Pros / Fluenz has the best travel-centric lesson plan of all the programs we reviewed.
Cons / The entire lesson catalog is expensive.
Verdict / This is a great language program for serious students that want to learn situational conversation topics quickly.
The French lessons in Fluenz progress smoothly through each step of the program. The activities in this program build on each other gradually, from simply repeating a word aloud, to writing an entire sentence in French, to speaking full phrases in practice conversations. The courses revolve around a practice conversation introduced by your virtual tutor and creator of Fluenz, Sonya Gil. Gil explains the focus of each lesson, then leads you to a practice conversation. This conversation serves as the framework for the rest of the lesson’s videos and activities.
The curriculum consists of matching, dictation and conversation practice. After you listen to the practice dialogue three times – one with French subtitles, one with French and English subtitles and one without subtitles – the virtual tutors return to explain sentence structure and which words and phrases to lookout for in the following lessons. The learning path is non-linear, which means you can choose which components of each unit you want to work on. Fluenz tracks you progress through the lesson plan, so you can start a lesson at home and finish it on the mobile app during a lunch break.
The matching exercises are a good way to learn short, but relevant, phrases to use when traveling to a French-speaking country, like “Hello, I want a coffee,” and “Where is the bathroom?” Those are followed by dictation exercises that ask you to write the French word associated with its English equivalent. You write the words you hear to help improve your comprehension skills. Fluenz modifies your keyboard to include accent marks and unique punctuation, but doesn’t require you to use them to complete the writing exercises.
One area of the curriculum our reviewers particularly enjoyed is the conversation practice. In these exercises you first listen to native speakers converse about the topic at the beginning of the lesson. Next, you record yourself repeating both speakers’ lines. Lastly, you record only one speaker’s line, as the recording of the native speaker reads the other. You can listen to the recording and compare your accent to the native speaker’s. This software doesn’t have a voice recognition feature like Rosetta Stone, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if your pronunciation compares well to the native speakers’.
Fluenz has the most diverse selection of installation options we reviewed. You can download the desktop application or purchase a retail box that includes an installation disc. Either of those purchase options give you access to the beautifully designed mobile app that has the same content as the desktop app. You also get access to downloadable content, like flashcards and comprehension and pronunciation MP3s, that you can use in places that don’t have Wi-Fi or cellular data.
If you purchase all five levels of Fluenz, the download and retail box options are the same price, but both are more expensive than any other software we tested. The entire five-lesson bundle is around $350 at the time of our review, which is what you would spend to subscribe to an online service like Rosetta Stone for three years, but when you purchase the Fluenz curriculum, you do own it for life.
You also have the option to buy just the first lesson, or the first three lessons in a bundle which saves you about $50.
Fluenz has a beautifully designed desktop and mobile application that deliver French lessons specifically designed to help you learn important conversational topics. It is a bit expensive compared to services that offer a subscription-based fee, but unlike those services, you own the software for life and can use it to brush up on your French any time you’d like.