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After a month of using FluentU, we provide our thoughts on how this program stacks up
There are dozens of language learning programs available online today, each with their own strengths and approach to learning. But of all these different apps, there is likely none more geared towards visual learners than FluentU. With a learning framework built around video, FluentU is clearly meant for people that learn visually. But does this language program work? We explore just that question in this detailed breakdown, where we cover everything that matters.
As this is a lengthy review, please use the jump-to links above to quickly navigate this article.
FluentU Video Review
In the above video, John (from the Test Prep Insight team) breaks down everything you need to know about the FluentU course, including our thoughts on this video-driven learning platform. Please continue reading for more detail.
FluentU Cost & Subscriptions
To set the stage, let’s start this review off by covering pricing and subscription options. In short, FluentU offers two different plans. You can choose between a pay-as-you-go plan, which costs $30 per month, or an annual plan, which works out to around $20 per month.
Overall, among language apps out there, FluentU is on the expensive side. Their subscription options are more expensive than competitors like Babbel, Busuu and Pimsleur, though cheaper than some others, like Rocket Languages.
With that said, it is worth mentioning that with FluentU, one subscription gets you access to all of their languages (there’s around 9 of them in total). Plus, FluentU plans do come with a 14-day free trial so you can always test the waters before fully committing.
How the FluentU Program Works
Time for the good stuff. Let’s talk about how the FluentU program is structured and what their lessons are all about. From a high level, FluentU is a video platform for language learning. I am not sure I’d consider it a comprehensive language course comparable to the likes of Pimsleur, Babbel or Rosetta Stone.
Rather, FluentU’s learning framework is centered around the idea that exposure to and interaction with fluent speakers is the most effective way to learn a new language. And FluentU accomplishes this by taking video content from YouTube and other sources, and then integrating it into their own platform that includes subtitles, explanations and quizzes. That’s really the basis of the entire FluentU platform in a nutshell.
So what does this look like from a practical standpoint? Well, when you first sign up, you can choose between beginner, intermediate or advanced based on your current knowledge. From there, you’ll be presented with your course agenda, which is made up of different learning modules. Each module covers different topics, grammar principles, and other thematic concepts, and is comprised of three or four lessons.
What the FluentU Lessons Are Like
Each lesson within a module is very short, generally just 10 to 15 minutes in length. Typically, you’ll start by watching a video or listening to an audio clip in which you’re introduced to new words and phrases.
From there, you’re prompted to complete a quiz to ensure you understand what you just learned. The quiz is made up of different exercises, including multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blanks, and sentence construction drills. Honestly, it’s a nice variety of exercises and drills.
And that’s really how the core FluentU lessons work from a high level. I’ll discuss the other features of their program, including their deep video library, in more detail below in the pros and cons section, but long story short, it’s these features that really make FluentU what it is.
What We Like About FluentU
Now that I’ve covered subscription options, pricing and you know what their lessons are all about, let’s get into what I like and what I don’t like about FluentU after thoroughly evaluating this program. And let’s start with the things I really like.
Great For Visual Learners
The first thing I’d call out about FluentU is that it’s an ideal choice for visual learners. It’s honestly fantastic for people that love visual engagement. Their language courses are packed with images, visuals, videos, and subtitles.
The reality is that a large portion of the population learns best by seeing or hearing a word, and making an association between that word and a particular image or video clip. Then when these types of learners are asked to recall the word later on, that corresponding image or video acts as a memory aid to help them remember. It’s just how some people learn and retain new words.
If that sounds like your preferred learning style, then FluentU will likely be a great option.
Deep Video Library
The other great thing FluentU has going for it is their video library. Beyond the core lessons, FluentU gives you access to thousands of videos in your target language. And to be clear, I don’t mean boring translation clips. These are real videos, like music videos, TV clips, commercials, movie trailers, cartoons, and more.
