on June 13, 2011
I've been shopping on Amazon since 1999 and have never written a review, because I've never felt especially motivated to. But I've never had as positive an experience with a product as I have with Fluenz French, and I wanted to tell my story.
About a year and a half ago I started dating a girl who was studying for her PhD in French, so obviously that language was her life. When I started thinking about proposing, I decided I wanted to learn French for her and be able to propose in French (with several sentences, not just "will you marry me"). After researching various options I picked Fluenz as my method of learning (the free demo on their website is what sold me). At the time only French 1 & 2 were available, but as they've released extra discs I've added 3-5 to my collection.
Different people learn in different ways, but I can say the Fluenz style worked very well for me. I took one semester of French in college about 7 years ago, but lost interest and quickly lost what I had learned. With Fluenz, I feel like I enjoyed learning more and that the learning "stuck." Rather than being thrown in the deep end and being expected to figure things out for myself, I liked having an on-screen tutor explain grammar rules and vocabulary. I also liked the various techniques used, and I'll get into that more after my story.
As I started approaching the date when I wanted to propose, I had completed Fluenz 1 & 2 and about half of disc 3. I was very happy with how far I had come, but I knew I wasn't quite comfortable with translating and pronouncing a proposal all on my own. So I posted on Fluenz's online message board to ask for help.
This is an excellent time to point out how constantly impressed I've been with Fluenz's customer support and interaction with their customers. Fluenz employees are great about responding to questions, whether about the software or the languages they offer, through email, their Facebook page, or their message board. But I was still amazed and pleasantly surprised when, within a day of my posting, I had received a translation from the co-founder of Fluenz herself (and the on-screen tutor for French 1 & 2), Sonia Gil. Later I even received an audio file from the native French speaker who records dialogue for the software, to help me practice my pronunciation. Fluenz really went above and beyond to help me out.
Fast-forward to this past Saturday - I proposed, and she said "oui!" She was also quite touched and very impressed that I had learned so much French. We want to go to Paris for our honeymoon, and I think through a combination of finishing levels 3-5 and practicing with my now fiancée, I'll be more than comfortable communicating in French.
A little more about my experience with Fluenz: when I was researching various ways to learn a language I settled on Fluenz because I liked their method of teaching through explanation rather than just forcing users to figure out meaning through context. They build on users' understanding of English to explain rules and structure in French. It's been really helpful for me to build a foundation in the grammar and useful vocabulary from the beginning. Plus, I appreciate that the lessons are geared towards learning relevant words and phrases for traveling in France and communicating in French, rather than just generic nouns and adjectives.
The next several paragraphs are a thorough breakdown of the different sections in each session of Fluenz French. It may be more information than you need, but I appreciated knowing what various exercises would be offered for each session before I made my purchase, and I'm hoping you will too. Each disc has 30 sessions. Each session starts with a brief intro from the on-screen tutor, followed by a brief conversation in French. They encourage you to listen to the dialogue three times - once with French subtitles, once with French AND English subtitles, and once with no subtitles at all. I actually prefer listening without the subtitles first, to see how much I can understand, but that's just personal preference. The conversation is followed by a thorough breakdown of the new vocab and structures by the on-screen tutor. This is the most useful part of the program, and the thing that really distinguishes Fluenz from a lot of other language programs out there, because it's a clear explanation of the "rules" and vocabulary of French. I find myself often pausing the explanation to write down notes on all that I'm learning.
Following the tutorial, there's a section where you can hear and repeat each new vocab word/phrase one by one, to practice your pronunciation and train your ear. Next comes a section where you match a phrase in French to its translation in English, followed by an exercise of matching vocabulary words to their corresponding pictures. The next section involves being given a word or short phrase in French and having to type its meaning in English. For all the typing exercises you have the option of enabling a "challenge mode" where you have to get accent marks right in order to advance, and this has been great for helping my memorization of words and accents.
