Ouino uses a non-linear learning path to deliver French lessons through a wonderfully designed desktop and mobile interface. If you are worried about designing a freestyle, non-linear learning path, this program can suggest one for you. At the end of each lesson you rate yourself, on a four-star scale, based on how well you understand the material, so you can revisit confusing topics. Another way to track your progress is with the Ouino calendar. Ouino adds a badge to the calendar each day you take a lesson that signifies the type of lesson you took and it lets you manually add badges if you practice French outside the software.
You can buy Ouino Complete Collection for a one-time price of less than $100 and either download it or have a retail box shipped to you that includes an installation disc. There are more than 300 lessons in the Complete Collection and the purchase includes access to the mobile app that you can download on Android and iOS devices. Regardless of where you log in, Ouino uses the same progress tracking features. You don’t get access to a live tutor with this program, but you can revisit the lessons as many times as you’d like.
This software has lesson modules for five important learning categories: pronunciation, vocabulary, verb forms, grammar and conversation. Unlike programs like Rosetta Stone, the pronunciation module doesn’t have a voice-recognition feature. Instead, you record yourself while pronouncing consonants, words and phrases and compare them to a recording of a native speaker. You have to judge for yourself if your accent and pronunciation stack up against the native speaker, rather than using an algorithm. However, you can record and compare your accent as many times as you’d like until you’re satisfied with the results.
The vocabulary module lets you memorize important words that you use in the other modules. Ouino teaches the often-misunderstood principles of vocabulary gender by using audio and visual clues. Masculine words are recorded by a male speaker and appear in red, and feminine nouns are recorded by a female speaker and are written in blue. At the end of the vocabulary module there’s a timed exercise called Fluency Sprint that asks you to write a French word based on an image and its English equivalent.
There are two verb modules in Ouino: key verbs and conjugation verbs. The key verbs module first asks you to listen for verbs and then place the verb in a sentence with its corresponding pronoun. The conjugation module is a bit tougher and includes a matching game and writing exercise. This program places the French verbs side-by-side with their English translation to help you understand all the conjugation possibilities for each verb.
Building Blocks grammar module has three lessons including a multiple-choice exercise, writing exercise and a timed exercise similar to the fluency sprint in the vocabulary module. The multiple-choice exercises have you type the answer rather than just checking the correct box. Most programs we tested that have similar exercises didn’t bother reinforcing the writing portion, which we found helped us retain the concept better.
Once you learn concepts from the first four modules you can put them all together in the conversation module. The non-linear learning path gives you access to this module from the first time you open the program, but it won’t make sense if you don’t apply the foundational principals found in the other modules. The exercises in this module are mostly audio-driven. You listen to native speakers have a conversation about topics found in everyday life and try match the conversation topic with its English equivalent. You can also adjust the settings to slow down the audio playback if you are having a hard time.
Ouino has a good variety of interactive content in all the important learning categories. You can buy a lifetime license for less than $100, which also makes it one of the most affordable programs we reviewed. The desktop and mobile applications are easy to navigate and save your progress through the lesson plan.