51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2013
Prior to coming across Fluenz, I have been using, at one time or another, the following language-learning software programs to learn how to speak, read, and write German: Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, and Rocket German.
This program wins hands-down over its competition. Why do I believe this? Read on!
Unlike Rosetta Stone, whereby you are essentially using glorified flash cards to assemble sentences that will do little for you in your day to day dealings [I.e. "The cats are large", "The sky is blue"], with Fluenz, you are actually learning usable phrases and terms. In time, you see patterns amongst the sentences and can form you own. Yes, you will learn a LOT of vocabulary words from Rosetta Stone, but no sense of sentence structure, usage of the German noun articles and how they are applied and when.
Pimsleur, to some extent, helps you detect patterns in sentences as well, but good luck on those articles I mention [i.e. den, das, die, der, etc..] In Pimsleur's case, you are left to your own devices, for the most part, on why certain words are placed where in the sentence. This is a BIG deal when using the German language, and cannot be overstated. They will give you a crumb every now and then, but Pimsleur is counting on you to discover the patterns on your own, without understanding the WHY.
Rocket Languages gives you a dialogue scenario, and dissects it for you, line by line. You are to repeat the phrases [provided you pause the program - as the instructors speak very very fast] and for the most part, again left to your own devices to figure out the nuances.
Fluenz, on the other hand, uses a more personable approach. The lessons are provided in a video format, followed by intense exercises called workouts. Do these two or three times, and you are likely to have all the material down pat. Another nice thing is that Fluenz [like Rosetta Stone] reinforces the material in different formats [i.e. written, spoken, visual and audio], but in a manner that reinforces the key points of the lesson that was in the video. Key points are not necessarily focused on new terms [although you DO get to learn new words with each lesson], but most important, the nuances that are so important to understand in order to effectively speak, read, and write German.
Ease of Learning:
Rosetta Stone, with their flash card approach, in my opinion, is pretty easy, but gets pretty boring pretty quickly. Not being able to apply your new found words in a practical situation makes it pretty tedious and works against you.
Pimsleur arguably gives you a lot of bang for the buck, but the hardest to learn from, especially if you do not thrive on audio-based instruction. You will learn many words and phrases in a relatively short amount of time. The program is ingenious, to an extent, but given that it is strictly an audio program, with no visual cues, nothing anecdotal to enhance your enjoyment, it can be downright tedious at times. I really had to drag myself up so get myself through Pimsleur I, II, and III. I'm glad that I did it, but it was really a test of wills at times.
Rocket German is probably the most humorous of all four, peppered with tongue-in-cheek humor. And having a written transcript of the lesson was very helpful. Arguably, it may be the simplest to learn from amongst the others, but then again, if you cannot establish patterns in the dialogue in which to build upon, what's the use? Again, you are merely memorizing and translating dialogue, without necessarily understanding the sentence structure. There is supplemental material on their webpage to accompany said lessons [and somewhat helpful at that]. But this is the core of their program - memorization.
The Fluenz program was relatively easy to adapt to, as they use a linear format and each lesson builds upon what you have learned previously [like Pimsleur]. But the personable approach, via video, as well as the workouts makes it easier for you to learn the German language.
Fluenz is not without its issues. It has been said that one's strength can also be its weakness, and in the case of Fluenz, one may say that this applies as well. Should a video have had errors in it [i.e. mispronunciation], you will know right off the bat, because there are little gaps here and there. In the case of the German instructor, she butchers some English words as well as she clearly reads off cue-cards.
For me, like another reviewer echoed, this is not a deal-breaker. I can still tell what the instructor is trying to convey, and the lessons are excellent in themselves. You can tell a lot of time and effort was put into the instructional portion of the lessons. Besides, she speaks far better English than I do German, no doubt about it. I would rather have the video lessons forsake clean production in the interest of accuracy, and these guys strive for it.
Second, it really would be nice for Fluenz to develop a smaller, downsized version of their program for a portable device, such as the iPad. True, they do provide you with podcasts and flashcards, but they are not as effective or convenient as the Rosetta Stone offerings.