After translating several short phrases, the next exercise is "sentence buildup," wherein you start out translating a word or short phrase, then keep building on that phrase step-by-step until you have a much more complex sentence. I love this exercise, and think it's probably the most useful one for me. It's much more challenging than the matching exercises because you must do all the work yourself - no multiple choice - so it's great for ensuring I've learned all the details and nuances of the language. Because of the challenge, it's also a much more satisfying feeling when I get a complicated sentence right on the first try.
The next two exercises are essentially audio versions of the previous two. You must listen to audio samples of the same words and phrases from before, and write them in French. This is great for training your ear to recognize French, but I sometimes wish they used different phrases than the ones I just translated - at times I'm not so much transcribing what I hear as I am simply remembering what I just wrote minutes before. But I'm happy to say this is really my only complaint with the program.
The next three exercises all refer back to the conversation from the beginning of the session. First, you record yourself recording each line of the dialogue, then play it back to compare it with a clip of the native speaker. Other programs offer voice-recognition software to offer feedback on your pronunciation, which sounds nice, but seeing how iffy the Google Voice app on my phone is at transcribing messages, I'm skeptical as to how well a program could detect and critique the subtleties of accent and pronunciation. Being able to compare my recording to a native speaker's is a good alternative, and lets me really hear the differences and work to eliminate them. The next exercise is similar, but instead of reading the lines one by one you do the conversation as a whole, reading one person's part. And the third and final exercise in this series involves listening to the conversation and writing the dialogue in French.
On some sessions, the next section involves being given a question in French (for example, "what do you want to drink?") and three choices for answers, also in French. You must choose which answer is appropriate and applies to the question. This section appears in only about half of the sessions; in the other half it is skipped.
The next exercise is another matching exercise like the one towards the beginning, but with new phrases this time. After several rounds of matching, the final section involves listening to several phrases in French to work on pronunciation. You can repeat them as many times as necessary to refine your technique. Once you're done with this exercise, there's a brief conclusion video.
As you can tell, there's a pretty good mix of different types of exercises - matching, transcription, manual translation, pronunciation work - which helps provide a full coverage of all the facets of learning a language - reading, writing, speaking, and hearing. On Fluenz 1 & 2 I could usually finish an entire session in a little over an hour, because the structures weren't too complicated and I remembered a bit of French from my one semester in college. Once I got into French 3, though, the tutorials got longer to provide more thorough explanations, which is great, because the material has gotten harder as the sessions have delved deeper into the language. The exercises also take a bit longer to complete because they're more advanced. Now I regularly spend 2+ hours on a session. You could probably finish it faster if you're in a hurry, but I like repeating exercises to get full comprehension.
One thing I really like about Fluenz is that they're always actively developing new tools and resources. When I bought my "red box" I figured I was just paying for the software discs and the audio discs that accompany them. Since I made my purchase, though, they've added free podcasts, online flashcards, and the aforementioned message board, which provides interaction with both Fluenz employees and fellow customers. They've also provided free updates to their software and even gave me a steeply discounted price to buy their new products as an existing customer.
In short (though I know this review is anything but short), Fluenz has been an invaluable tool for me and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who learns best through teaching and explanation, rather than "soaking it up" the way we learned English as children. Their software and their support helped me give my fiancée the perfect proposal I wanted. Merci beaucoup, Fluenz!
on December 15, 2010
As I thought about what I would write in this review, I realized I would sound like I worked there, because I have so many complimentary things to say. But the truth is I'm a regular user who has been thoroughly impressed with the product.
First off, Fluenz is fun! I always look forward to a lesson and consider it a treat. The program is filled with jaw-droppingly beautiful photography with background music to set the mood.
In addition, the program is neither dumbed down nor too intense. And, most gratifyingly, as you go through the lessons, old vocabulary and grammar structures are presented to you repeatedly. You get the chance to review what you've learned over and over again, but not tediously so, until the elements become second-nature to you. It's almost as if the creators of the program are reading your mind, and they know just how much of a refresher you need at just the right time.
