MP3’s
Getting started was super easy. Just had to download everything to my laptop and sign up for my account on Fluenz’s website, which gave me access to that. The user interface for this program is great and really intuitive to use. There seems to be a great support staff and help provided by the company if you run into any problems or simply need to ask a question.
Any Problems So Far?
Not really. There does seem to be a weird glitch where one word will randomly be played back at full volume, when I have it turned down to use with earbuds. That’s really annoying and it happens like once per lesson. My earballs!
Fluenz seems to be a really worthwhile program thus far. I don’t think it’s a panacea and you’ll be a complete French expert at the end. However, you should have a really good foundation, and be pretty damn conversational. One thing that’d I’d throw in as a supplement to Fluenz is having regular conversations in French. You can do this for free online or through local meet up groups in your area. Having a back and forth conversation where you have to react to another person and then decide what to say would be beneficial.
This is a program (like any other language learning) that requires you to put forth effort. Fluenz makes it fun and challenging but it’s going to be useless if you don’t do your part in learning French. It does seem to be more geared towards learning for travel (which is good for my purposes) but may not suit everyone else’s needs. Frankly, I want to be able to hold my own in conversations with French speakers and then build up from there after I finish Fluenz.
Toward the Future
I will be updating my future experiences with the entire Fluenz French program on this site. I just wanted to give my review thus far of Level 1 French and what you can expect if you’re considering purchasing this program. I am actually really enjoying the approach that Fluenz takes with learning and it doesn’t bore the hell out of me like learning Spanish did in college. No more reading from a textbook and then having to get through class a few days per week with whatever I managed to remember.
Here’s to hoping I continue to get my money’s worth.