Fluenz uses a methodical, travel-centric approach to teach you how to greet new people, order in restaurants and buy items in convenience stores. It covers most of the important content we look for, including reading, writing, comprehension and speaking exercises. There aren’t any cultural lessons in the Fluenz curriculum, but you may not need to use your Spanish learning software for that application.
Sonia Gil, one of the creators of Fluenz, serves as your virtual tutor and sets expectations for each lesson. In each lesson, you listen to a conversation that includes popular phrases like “I need a cell phone” or “Can I have the check?” Afterward, Gil returns to explain the conversation and give context to what you just heard. She emphasizes instructions to listen to the sample conversation three times: once with English and Spanish subtitles, once with Spanish subtitles only, and a third time without any subtitles. This trains you to hear and see Spanish words, which is necessary for the rest of the course.
Subsequent dictation, matching and speech-recording activities use material from the lesson’s practice conversation. Dictation practice requires you to write what you hear in Spanish. Thankfully, Fluenz emphasizes the content rather than details like accent marks, so you can focus on recalling and properly spelling words. The matching section is a simple drag-and-drop translation exercise that uses sentences you saw in the sample conversation at the beginning of the lesson.
The speech-recording activity doesn’t use an accuracy meter like other programs. Instead, you replace one of the speakers in the familiar conversation by recording yourself speaking their lines. After you’ve recorded yourself, you can listen to your accent and compare it to the native speaker’s in the original clip. The recordings of the native speakers were among the best we reviewed – some programs have robotic or garbled recordings that made our reviewers lose focus.
Fluenz’s speech-recognition, dictation and conversation exercises are especially engaging. You can also download MP3s of audio lessons to your phone or music player, which is useful if you find yourself distracted by visual stimuli.
The mobile app looks as good as the desktop app and includes the same lesson selection. Using the app, you can begin a lesson at home on your computer and finish it in your spare time throughout the day. This program has the best selection of learning platforms we reviewed, including a downloadable desktop app, mobile app, online platform and offline MP3 practice lessons.
The one downside of Fluenz is the cost of all five lesson levels. The entire package has hundreds of hours of lessons but costs more than $300 for a perpetual license. You could subscribe continually to Rosetta Stone for more than two years for that price. However, once you purchase a digital download or physical copy of Fluenz, you own it for life. You can also purchase just level one or levels one through three for less if you don’t need the advanced lessons.
The Fluenz desktop app only took us a minute to install completely, and we didn't encounter any technical difficulties during installation or while taking lessons. You need an activation key to start the program, and it’s included with the software. You also need the key if you want to deactivate the software on one computer and license it on a new one. The online course is available on any internet-enabled device.
Fluenz is one of the best Spanish learning programs we tested. It has most of the lesson content we look for, including important travel-specific conversation topics. There are multiple learning platforms, including a desktop application, mobile app and downloadable audio modules, so you can take lessons whenever and wherever you want. The entire package is a bit expensive but well worth it if you are traveling for business or leisure.
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