Fluenz French Learning Program Review

Sonia Gil / Fluenz.

Publisher's site

Fluenz is a dynamic video French learning method. The program evolves around a tutor which takes care of all the explanations in English + dialogues and exercises recorded by French natives. Themes being covered are mostly typical touristic situations/ interactions.

There are five levels available, starting price for one level is $177 (Amazon, April 2015, level one only seems to be sold separately, I didn't quite get the bundle logic on Amazon...) - the price will go down significantly if you buy several levels together, 46% off...

Level 1
Level 1 + 2 
Level 1 + 2 + 3
Level 3 + 4 + 5
Get all 5 levels on Amazon

You can follow the whole program on your Iphone with an app, or log-in online, or install a software for off-line studying. Additional audio CDs allow you to practice in your car, and there is also another online flashcard section.

 

The Program

I have sampled their online version only, and it was relatively easy to use. The navigation is intuitive, the presentation and audio clear and professional. I spent a total of more than two hours sampling various lessons, and exercises, focussing mostly on volumes 1 and 3, and had absolutely no technical problems (I’m running an Apple Macbook). 

Here is how a typical lesson goes:

  • First, you are welcomed by your tutor, who explains what you are going to study in that section, and encourages you. 
  • Then, you access the dialogues, recorded by French natives. You can play the dialogs with French only, French + English, or no subtitles at all, and repeat each sentences as many times as necessary. 
  • After this, your tutor is back. She’s going to explain the dialogues, and is always on screen during these explanations. The important words are displayed to her side, with and English translation.
  • Then, you access different exercises modules. Some are audio based, others you need to translate, choose the correct answer, record your answer, type your answer… You’ll really get a ton of practice.
  • There is even an interactive Flashcard section to test yourself even further.
  • I believe there is even more… CDs for your car, more tests… I can’t say I looked into absolutely everything, but there is definitely a lot to study from.

 

What I Particularly Enjoyed

Sonia is a fantastic English presenter. She is calm, posed, reassuring yet inviting. I enjoyed the format where she introduces every single unit, and encourages you to go ahead: you feel really welcomed, you can feel she cares, just like with a real tutor would. When she explains a lesson, there are some video effects with the words, and it’s fun, and keeps you interested in the video. She speaks slowly enough that it’s easy to follow what she says, yet I never found it boring. And she doesn’t sugar coat it. Learning French is hard, and it’s a long process.

I also loved that you can turn off the background music! Some people like it when there is a bit of an ambiance, so there is a kind of new-agey background music option… I personally hate it and find it very distracting when studying something. But conveniently located by the sound volume, you have a music off/on switch. Hooray!

There is quite a number of repetition of the same vocabulary, so you do memorise it.

Between the audio flashcards and all the audio/ video exercises, you do get a ton of practice. And if you do practice, you will succeed. As Sonia says: “practice, practice, practice… and practice some more”.

 

Weaknesses

Although Sonia’s French is excellent, she is not a native, and she does have a light foreign accent when she speaks French (like most French as a foreign langage teachers do…). This is probably why they switch to a native speaker host in levels 3, 4 and 5. Caroline is really bilingual, and both her English and French accents are perfect. But she is far from being the warm and nurturing host that Sonia is. And for me this was quite a big let down.

However the biggest problem comes from the dialogs from the natives. The fact that each sentence is recorded separately doesn’t help you “go with the flow”, which is essential if you want to follow a real conversation.

The speakers enunciate way too much. One could argue that it is good at level 1, but it’s the same thing at level 5. So you never experience street French, the way French people speak nowadays. For example, they distinctively pronounce “il y a”, when most French person would now say “ya”. They never hesitate, using words like “hum, well, then…” which are always present in a real conversation. 

I was happy to see there were some grammar explanations, which is rare in this kind of software. Fluenz’ grammar explanations may be enough if you speak another romance language (like Spanish or Italian) and already understand the logic of verb/adjective agreements, pronouns etc… But my experience teaching adults for over 20 years is that English speakers usually have quite a hard time with French grammar, and therefore, I think Fluenz is still too light grammar wise to be a self-sufficient learning method.

 

To sum in up

Fluenz provides a fun, efficient tool to learn traditional French. Sonia is a fantastic English host, really warm and nurturing, and her explanations are clear, even though a bit light on the grammar front. You’ll get plenty of practice for your money, and will practice with so many different exercises that you are sure to memorise at least some of it!  I do believe someone can learn a lot of useful French sentences with Fluenz, and feel prepared to handle many situations any tourists is bound to run into.

 

Customer Reviews

You'll find many customer reviews here (towards the end of their page)

To be informed of new articles, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter (it's easy, you just enter your email address - look for it it's somewhere on the French language homepage) or follow me on my social network pages below.

I post exclusive mini lessons, tips, pictures and more daily on my Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages - so join me there!

https://www.facebook.com/frenchtoday

https://twitter.com/frenchtoday

https://www.pinterest.com/frenchtoday/