503 of 509 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2008
After working for several months with Rosetta Stone I decided to give Fluenz a try. There seems to be a bit of an argument between these two so I figured I could benefit by standing on solid middle ground. Truth is, there is such middle ground, but also both products are opposed to each other in many respects. By this I mean that I have profited from learning with both, but because they are so different. These are the highlights of my experience:
1. Rosetta Stone will bombard you with words, many of them, one after the other. That's their strength. The idea is that you learn words by matching them to pictures. They have technology to recognize your voice, and it works. But you do feel like a child, because many words are irrelevant and a little childish, because you don't understand what's going on beyond the words thrown at you, and the words and images just keep on coming. That's how you start.
2. Fluenz begins with a teacher, Sonya, who explains the whole program, how it works, whats coming next, etc, etc. Half-way through the introduction I just skipped to the first lesson because I wanted to know what it was all about. And what I found is that right off the bat I was coming up with my own sentences, understanding how they worked, and using the verbs with different nouns. First you hear a conversation for which you can see subtitles, then the teacher Sonya come and gives a really good explanation of how it all works, and then you plunge into exercises that gradually take you up in terms of difficulty. Both the teaching and the exercises make the whole thing exciting because you can see the progress right there.
3. Back to Rosetta, the program falters when it comes to actual sentences and phrases. Truth is the matching of images and words is fun and I can go on forever, but when it comes to full phrases I wanted to understand how they were put together. Also the voice recognition technology is for words, not full phrases. On the positive side I kind of like their open-ended thing where there are no lessons per se, no organization beyond what you make up as you go along.
4. Back to Fluenz. I already knew many of the words from having worked with Rosetta, but I was still pretty unclear on how to use tehm, and that's where Fluenz really shines. They explain how the language works and manage to keep you practicing so that your sentences are solid. And I appreciate the confidence of knowing that I'm saying something right, that I know why it's right.
5. And here I think is where both programs have to be judged. Rosetta helped me learn single words but I just didn't really know how to use them to make actual sentences. I could point, say a word, but not a whole lot more than that. With Fluenz I understood how Spanish worked, and so I was able to actually form sentences on my own.
6. Back to my middle ground. Fact is you do learn a ton of words with Rosetta, and that's good. And the fact is that you can really put them together with Fluenz.
170 of 171 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2008
Fluenz Spanish 1+2 Windows, Next-Generation Spanish Language Learning Software
I had high school Spanish more than 50 years ago, but never managed to say anything more complicated than "Where's the bathroom?". I've averaged one lesson per day for the past 19 days since receiving Fluenz and last night ordered, commented on and paid for an entire meal - in Spanish - at a Mexican restaurant.
Fluenz is a little different from other language programs I've read about: There is no formal vocabulary building, no verb conjugation or memorization, no rote anything. Typically, one lesson will concentrate on one scenario: shopping, airports, restaurants, etc. Real world situations. Dialogue will be exchanged between two participants, then your personal tutor, Sonia, will dissect everything. Following Sonia's explanations will be exercises wherein you type responses, match columns of phrases and sentences, and record dialogue (as a conversational participant) into your microphone. It's pretty much effortless if you're willing to put in the time.
Sonia is perfect for the job of tutor; she is personable, accent-free in English and is a native speaker of Spanish.
The screen organization is tasteful and focused; the "beat" music, which I find distracting, can be toggled off.
There is one mis-cue: Some of the columns of Spanish sentences do not match completely their English equivalents. I first regarded this as a minor flaw, but eventually became annoyed that these mistakes had not been caught before finalyzing the program.
Although a microphone is recommended, its use is of marginal importance and whether or not you have one shouldn't be a deciding consideration for or against this program.
If there is one caveat here, it's the importance of being able to touch type accurately and speedily. Although you can toggle off the requirements for correct Spanish punctuation marks, the program does not allow spelling errors. I'm a reasonably fast typist and am typically able to complete a session in something like an hour and a half. I can easily picture a slower typist requiring two and a half hours to do the same work.
Further notes: The spoken portion of the sessions becomes more and more rapid-fire, just as it is spoken by native speakers. I have a substantial hearing loss, and though I am certain that more acute hearing would make it easier to comprehend, even students with normal hearing will find it a challenge to understand some of what some of the conversationalists say (I have my favorite speakers and also those I wish weren't in the dialogues. That, though, is what the real world offers, also.) I do use a high quality set of earphones for the lessons, and with them I am able to comprehend everything, even if it means sometimes having to have a sentence repeated. This is itself a handy program feature.
