During their Black Friday Sale, I purchased the complete course of Fluenz French, which encompasses five levels worth of lessons. This allowed me to grab the program at the discounted $278 price, which naturally helped to make sure that I will actually stick with the learning, since I have some cost to actually doing so. Did I just all of the sudden want to learn how to speak French? No, I had been doing the free program on Duolingo for a month or so, when I broke my laptop with the functional microphone and never got it replaced to continue. Despite the price difference between the two programs, I actually prefer the Fluenz method to this point, and feel that I am retaining much more of the information that I learn. In this post, I want to give a basic overview of my experiences thus far with Level 1 of Fluenz.
Why Learn a Foreign Language?
In both high school and college, I took Spanish as my foreign language elective. I spent thousands of dollars to get the credits in Spanish and ultimately my degree, yet I speak and comprehend almost none of it. That is from a combination of lack of use, practice, and the fact that I don’t think the typical classroom environment is very conducive towards learning a new language. The opportunity cost of those classes were pretty damn high, considering I have retained very little. I didn’t want to jump right back into Spanish, so, I thought that’d French would be a nice change of pace.
Also, needed the structure and ease of access that is presented by an online or desktop program that is professionally done like Fluenz is. I also feel that I will usually get through learning something, if I pay for it. For example, I wanted to learn accounting, so I’ve been doing online classes. Yes, I’ve read general accounting and finance books to supplement my education, but I also know that I probably won’t work my way through problem sets unless I have paid into, have a structure, and will derive some future benefit from it (higher salaries, graduate degree, etc.).
The complete Fluenz French program is split up into 5 Levels. These five levels are further broken up into 30 individual daily lessons which build upon each other and present a new aspect of the language. Now, you can also buy each level separately but I just went ahead and picked up the entire series to save some cash…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 someone looking to travel. 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). You don’t get taught things like the alphabet and numbers right from the start, it is much more practical for eventual use within the real world. Ordering food, asking questions, getting to where you need to go, etc.
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. It’s mostly just to present the topic for the day and offer encouragement.
There is then the conversation which is done by actual native French speakers, who provide the voice acting for the particular situation. This can be anything from talking to a cab driver to shopping at the store or order from a restaurant. I run through this conversation 3 times, as is recommended by Fluenz. That way you get to see the conversation text with translation, without translation, and then just listening to the conversation audio. Keep in mind that learning this conversation is important, as you will encounter many phrases and indeed the conversation later in the workouts.
After the conversation, you go back to Sonia where she explains in detail what you’ve just listened to. She breaks down what was said, what words mean, pronunciation, and introduces any new vocabulary.
The next workout presents a list of new vocab words for auditory practice. The words are presented individually which is great for hearing exactly how a word is supposed to be pronounced and then repeating it aloud to yourself.
Then comes the first matching exercise, where you match the French phrase with its English translation. There is also a vocab matching section, in which you match each French word with it’s photographic representation.
Fluenz also includes plenty of writing, which is actually a good thing because you actually get to learn how to structure sentences. Not only that, it is very helpful to see the differences in spelling between two different words that can sound quite alike when listening to a conversation. There is plenty of repetition but I find it helpful to really help drill the language into my head.
Beyond the normal lessons, there are also flashcards and two sets of podcasts, one reviewing pronunciation and the other comprehension. These are very good ways to review the material, as each covers different aspects of the lessons and provide further insight into the language.
So far, I have to say that I really enjoy using Fluenz to learn a new language. Everything seems much easier to conceptualize and remember than when I was learning Spanish in the classroom. I’m actually retaining much more information than I did in that setting. Now, I still have to finish Level 1 and get through 2-5 as well, but I feel very inclined to stick with it and see this one through to the end.