I will keep this short, but I will finish by saying that the customer service is friendly and first-rate, and the love of languages the Fluenz team has is obvious, which results in a contagious enthusiasm. I've been having a great time with the program and would buy Fluenz 6-10 if such a thing existed.
on December 14, 2010
I selected Fluenz based on the information on their website, after reading reviews of the major language programs. I was preparing for a vacation in Paris, and wanted to be able to communicate rudimentarily. I worked on French 1 & 2 through a four month period and was very surprised at my level of fluency! The DVD program, combined with the audio and podcasts (which I listened to and practiced while commuting) really created a powerful three step learning process. I especially valued, in levels 1 & 2, the focus on the types of situations a traveler or business person would encounter: directions, ordering in a restaurant, numbers, simple everyday dialogues that prepared you to communicate essentials. On a trip to Quebec, I could be understood and I could understand in a variety of situations. The teacher/coach, Sonia Gill, created fun and informative tutoring session on the DVD, as well as informal practice and discussion on the podcasts, and more formal exercises in the audio component. It may sound silly, but I really looked forward to the tutorials and felt like Sonia was a helpful friend. When French 3 was issued I immediately ordered, and have been working through the sessions which are certainly more intense and challenging as the material becomes a bit more complex. I have French 4 & 5, and will be moving on to those levels in the coming year. The tutor for French 3 through 5 is a native French speaker, and while I occasionally miss Sonia on the DVD, Caroline is just as effective and pleasant. I definitely recommend French 1 & 2 for travelers who may want to learn enough of the language to get by on a single vacation to a Francophone area, and once you experience Fluenz 1 & 2, you will no doubt be inspired to carry on your learning with 3,4 & 5. It is certainly more economical to buy the entire program up front. On my vacation in Paris, the work I did through Fluenz was totally rewarded when, after ordering for our table, a Parisian waiter complimented me on my French! Merci beaucoup, Fluenz!
on December 5, 2010
I like Fluenz as much as a finely cooked gourmet meal. Ultimately, the requirements to learn a language as subtle, complex, and beautiful as French are not that far from what makes for great French cooking. First of all, a chef who knows not only the language, but all the ingredients, proportions, and temperatures that make it unique. Sonia Gil in the first levels and native Parisian Carolyn Janin afterwards, are true masters when it comes to showing how French works, and how English-speakers should best approach its many nooks and crannies.
To me Sonia is the Julia Child of French learning--someone not French who could see, unlike anyone before her, how to make the language intelligible to everyone else. Someone as passionate and knowledgeable as anyone about everything French, but who doesn't lose sight of common sense explanations or of the simple tips that bring it all together. Before Julia Child most French cookbooks wouldn't provide exact measurements because people "should know those things." Before Sonia Gil most commercial language learning wouldn't provide explanations since they assumed that "adults learn languages by simply listening to them."
Even today some pretend to sell frozen French food and still call it gourmet. Fluenz's competitors, most notably Rosetta Stone, insist on not explaining anything and even forbid their online tutors to offer any clarifications since the method relies on the strict matching of words and images. Just as with frozen food, the Rosetta Stone method promises vast profits for its makers: French is taught with the same images and the same words as every other language in their catalog, erasing all its beauty and complexity. Not to be eaten under any circumstances!
Let me offer a brief overview of the program. The five levels are organized around individual sessions. The tutor on video introduces each session. After that a conversation offering the day's vocabulary and structures is narrated by native speakers. Then comes the full tutorial. This is the heart of the program, and where the workings and magic of French are unveiled in detail by Sonia Gil and Caroline Janin. But this is just the beginning, because what follows is a beautiful multi-media platform allowing learners to practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking the language. I must say that what Fluenz calls the workouts really offer an incredible opportunity to practice what is learned in a very smart and effective way. The learning process has been threaded so that the progress is deliberate, and every bit of practice leads to another level of complexity. Very soon, indeed almost from the very beginning, one is actually forming real sentences and understanding real conversations.