An on-screen resource, WORDS, provides a nominal sampling of Spanish-English translations keyed to the current lesson. I purchased a good Spanish-English dictionary to supplement it because the program version has so few words and because it does not contain clues to accenting syllables. A good number of written dictionaries have no accent guides, either, so be careful with your selection. Also, if you buy a dictionary be certain both the accenting and the translations themselves are appropriate for the country/region you are interested in.
November 25, 2008
P.S.: Several months have passed since I wrote this review. I took a weeklong trip to South America after working about halfway through the second disk. Thanks to Fluenz I was able to make myself understood in every situation including airports, taxis, shopping and an extended stay at an estancia in Argentina. Unhappily, because of my hearing disability, I was rarely able to understand what was spoken TO me. This in no way reflects badly on Fluenz. I was repeatedly complimented (by my hosts and a party of guests from Costa Rica) on my vocabulary. If there is any final comment here it is that carefully listening to a lesson on good earphones is not the same as dealing with real people in a noisy world.
115 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2007
I'm a native speaker of Spanish but have reviewed this program for several co-workers at a multilateral institution in Washington D.C. Fluenz Spanish 1+2 is a multimedia application that comes in two DVD-ROMs. The material is organized in sessions that are led by a charismatic tutor on full motion video. She does a very good job of explaining the intricacies of Spanish vocabulary, grammar and usage from the point of view of an English-speaker, and in plain English. Each session begins with the tutor's brief introduction, followed by a conversation that contains the material to be worked on, followed by her longer tutorial. These video tutorials present the most effective summaries of how Spanish works I've ever heard. Following the tutorial the program goes on to a series of 13 different kinds of fully interactive workouts. These grow increasingly challenging, and force the user to review the material by writing it, reading it, listening to it, and recording it. These workouts have been beautifully designed with beautiful photographs of Latin America and Spain. Whereas other language learning methods seek to teach languages without any assistance from English, Fluenz's refreshing approach makes for faster learning suited to adults. The systematic comparisons between English and Spanish grammar allow learners to understand structures immediately, and to grasp how key verbs can be easily used in a variety of situations. All the vocabulary taught by the program is relevant, since it has been designed with a traveling adult in mind. Although some might miss learning the Spanish words for tree or for apple, this is more than made up for by the ability to speak to a taxi cab driver, to activate a cell phone, or to figure out if there is hot water at a beach hotel, etc. While the vocabulary is very specific, the program makes a lot of emphasis on the core grammar anyone would have to learn to pursue advanced learning. All in all, I highly recommend Fluenz Spanish 1+2. I believe it will lead to fast, common-sense learning of relevant materials because it has been developed from the point of view of teens and adults traveling to Spanish-speaking countries or wanting to establish a strong foundation for further learning.
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2009
UPDATE 11/11/09 TO ORIGINAL REVIEW BELOW:
Fluenz just provided this f2 update to those of us that purchased the original. I've since gone through the first two disks. Most of my original issues with editing inconsistencies and poor dubbing have been fixed (though, there's still one typo in the first disc that won't accept the correct answer), and now they show you what's in each session and where you left off. Other than those items, everything else in my original review still applies.
I investigated a lot of "Learn Spanish" programs before purchasing this one. I took all of the free demo and sample classes available from each of those I investigated before making my final decision to purchase Fluenz.
The two I ultimately decided I liked best were this one, and Rocket Spanish. For those doing their own comparisons, here's why I chose Fluenz and the upsides, downsides and tips I've found in using it, as well as whether I think it's worth the money:
ROCKET SPANISH VS. FLUENZ:
Rocket Spanish is much cheaper and operates very similiarly. You can take a free weeks worth of courses to see how you like it. Like Fluenz, there's a bite size conversation in each class that an instructor walks you through (though it's all done verbally, no graphics). Rocket conversation classes are interspersed with grammar classes. They can be downloaded to your ipod, and they have a pretty good internet support system.
However, what is lacking with Rocket is the "game like" interactive exercises that reinforce your learning and help you form the building blocks you really need to speak it well, that Fluenz provides so abundantly. Ultimately, I ended up choosing Fluenz because I wanted to be sure (after having previously bought some very dull french programs I couldn't force myself to stick with)that it would engage me enough to want to keep at it each day, and give me conversational skills I could use immediately. Fluenz delivers upon this well!
- As easy and engaging as playing a computer game: Works fine on my memory-challenged vista computer. (Sonya, the instructor, does some weird speaking where her mouth doesn't line up with what she's saying during introductions - but fortunately that doesn't happen when she's actually teaching the classes).