But one has to remember that this is a relatively small company, with limited resources, and the main product is what you are going for.
Finally, some will be off put by the cost of the program, on par with Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. But in hindsight, had I known this was around at the time I purchased Rosetta Stone, I would have saved my money and bought Fluenz instead. Pimsleur is effective in its own right [again, if you thrive in an audio-only based environment], but pretty costly for just audio files. Rocket Languages is the cheapest of the lot, far cheaper, in fact, but again, basically memorizing dialogue and getting a chuckle or two in between.
For myself, Fluenz's program makes learning German [as much as it can be!] actually fun to learn, while providing you with a solid foundation on how the language is used properly. I found myself plowing through the lessons, as I couldn't wait to go onto the next one after completing the previous one. A program that can generate that level of enthusiasm only makes it easier to learn from.
I hope you found the above helpful. If you have any questions, I will check the comments section from time to time.
63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2012
First of all, I have to say that I have had experience with both Rosetta Stone and now Fluenz. They are both excellent products, but I have found that Fluenz is definitely the more usable of the two. This is primarily due to Fluenz's majorly different approach to learning a language.
Rosetta Stone is concerned with the concept of immersion. However, the downfall is that true immersion is impossible because most of us aren't surrounded by the foreign language we are trying to learn on a daily basis. Furthermore, while I have found Rosetta Stone to be excellent for learning vocabulary, it fails in many ways to teach the grammar concepts without producing major frustration. This is because there is no "teaching" application. They simply throw the language at us, in a sort of trial-by-fire manner. While this works to an extent, in the long run, I was finding myself becoming increasingly frustrated and less willing to continue my lessons.
This teaching aspect is where Fluenz shines, however. In the beginning of each lesson, a native speaker of the language you are trying to learn explains all vocabulary and grammar that the particular lesson plans to tackle. This teaching episode is followed by exercises that truly make you think about how the language is put together, rather than expecting you to mindlessly repeat what has been previously said to you. This leads to a confidence in forming your own sentences, and puts you on a faster track towards being able to actually speak the language!
Acutally, I found that after just a few lessons, I was able to form complete sentences on my own, utilizing combinations that I had not been taught. This was very exciting for me, since after a couple months with Rosetta Stone, I was still timid about trying to form any sentences on my own, even though I felt very confident about the vocab.
Granted, Fluenz does have its issues to work out. As stated in some reviews, there are mistakes and stutters in the lessons that Fluenz didn't remove. Really, this isn't a deal-breaker for me, but it is an occasional annoyance. It makes the product come across as a little bit sloppy, and when paying this much money for something, it really should be almost perfect.
Another small annoyance is that in some of the lessons, the program becomes very picky about accepting answers. This wouldn't bother me, especially since I have the wonderful "challenge-mode" activated. However, sometimes the program won't let you continue simply because you've used a comma instead of a period and a new sentence. It's just a small thing, but it can get rather irritating sometimes.
Overall, I have been extremely impressed so far with Fluenz's approach, and I would definitely recommend this program over Rosetta Stone for those who are truly interested in becoming fluent, or even conversational, in a foreign language. By truly teaching the grammar concepts, as well as their excellent exercises that really nail down those concepts along with the vocab, Fluenz is hard to beat as a home-alternative to a formal language learning class.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2014
I took three years of German in high school--over 40 years ago. My wife and I are planning to go to Germany and Austria next fall, so I thought I'd brush up on (more like relearn) my German. I was just planning to get some sort of app for my iPhone, but my wife got me the five-disk Fluenz program for Christmas instead. And I'm very glad she did.
I'm close to finishing the second level, and will probably be starting on the third disk in a little over a week. So far, I've found the program to be very professionally done, and most importantly, it works. I'm learning German again. One of my biggest concerns was whether I'd be able retain the material. At 60 years of age, my brain isn't the sponge it used to be. But I'm happy to report that all the vocabulary, noun genders, grammatical intricacies and other myriad details are actually sticking. Fluenz presents the material in a way that's easy to understand, and then reinforces what you've just learned through a series of drills and workouts. And material learned in one session gets repeated and reinforced in later sessions.
