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By Jesse / August 10, 2015

Review of: FluentU

Use: Language immersion through video for Chinese, Spanish, English, French, German, and Japanese.

Effectives

A powerful tool for immersing yourself in a language via videos

Price

Free content and monthly plans at $8 or $18 per month

Time Commitment

Learn as much or as little as you want

Ease of Use

Digital immersion without the tedious work

Structure

Study on your own, little structure or course format

I Like

  • Over 1,000 videos in Spanish
  • Good vocabulary & flashcard system
  • Easy to use
  • Free content and affordable price
  • You can switch between languages

I Don't Like

  • No speaking required
  • No course or structure to follow

Summary: FluentU is a monthly subscription site that offers language immersion through native videos. Their method allows you to learn words in context in a natural way. The site is very easy to use and can be an effective tool for language learning; and at $8-$18 a month it's pretty affordable too.  You can also create a profile and try out the site for free without any obligation. 

FluentU is great for taking in a new language but it doesn't require you to produce it on your own through speaking or writing. As a result FluentU probably shouldn't be the only resource you use for language learning, even so it's an effective and engaging way to step up your learning or add some variety to your practice.​

Monthly plans at $8 or $18 (Free plan available too)

When I first started learning Spanish everything was great. I picked up new words easily and felt that I was progressing fast. However after about a month of this I hit the first bump on my road to fluency...

Suddenly I seemed to be practicing a lot, but with little result. The initial excitement of the language wore off. Old words now seemed boring and simple, while new material seemed extremely difficult. I had hit my first plateau. 

Plateaus and burnout are problems every language leaner must face

This is a problem all language learners face...

​One way I have learned to counter it was by adding some variety to my language learning. I was primarily learning Spanish through a tutor on Italki and practicing via online language exchanges. To keep things interesting I added some new ways of interacting with the Spanish language that I hadn't used before.

That's when I tried out FluentU.

Is FluentU Right for You?

FluentU offers content for learners of Chinese, Spanish, French, English, German, and Japanese. At the time of this writing Japanese is the newest language on the site and has significantly fewer videos than the other languages (about 600 or so), but FluentU is always adding more content to their their site so this might not be a huge problem if you're learning Japanese.

FluentU's method is extremely helpful for learners from absolute beginners up to upper intermediates.  If you are at a more advance level of learning you might not find the site's features as useful.

For Spanish learners the site has over 1,000 different videos.

Video Review of FluentU

Digital Immersion with FluentU

Back to my plateau problem. I started using Spanish movies and music to help me learn Spanish. It added some much needed variety to my learning, but is was also tedious pausing a movie every five minutes to look up words with a Spanish dictionary and make Anki flashcards so i could remember them.

That was right about when I tried out FluentU. The site takes the idea I had of immersing myself in Spanish through movies and TV, but makes it a faster and much simpler process.

Because FluentU has an in-site flashcard system and dictionary I can learn by watching videos without spending time shuffling notes and making flashcards (which can take hours). With one click you can make a flashcard, look up a definition, and even see other examples of the word in context. It's pretty awesome.

FluentU's Shortcomings

No Speaking

My biggest problem with the site's method is that there is absolutely no speaking practice. This prevents FluentU from being an end-all be-all for learning a language.

Also, even though you have to type in words for vocabulary flashcards the writing practice is pretty scant as well. The site excels at giving you input but you aren't required to produce much output.

Lack of Structure​

There isn't much in the way of a method or structured way of learning when you use FluentU.​  The videos are divided by difficulty levels and the site keeps track of the words you learn, but for the most part you are pretty much left to watch whatever whenever you want. 

FluentU's playlists are the closest you get to lesson structure

For some learners this is actually a plus, and because I think FluentU is trying to be more of a tool than a full on course this isn't a huge issue. Still, it would be nice to have the option of working through a select progression of videos aimed at improving specific parts or levels of a language.

Short Videos Only

Though FluentU has a lot of content, it only has short videos that are under 10 minutes. Unfortunately you can't watch full movies and TV shows, only clips. 

FluentU recently released apps for the Iphone and Ipad and says there will be one for Android soon

Best Way to Use FluentU

 While FluentU is a great resource, I wouldn't use it as the primary means of learning a new language. There is no speaking required on your part. Also, the videos are great but even watching videos can get old if you're not practicing with real people.

I think FluentU is best used as a secondary resource to your language learning. It works great when you use it alongside a course, lesson, or regular language practice. It will expose you to new words and strengthen your grammar and vocabulary, but ultimately you will need to practice speaking a language to become fluent.

As they continue to develop and add the FluentU apps the site will continue to be an effective way to immerse yourself in a language no matter where you are, and at either $8 or $18 a month it is a very affordable tool to have.

What Others Are Saying About FluentU

Cat Gaa sunshineandsiestas.com

FluentU has videos about everything and anything – from politics to culture to human interest stories and songs... This is an awesome way to brush up on your listening skills and learn a few phrases before jetting to Spain.

I’ve enjoyed my experience with FluentU and encourage anyone wanting to learn German or to improve their existing skills in German to give it a try.

Amanda Papenfus
Germanyja.com

Words fail to express how much I like FluentU. It is exactly the product I would have created if I built a video-based language learning site/app from scratch.

John Fotheringham
l2mastery.com

Alternatives to FluentU

 Lyricstraining is a free site that helps you learn vocabulary through music videos with subtitles. The site is set up as a game. Some of the subtitles will be missing and as a video is played you have to type in the missing words in real time.

Yabla looks a lot like FluentU, if FluentU was made 10 years ago. Much like FluentU it uses video, vocabulary, and flashcards. I haven't used it. It looks like it would work well, it just seems a bit dated.

Spanishpod101 uses primarily audio lessons in a podcast format. It has flashcards, vocabulary, and word sheets. It is divided into units and lessons and is more structured than FluentU.

Conclusion

FluentU can be a great tool for learning a foreign language. By teaching through video it helps you interact with a new language in much the same way that native speakers do. The FluentU is easy to use and they are always improving and adding to their content. The price isn't bad either. 

The main drawback of the site is that you aren't required to speak or write in your target language. Because of this you should use FluentU as a supplementary tool and not your main method of learning. The site also lacks lessons or structure, which can be good or bad depending on your needs and preferences. 

All in all the site is certainly worth checking out. 

About the author

Jesse

Spanish learning aficionado and cofounder of Spanish Hackers.

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