- Built for adults with a focus on getting you to be able to do the fundamentals well! Challenging short exercises that move quickly from one to another.
- Lots of repetition and review of previous material built into engaging interactive exercises that make you constantly improve your pronunciation, writing and memorization of the material.
- Pretty much everything you need for a trip to Cabo or Tijuana, you'll learn in Spanish 1: Spanish 1 is perfect for someone who has never had any spanish. It covers greetings, estar/ser verbs, geneder agreement, basic conversational needs for restaurants, airports, shopping, taxis and getting around. It also covers telling time and numbers from 1-999,999.
- By the end of Spanish 2, you'll be able to hold a pretty good conversation if you practice with real folks enough: Spanish 2 takes you into simple past tense, more complicated phrases, and for some reason, they hold off teaching you the more familiar form of "you" until here.
- Helpful accompanying CD's: CD's that can be loaded on your MP3 Player supplement the classes and are a great way to practice pronunciation. They also often provide a more structured approach to verbs and other issues.
- "The record it, then listen to how it should be pronounced" exercises have been helpful. It's given me more confidence to speak to people. I bought a $9 mic when I bought this - and it works just fine for the purpose.
- Could use a better supplement book:
Arrives in a huge box with expensive packaging and glossy fluenz brochures that don't really say anything. Would have been better applied to developing a guide with an index of what each class covers, some of the basic verb conjugations and a summary of the better key points or tips offered in the classes (e.g. when to use ser vs. estar, a+el=al, adjectives follow nouns...)
- Could use some careful editing!
There's a fair amount of mistakes in the exercises. Occasionally, english translation phrases are missing words they're supposed to have, phrases you hear don't match the written form, and minor inconsistencies abound. For example, an exercise sometimes requires "veinte y dos" and other times "ventidos" before accepting your answer as correct. Other times, it won't accept an answer because you added a space at the end of the sentence. It can get a bit frustrating. (There tend to me more of these in classes at the end of discs. Maybe they thought noone would make it that far!)
- use the F3 button during exercises if you want to hear a phrase, but click the PLAY button if you want to rehear it without erasing what you already have typed.
- On exercises where you match written spanish to written english translations, just look at the english versions and try to translate it before looking at the spanish ones. I found I learned a lot more that way - because the matching was so easy.
- Until Fluenz gets around to including an index or posting one on their website, jot a note as you go through each class on the general things it covered. This will really help if you want to go back and refresh your memory on something without having to wade through multiple classes.
BOTTOM LINE: All that said, and even with the few downsides or enhancements I'd like to see, I highly recommend this program for any adult with little to no spanish ability who wants to be able to hold their own in a conversation relatively quickly, and have the building blocks to grow their Spanish capabilities. Living in Texas, I've had ample opportunity to practice what I've learned and have really been delighted I've been able to both understand and to be understood.
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2008
I come to the table as an "advanced intermediate" speaker of spanish -- i.e. I have taken high school and college Spanish I and II, was never terrific at it, and have forgetten much of what I knew. I am currently working my way through "Spanish 1.2" of this program. Although some individuals with Spanish Language background may find this first disc a little too basic, the tutorials and exercises in the program have really been helpful in rebuilding the fundamentals of the language and bringing me back up to speed.
Each lesson follows the following structure: an introductory dialog followed by a video tutorial with "Sonjia" who outlines the grammar points being stressed for the lesson, followed by exercises w/ repetition which focus on both written and spoken skills. It's a format that underscores Fluenz's overall philosophy that adults learn languages differently than children, and that we do better when we can use our existing English language skills as a point of reference when learning a foreign language. This is a departure from typical "immersion" type programs, but I really find it resonates with how I learn.
The overall interface of the product is pretty straight forward. The program runs as a non-installed program, directly from your DVD drive. (and therefore can't be burned to your computer -- it must be used w/ an optical drive). There are sections which require you to record your voice to insert in dialogs, and the program has no poblems recognizing my fairly ancient Plantronics USB headsite/mic combo. I do have a problem with it being a nonrecognized disk in my laptop, so I only use the program on my desktop computer. To be fair, I have never contacted technical support at Fluenz to try and trouble-shoot the issue. That said, support for the product, seems terrific . . . they sent me out the new version (1.2) of the program in the mail before I even knew an updated version was available!
The program also comes with an audio guide for use in car or ipod. I haven't used this part of the program much, but I think it is a nice additional feature.