One of the things that really sets this program apart from other language programs I've looked at is its emphasis on learning German grammar. Rather than simply having you repeat and memorize stock phrases, Fluenz teaches you the rules of German grammar so that you can construct phrases of your own. I really like this approach, although it may not be for everyone. German grammar is very complex, and some may find it daunting. But for those who are analytically minded--folks who like to understand why you use den rather than der in a particular context--Fluenz is definitely the way to go.
Why only four stars? Because it's not perfect. There are errors here and there. Not a lot, but a few. If I could give it 4.5 stars, I would.
Update: My original review was written in early February, 2014. It's now mid-August and I'm halfway through the fifth and final disk. My opinion of Fluenz German hasn't changed. I give it 4.5 stars. If you want to learn German, and you want to understand German grammar, Fluenz is the way to go.
Final Update: It's now mid-October and I finished level 5 last week. Now I'm just doing some reviewing in preparation for our trip to Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria next month.
I stand by my earlier comments, but wanted to add some final thoughts. First, it felt like level 5 just sort of stopped without coming to any sort of natural ending. It felt less like I'd come to a conclusion than it did like I'd canceled my subscription. Lots left uncovered. For example, nothing really about the imperative or subjunctive voices. But, in fairness, I'm sure there's only so much that can be covered in a 5-disk program. And I think Fluenz's choices of what to cover and what to leave out were good ones for the most part. (Although I really think a lesson on the imperative voice would have been helpful.)
One other final comment: Fluenz's name notwithstanding, this program will not come close to making you fluent. I very much doubt that any computer program can do that. For that, I really think you need to find a way to immerse yourself in the language for a substantial period of time. What Fluenz does do, though, is give you a very solid foundation to build upon. And I also suspect that it gives you a sufficient working knowledge of German to get by very well as a tourist in German-speaking countries. I guess I'll find out next month!
Postscript: Thought I'd add a few lines about how the trip went. The good news is that I had no problem making myself understood. Indeed, my speaking skills seemed to be good enough that I managed to convince most of the German speakers I talked to that I could actually speak German. Problem was, they'd then respond with a string of full-speed, take-no-prisoners German, to which my typical response was a dazed look, followed by some sort of apology about not understanding. Most conversations then pretty quickly switched to English.
In short, although I was very well prepared to speak German, I was far less well prepared to understand it. But I don't fault Fluenz for this. I fault myself for paying too little attention to the receiving side of the equation. So, for those of you thinking about using the Fluenz system, make sure you spend plenty of time with the provided audio CDs, and use whatever other means you have available to improve your listening comprehension skills. I know I will before I go back. And I will go back.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2012
I lived in Germany for seven years and came back with a big vocabulary, but no understanding of the grammer. Even enrolled in a Volkshochschule class and didn't get it. I just finished Fluenz German 2, and am so excited about what I've learned--from the very first lesson I've been saying, "I never knew that!" and Mein Kopf tut weh from slapping my forehead so much.
Last night I even attempted reading some Grimm's fairy tales, and was amazed and thrilled at what I understood.
The program is just brilliant. After the dialogue and the tutorial and some matching you start translating English into German by reading the English and typing in the German translation. After that, you hear the German and must type in what you hear. The sentences build here, but with each round there's something new to consider. By the end of each of these segments, you're listening to usually two sentences in German. I'm not a kid anymore, so I have to think in German to remember it--if I even TRY to translate it, it's gone. At the end of each lesson are some sentences to repeat. I try to say them with the program to build up my speaking speed.
Another nice thing about Fluenz is the on-line flashcards. When I've struggled with a concept (like dative case), I work through an hour or so of the flashcards and start to see the patterns.