Not only that, FluentU makes it really easy to find videos that match your specific interests and fluency level. There’s a search function, as well as a bunch of filters you can set to narrow down your preferred videos.
For example, if you’re learning Spanish, you’re a beginner, and you’re super interested in food and cuisine, you can literally narrow down the content to just those types of videos. In that case, you can watch a 2-minute recipe video on how to make tuna stuffed tomatoes, in which you’re introduced to 23 new words like fresco, queso, and pimienta. Then afterwards, you’re quizzed on what you just watched.
Overall, it’s just a super engaging and entertaining way to learn a new language. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like your studying since the only thing you’re doing is engaging with TV clips and YouTube videos. Bottom line, it’s just a nice change of pace from the standard language lessons.
Finally, I like that FluentU augments each video with tons of subtitles, hints, tips, and explanations. This really makes the learning process effortless and convenient. For example, when you’re watching a video, there’s a transcript below the screen that displays exactly what is being said in both your target language and English.
This makes it easy to follow along, especially for more difficult to understand videos that are perhaps a bit outside your proficiency level. In addition, if you hover over any word in the transcript box, FluentU pauses the video automatically and provides a detailed analysis of that word, including what type of word it is (verb, preposition, noun, etc.), as well as what tense it is (present tense, past tense, etc.). Overall, I was just impressed with the level of detail FluentU provides to supplement each video.
What We Don’t Like About FluentU
Knowing what we like about FluentU, let’s turn the tables now and cover the things we weren’t crazy about with FluentU.
No Verbal Practice
The most obvious downside of FluentU’s program is that it does not include any sort of verbal or conversational practice. Basically, it’s almost all watching, listening and reading. The FluentU program is missing one extremely important element, speaking.
And this is very unfortunate, as speaking is likely the most crucial component, at least in my opinion. After all, most people want to become fluent in another language so they can converse with other people, not just be able to read and understand words.
On that note, my second complaint about FluentU somewhat piggybacks on the last point. And that is that there is no speech recognition technology with FluentU. Even if you do want to practice saying words, phrases and sentences out loud, there’s no tech to provide feedback on your pronunciation. This compounds the issue that FluentU is not the best option out there for people looking to improve their conversational skills.
Lastly, my final complaint with FluentU is that their digital platform and interface is somewhat dated. Don’t get me wrong, their dashboard is intuitive and straightforward, and their video library is easy to navigate.
However, the overall user experience just isn’t as sleek or modern as other language learning apps out there like Memrise or Duolingo. For example, the way FluentU embeds YouTube content on page and layers in their transcript and other features just feels a little clunky.
It’s not the end of the world and doesn’t affect your learning, but I thought I would mention it since user experience is often a big factor for people.
Verdict: FluentU Review
Overall, FluentU definitely has some major advantages in its favor; however, when you really break it down, I’m not sure FluentU should necessarily be considered a full-fledged, standalone language learning course. The videos are awesome for visual leaners and provide great memory aids, but the curriculum simply isn’t that deep. In the end, I suppose it’s all about perspective and what you’re looking for.
In my opinion, FluentU is a great tool for improving your listening and reading skills, but not so much for developing your verbal skills. As such, I see FluentU being best suited as a fun, effective supplement for your studying and learning, especially considering that their video library goes well beyond standard translation videos. FluentU, in my opinion, would be a perfect addition to a more robust language course that includes detailed grammar content and simulated conversations.
Is FluentU free?
FluentU is not free, but they generally do offer a 14-day free trial period, where users can test the program before committing.
Is FluentU worth it?
Depending on your circumstances, our team does think that FluentU is worth it. If you’re a strong visual learner, FluentU will likely work very well for you and is worth it. However, for other types of learners, we actually see FluentU best used as a supplement with another language app.
How much does FluentU cost?
FluentU has two different packages. The monthly pay-as-you-go subscription costs $30 per month, or if you’d like to pay in advance, their annual subscription breaks down to $20 per month.