The five levels start at ground zero. But because Sonia has designed the program to be useful from the first day, you learn enough to be ordering at a cafe on that very first session. For those who have studied French in college or high school, my case, I would say that starting over makes sense because the language can be so challenging. If you want to get all the pronunciation techniques, all the strategies necessary to get your contractions right, and begin the work of conjugation all over again, starting with the first level is the right thing to do. I knew a lot of the words, true, but I really couldn't use them in any way before doing the sessions. Afterwards it all made sense. Working hard toward level 5 will get you to a strong conversational level. You'll have enough structures and vocabulary at your disposal to take your French in many different professional directions, or to enjoy a journey through the countryside. It is true that you won't understand everything, and that every idea that comes to your head won't find its best French interpretation, but you'll be able to hold your own, or ask people to express the same idea with different words. You'll certainly have enough to enjoy many casual tête-à-têtes, and if you did your homework, all in Caroline Janin's beautiful Parisian accent.
In other words, with Fluenz the soufflé will rise, beautifully. Voilà.
on June 12, 2011
One issue with this product - great as it is - is the very strong bias toward travel situations. Not all of us are learning French for that purpose. And in forcing that frame onto all customers, the company makes an otherwise-great product less useful. A product that's advertised as teaching a language should do precisely that - as opposed to teaching it for a particular purpose. This was fine in levels 1-3, but I'm on level-5 right now, and it's still travel-focused.
On specifics: one thing that irritates the heck out of me is the "write the phrase you hear" section. Specifically, the sentences (at least at this level) are very long. Which means that no sooner has your brain recognized one section of the sentence, and begun to write it down, that the recording continues with the rest of the sentence. And you lose track of what you had begun to write down. There's no way to start or stop it at mid point. At that point, it has nothing to do with learning or comprehension - the phrases are repetitions of a translation section earlier in each module, and even things one has translated perfectly without help or trouble become impossible to write down. It's purely about short-term memory. I'm a native English speaker, and I wouldn't even be able to do this in English--holding long sentences in my mind as the recording continues to blather on, and transcribing every word perfectly, without spelling mistakes.
Seems like a design flaw to me. And it's fixable - breaking the phrases down into parts would not, it seems to me, detract from the overall beauty of the program. (And again, despite the flaws, it really is the best learning experience out there).
on October 3, 2011
I'm a bit of an odd case when it comes to language learning. I am a French and American citizen whose family left France when I was almost five years old. We'd go back every couple of years to see family, but English dominated our home life and French was rare (unless I made my mother mad enough). I've taken college classes in French here in the US and consistently run into the following problem: I often intuitively know what is being said to me and have very good pronunciation, but I have virtually no savvy when it comes to constructing my own sentences. I got good grades in introductory French courses because I often could pronounce exercises better than even the teacher, but was frustrated because I knew that I didn't actually SPEAK French well at all.
My brother is in the military and has steeply discounted Rosetta French, so I gave it a very long, very persistent try. It was, to say the least, irritating. You see, I wasn't a five year old trying to learn a bunch of nouns. I was an adult who understands about subjects, predicates, and direct objects. What I needed was to start conversing and learning all the little rules. Rules like when to use bridges (liaisons) to connect the end of one word with the beginning of another, rules for conjugating verbs without getting overwhelmed right off the bat, etc. I gave Rosetta a year. Then, I tried out Fluenz Spanish F1 and was really impressed by the approach. I bought Fluenz French F2 1-5 as soon as I could afford it and am on lesson 26 of Level 1. At this point, I'm breezing by in terms of vocabulary (not just nouns, but articles, pronouns, and verbs, no doubt due in part to having spent time in France and taken some classes), but I am really impressed by the exercises and the audio components.