Yes, there are a few errors--at times they can be pretty hilarious, like when they accidently give you the German word, instead of the English one; it's obvious that Nora the tutor is not a teacher, but a German speaker who is reading through the script. But hey, if I could speak German like she speaks English, I'd be delighted.
Like another reviewer, I didn't have an access code from Amazon, but the folks at Fluenz took good care of me.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2012
I have enjoyed fluenz German levels 1-5. I did not receive the activation code so I had to call fluen themselves, because Amazon could not help me with that. Fluenz was pretty friendly and pretty helpful and I had the code within a couple of days. I have noticed a lot of uncorrected errors in the videos. The instructor messes up fairly frequently and they never refilled the scene. I found this a little surprising due to the cost of the product. Another feature I don't like is always having to hit the next button when listening to a dialogue you have to click sentence by sentence to get through it rather than listening to the conversation as a whole. Overall I would recommend it, but it does not deserve five stars.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2014
I am a language enthusiast, picking up little bits of language as I go, but I was really wanting to learn another language actually in-depth after getting to an intermediate level of French. I actually ordered French first, but realized it was mostly below my level and definitely too slow for me considering I had taken French for many many years. So sadly I returned it, determined to buy another program when I got the chance.
I started with German (and loved it so much that I have moved on to the Spanish). I am now towards the end of Level 2 and just came back from a trip to Germany. My German friends were commenting on how good my accent was and were astonished that I could learn all this from a computer without physically being in a German class. I actually also knew enough grammar that they were quizzing me on putting together more and more complex sentences. I also easily asked for directions, ordered food at restaurants, and noticed patterns and similarities in the words that surrounded me (on menus, advertisements, etc). I noticed the repetition really helped, because certain sentences just fell out of my mouth without me even thinking about it. So needless to say, Fluenz has definitely helped my everyday language skills in German, and I can't wait to finish all five levels and test it out again in a German-speaking country!
Here are some things I love about Fluenz:
- The dialogue at the beginning - which at first you miss a few words but by the end you become an expert at that kind of scenario! You can see the dialogue without subtitles, then with German subtitles, then with German and English.
- The explanations in ENGLISH. I actually find it easier to learn a language by learning grammar - ie learning why we put together words the way we do. And I think this program does a really good job at explaining things when they need to - I've noticed they've left a few complex explanations until later, knowing it would be easier to grasp later in the program.
- The repetitiveness seems a bit tedious at first, but when you actually go to use German, you realize that you don't even have to think about how to say "menu" or "want" - it just comes out. And I think this is because of the repetition.
- All the exercises are not tedious, you actually have FUN doing this program!
- It is great for complete beginners because they really start with the basic building blocks of the language and work their way up.
- It's actually focused on scenarios that you might encounter when speaking German, things that you use right away when you arrive in a German-speaking country.
- The flashcards are actually great - I kind of neglected them at first but have now really appreciate the extra practice.
- You can access the whole program online now! And it works pretty well.
- There is an AMAZING discount in November/December for people who have already bought the program....making it way too tempting to keep buying languages! (Will be looking at Portuguese next year!)
Some things I don't love or wish they did differently:
- It can be a bit slow, and it really is best if you have covered only a little bit of the language previously. I had studied some Spanish so now when I am doing that course, I feel like I could go a bit faster.
- I wish the dialogue was actually real life people. Or at least that you could see a real-life version of it after you've learned it well. I think that helps with learning a language because you learn how people blend the words together, more natural intonation/accent, etc.
- I didn't mind learning conjugations in school, so maybe this is different than some people - but I wish that they gave us the option at least of having a list of really helpful verbs and their conjugations. Sometimes I found in Germany that there was a really obvious verb (for example, to take) that I hadn't learned yet but would have been really easy to master now that I'm more comfortable in German.
- Sort of with the last point, it would be good if there were "bonus" exercise (maybe on the online section) that went over vocab that you learned a long time earlier - or even adding in a few new bonus words. I get that their whole method is little by little and really cementing it in, but I was ready for a bit more and would have loved that.