In summary, Fluenz Spanish 1 and 2 is an excellent, easy-to-use program that seems really well designed and supported. I just bought one for my parents and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone learning or re-learning Spanish.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2008
I am a Roman Catholic seminarian and my bishop is sending me to Mexico to learn some Spanish. Since I didn't know any Spanish (I've studied French, Hebrew, and a little Latin), I wanted to buy something to help me learn a little before I arrived in Mexico. Boy was I glad when I got this! The lessons are very managable, and I could even go through a couple lessons a day if I worked hard at it and had enough time. After a brief introduction to each lesson, a dialogue is heard between two people using words and grammatical structures pertinent to that lesson. After the conversation, a full explanation is given of all parts of the dialogue, word by word. Then there are several exercises to work through, including translation, reading, and writing. There are thirty lessons in both Fluenz 1 and 2, for 60 lessons total if you buy both like I did.
There are of course many things I do not know and will learn this summer, but at least I can communicate with my host family now and go to the Mass without playing charades...And I think that's the point of the entire program--not that you can write a dissertation, but that you know some things very well and can have some confidence when you venture into a non-English speaking environment. Thanks, Fluenz, for a great product. I am one grateful customer...
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2008
After getting thru the 2nd disk - I'm very unhappy with the number of errors as other reviewers here have reported. I've reported these and Fluenz really should correct these ASAP.
My husband and I have tried to learn Spanish a number of times over the years. We'd start out in a class and end up dropping it partially through the course. We've both stuck with the Fluenz system and learned more in the first few lessons than years of attempting to learn using other methods.
I find the Fluenz method/program actually FUN and look forward to each session. I like to do one a day although they recommend twice a week. (I go back and review lessons too.)
Sitting in a classroom and suffering through listening to several other people reciting and trying to learn Spanish used to drive me CRAZY! Now I have my own personal tutor and I love it!
My husband accidentally messed up one of the disks and it couldn't be played. He emailed the Fluenz folks with our purchase info and problem explanation. We got a replacement disk in the mail 2 days later!
I can't say enough good things about this package. It was money very well spent.
100 of 116 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2008
I purchased this after trying out the free web-based demo. The product seemed to match the way in which I prefer to learn a language, ie, start making sentences right away while simultaneously learning new vocabulary. The exercises themselves are terrific and the "tutor" is great. However, this product has MANY usability issues which, for me, rate this product a HUGE disappointment. For starters, there is no way to run this on just a portion of your computer screen. You are either running Fluenz full screen mode or you aren't, so good luck trying to multitask or monitor any other applications.
Also, there is no way to install this on your PC - you MUST have the DVD loaded in your DVD drive to run the software. Not a deal killer but very inconvenient.
Thirdly, there is absolutely no way to "bookmark" your current location within the lessons. As such, each time you start the software you have to find the lesson number you were last in (and they aren't named, they are simply numbered) and then you need to page through the individual "workout" sections within the lesson to find the last page you left off on. This is very cumbersome and certainly not what I expected given the $300+ price tag of the software.
Finally, the "record" function within the "Speaking" lessons does not work at all on my Vista computer. The microphone installed on the machine (it is a brand new HP) works fine with every other application I have, including some e-media music software. For some reason, Fluenz can't seem to produce the sound from the microphone, even though the software itself is obviously picking up the signal from the microphone as evidenced by the on-screen sound level indicator. Support from Fluenz was completely useless on this - no explanation, no suggestions once they learned that the microphone works just fine with everything else on my PC. So I'm giving up and sending this back for a refund. No point in keeping a language learning product when one of its primary features doesn't even work!!!
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2008
The first thing you notice with Fluenz is that this software looks great - the photos and design are beautiful. I was really impressed with the multiple reinforcement styles that each lesson uses. Listening, reading, typing, repeating, matching, and I think maybe a couple more types of reinforcement; they really do help to drive home the words and phrases that you are learning in the dialog/scenes. The pacing is just right, so that you learn a little, then reuse and build on that in the next lesson. The (pleasant) host uses english and spanish to explain anything that isn't obvious, like grammar, irregularities and idioms. Fluenz is perfect for an absolute beginner, but also great for someone looking to expand and reinforce slightly rusty spanish language skills (like me), because you can move around as you choose, or proceed sequentially through the course.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2007
The best way to check out Fluenz Spanish is to visit their website and see
their demo. If you have the time you can even download a full session, which
won't be fast because the software uses so much video, but will show you how
the program works. Unlike many educational software programs, Fluenz relies
on a teacher who walks you through the material step by step. This
combination of a teacher on video with many interactive exercises to
practice the material means you are getting as much out of a self-taught
course as a computer will allow. The course has an attractive design, and
the material has been carefully paced for solid learning.