Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm
With so many options on the market, it can be hard to decide which language learning platform works best for you. Not sure where to begin? Start with this FluentU review.
In this review, we’ll take a look at FluentU, a Hong Kong-based language learning programme that aims to take textbook learning and make it more engaging. We’ll address what sets FluentU apart from its competitors, and if it will help you to reach your fluency goals.
With its focus on grammar and sentence construction right from the very beginning, FluentU is a step above some of the other, more popular language learning apps on the market in terms of achieving actual fluency.
However, while FluentU teaches you what works, it doesn’t exactly teach you why it works. You have to figure out grammar patterns and pronunciation on your own, which may put new language learners off from using it. Its hefty price tag may also have you looking elsewhere.
TL;DR FluentU Review
Here’s a quick summary of the platform's pros and cons, if you haven't time to read the whole FluentU review.
- Teaches grammar and sentence construction from the start.
- Encourages learning naturally through in-context clues.
- Wide variety of supplementary lessons from native speakers.
- Provides transcripts of video lessons for further comprehension.
- Lessons quickly become repetitive.
- Subscription is costly.
- Very little detailed explanation given overall.
- A limited selection of languages.
- Some courses aren’t as good as others.
What is FluentU?
FluentU aims to familiarize its users with their target language by equipping them with the skills needed to form their own sentences right out of the gate. Although it has a limited selection of languages on offer compared to other platforms, it offers English to native speakers of Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.
The programme utilizes in-context clues in the form of images and videos alongside translations to encourage a more natural method of language acquisition. We'll take a look at what this means in more detail in this FluentU review.
What Can You Do On FluentU?
The lessons offered by FluentU largely consist of videos that give you vocabulary and teach you how to construct a sentence with it. The exercises offered in the course lessons are also applied to the video lessons from YouTube, as well as to the flashcards offered. While the exercises themselves don’t vary much, they’re quick and effective at reinforcing what you learn.
FluentU courses focus solely on teaching you grammar points, using words as building blocks to get you to form sentences. The courses use images to help you learn through context, rather than simply telling you the translation. Hovering over a word in the example sentences will also give you images, even if you haven’t learned that word yet.
Occasionally, the course will give you a grammar tip, but more often than not the courses rely on your ability to recognize patterns to learn the content.
In addition to the course lessons, FluentU uses videos from across the Internet and makes lessons out of them. Videos cover just about every topic under the sun in all difficulty levels, so it isn’t hard to find a video that not only teaches you a grammar point but is enjoyable while you do it.
A unique feature of the video lessons is the transcript feature, which allows you to hover over individual words, as you can in the course lessons, to find its meaning, as well as improve your listening comprehension.
Flashcards in FluentU are probably the closest to the type of lesson you’d see in a traditional classroom. It’s a great way to learn large quantities of vocabulary at once, all reinforced at the same quick pace as the regular course lessons and the video lessons. Flashcards focus strictly on vocabulary and phrases, though, so you won’t be learning any grammar in this section.
Track Your Progress
Like many language learning apps, FluentU uses a points system to help you track your progress. When starting a language course you’ll be asked to choose your daily goal. Every lesson will give you points based on accuracy, and you’ll work toward your daily goal to keep up your streak.
What Does FluentU Look Like?
Whether you use the desktop or mobile version of the programme, the FluentU interface is very streamlined and easy to navigate.
The dashboard allows you to access your lessons, clearly states what content you’ll learn in each lesson, and displays your progress. A handy feature is that the progress display changes colour when it’s time to review that content. This helps you retain what you’ve learned even as you build upon the foundation and get further along in your language journey.
If you need to check up on your daily goals or access the other tools FluentU offers, all of that is readily available right on the front page.
Who Is FluentU Best For?
Because the programme focuses more heavily on teaching by example rather than by way of detailed explanation, FluentU relies heavily on its users’ ability to infer and recognize patterns to learn. For that reason, it’s not exactly beginner-friendly for first-time language learners.
For those looking for something a little more in-depth than, say, Duolingeo or Memrise, however, FluentU is an excellent next step in the language learning process.
What Languages Does FluentU Offer?
Currently, FluentU offers ten languages.
The selection of languages is limited in comparison to other language programmes. However, FluentU offers English for native speakers of Spanish, Japanese, and Korean. This is something that sets it apart from the crowd.
There is one major caveat: not all languages offer official FluentU courses. Korean, Russian, Portuguese, and Italian only have lessons from YouTube videos, and no actual grammar lessons available.
How Much Does FluentU Cost?
FluentU offers its users a 14-day free trial of its premium version, allowing full access to all of its content. You will need to input a method of payment when signing up. However, it won't charge your account until the end of the free trial period.
A monthly subscription of FluentU runs you $30 per month, totalling $360 for the year. If you choose an annual subscription, you’ll pay $240. This saves you four months off of the yearly cost of the monthly subscription.
What Are The Pros and Cons of FluentU?
- Teaches grammar and sentence construction from the beginning.
- Encourages learning through context clues rather than rote memorisation.
- Wide variety of supplemental lessons from native speakers.
- Provides transcripts of video lessons for additional comprehension.
- Lesson activities and quizzes quickly grow repetitive.
- Subscription is costly, and no lifetime access option available.
- Very little detailed explanation given overall, requiring you to learn through inference and pattern recognition.
- Limited selection of languages offered in comparison to other programmes.
- Not all languages are equal in terms of the quality of lesson content
Are There Any FluentU Alternatives?
FluentU vs Babbel
Babbel is an alternative to FluentU that offers a similar grammar-focused approach. However, it also offers learning tools in the form of games and activities. It goes into further depth than FluentU and offers more language lessons.
Check out our review of Babbel to learn more about the platform.
FluentU vs Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone focuses on a natural method of language acquisition by way of providing images to match up with vocabulary. It is famous for its strict adhesion to teaching only in the target language, and it offers a much wider selection of languages.
Our ultimate review of Rosetta Stone will give you more information.
FluentU vs Duolingo
If you’re looking for a solid free alternative to FluentU, Duolingo is always a solid choice. While it doesn’t go as in-depth into grammar and sentence construction, it does give some grammar tips and conjugation tables in addition to the games and activities.
Check out our review of Duolingo, here.
A Round-Up of Our FluentU Review
With its focus on grammar and sentence construction right from the very beginning, FluentU is a step above some of the other, more popular language learning apps on the market in terms of achieving actual fluency. The programme can get you holding basic conversations in a matter of a couple of days. That's provided you supplement with some additional vocabulary study.
However, the elephant in the room is that while FluentU teaches you what works, it doesn’t exactly teach you why it works. You have to figure out grammar patterns and pronunciation on your own, which may put new learners off. Its hefty price tag may also have you looking elsewhere.
If you’re serious about becoming fluent, but don’t have the option of taking classes, then FluentU is a viable alternative. At least to get you a solid foundation in your target language.
Ori Starling is a writer, editor, and translator based out of the United States. Their interest in languages began over 25 years ago, teaching themselves Spanish at a young age from tapes so that they could speak with family. Since then, they've studied Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese, with plans to continue their lifelong language learning journey.