- The words and sentences are repeated throughout the exercise, which is totally good as outlined above, but I wish that they were covered in a different order - I found myself simply memorizing what came next and not actually thinking about how to construct the phrase.
- Similar to the first point, I would love more real-life examples - little snippets of dialogues or little videos of someone actually buying a train ticket, for example.
All in all, such a good buy for me and my language hobby. Buying your first set is definitely a chunk of money, but considering what I have spent in the past on in-class language courses (and the fact that this goes with me anywhere, anytime, likely for several years), this is not bad at all. (Plus, this seems to be the going rate for this type of program!)
And in fact, I think this program is much better than in-class language courses! You can go at your own pace, you’re not with other students who are not necessarily at your level, you can do this from the comfort of my own home, and I have the flexibility of taking this with me everywhere and using it likely for a long time. Of course, at some point every student needs some immersion experience and speaking with a native, but this is a great start to your language learning journey.
I'm SO GLAD I chose Fluenz.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2012
I bought this to refresh my German skills. Although I am not a native speaker, I grew up with German grandparents speaking German and I took German in college, so I am familiar with the language. I've used Rosetta Stone in the past and thought I would try this company's system of learning. After about 5 hours of using it, I love it!!
They break each lesson down into sessions that include listening, speaking, and writing. Each session will give you a lesson on the German grammar, how to pronounce the words and use them correctly. Then you will be tested through exercises that allow you to write what is spoken, speak what is spoken as well as match up the German to the English words and phrases you just learned and have learned in the past. When you speak, it will record your speech so you can compare it to the native speakers. It is very comprehensive, meaning it will incorporate past lessons in each new lesson.
My only complaint so far: they do not teach you the informal 'you'. I understand that if you are going to Germany, it is proper to speak to people you don't know in the formal, however, it would have been nice to have been taught both ways. My family looks at me funny if I speak to them using the formal!! Fortunately, I know enough German to know how to conjugate the informal verbs, but for someone just learning German it may be a bit confusing when someone speaks to you in the informal and you've never learned it before.
Overall I am very happy with this Fluenz German learning software. I am liking it more than Rosetta Stone. I used Rosetta Stone years ago and I don't remember being tested in such detail after each session or being able to write your answers. Don't get me wrong, I think Rosetta Stone is good, but I think Fluenz is better.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2012
This is the most effective self-learning tool that I have used -- and, over the years, I have tried different forms of Rosetta Stone, Berlitz, Tansparent Language, Living Language etc. that were good, but not this effective.
If you know a little German, you have to "endure" the slow pace of the early level sessions because each session builds on the earlier session, but you can click through the material you already know relatively quickly. For new material, the repetition and the drills really work. There are also good on-line drills that cover the course material.
The reason for my rating being 4, not 5 stars, is that there were a few errors scattered throughout the version which I purchased, even after I downloaded the updates that are availble on-line.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2012
I had a basic background in German but I hand not used it for years. I then tried Rosetta Stone for work, but it was just a kid's product and it was a waste of time for me. I went through 1+2+3 and got my German going in a short period of time, successfully functioning in work and social situations in Germany starting 4 months later. After a six month break, I just upgraded with 4+5 and I'm again excited. As with all language training, it requires persistence and regularity, but this is encouraging and rewarding in an entertaining way. Cool stuff. So my wife just bought French 1+2+3+4+5 to see what she can do. (She previously did Italian and Vietnamese with Berlitz human trainers, so this will be interesting for her).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2012
I purchased these CDs after years of wanting to learn a spoken second language. I decided on German because I felt like it was a thriving language that I could bring into my workplace. I also am currently taking full-time classes for my Master's degree, so I needed flexibility in the lessons. These lessons are no joke and you will be learning even in the very first lesson. I am hoping to complete one lesson every two days and reviewing on my day off. Already with just three lessons down, I feel confident that I am learning a tremendous amount. I cannot wait to get further in the lessons so I can communicate with co-workers who speak German.