Sonia has a detectable (non-French) accent, but she has really done remarkably well at figuring out tough French idiosyncrasies like that elusive "r." And whoever the men and women who do the exercises are, they are, so far as I can tell, really French (not from Quebec, I usually can tell that twang a mile away). The pacing is great, the rules--and exceptions--are well-explained, and you start to build a momentum. I am currently doing a session a day, six days a week. You could split up a session over several days, and Fluenz remembers where you left off so when you come back, simply click to resume. It doesn't grade your scores or have different profiles, but frankly, I don't mind. You get a "click" when you're right and a "salt shaker" when you're wrong, and believe me, you will get to the point where you demand the former and will redo the exercise multiple times so that you don't get the latter. Something about learning sentences right away makes the progress so much more visible than just knowing 200 disconnected nouns. The reason? You sound like you have a brain when you speak in a sentence. You sound like your brain is handicapped in some way when all you can do is point at something and say what it is. I have highly recommended Fluenz to several interested parties and will continue to do so. I would love it if the Fluenz team would put together either a Modern Standard Arabic or Egyptian Colloquial Arabic series. Rest assured I would be first in line. Keep up the excellent work, and merci beaucoup, mes amis!
on November 6, 2011
I purchased Fluenz 1-5 as soon as it came out last November 2010. I had done extensive research between Fluenz and Rosetta Stone, and decided on Fluenz for a number of reasons. I've now had the product for almost exactly 1 year. I had been meaning to write a review for some time, but my recent contact to Fluenz's customer service department regarding an issue reminded me of their superiority to Rosetta Stone in every way.
First, Fluenz's customized teaching approach for the nuances of each language is far superior to Rosetta Stone's 'cookie cutter' approach. I tried a friends version of Rosetta Stone, and realized that as an adult, we need explanations to 'why' things are a certain way. With Rosetta Stone, you're completely lost as to why and when to use certain pronouns or exceptions. You could spend the entire time not knowing which to use or why things keep changing. With Fluenz, the instructor explains these exceptions and nuances in English in a way that makes sense. Bye the end of 10 minute tutorial explanation, you're like "Oh, I get, it, that makes perfect sense". As an adult, simply understanding the logic behind the why and when, allows your practice to be incredibly more productive (as opposed to just guessing with Rosetta Stone). Furthermore, Fluenz's website forum for members (free access to anyone who buys Fluenz) is incredibly helpful. You can ask them any question (like, I still don't get the direct vs indirect pronoun thing), and they answer. It's like having experts to support you along your language learning journey. They are also constantly innovating, like creating beautiful flashcards for the iPad (can also be used on the computer). New learning tools and features like these are all still free if you purchased Fluenz originally.
Secondly, and somewhat even more importantly, is Fluenz's customer service and software philosophy. Fluenz works both for Mac and PC's. I had installed Fluenz 1-5 on my MacBook last year. Apple recently came out with their new operating system, OS X Lion, which I upgraded to. After upgrading, my Fluenz no longer worked. I went to Fluenz's website, and noticed that they had updates available for download that were Lion compatible. I downloaded them, and everything worked perfectly. A couple months later, I bought a new Mac, and therefore wanted to install Fluenz on it to continue my lessons. Because the install disks were pre-Lion, I was not able to install on the new computer using the disks. Since I was in needing to completing re-install, rather than just upgrade, I contacted Fluenz. They answered the phone promptly, and gentleman I spoke to was phenomenal. No questions asked, he mailed out to me 5 new disks, which were brand new and would install on my new Mac with Lion. They took my word for it, and didn't ask me for my original old disks back. Two days later, I received the brand new and updated Fluenz disks which installed flawlessly; Fluenz didn't even charge me for shipping.
This second point is what really differentiates Fluenz from Rosetta Stone. What many people don't know, is that Rosetta Stone's licensing agreement is almost criminal. You pay $500 for their product, but you are basically only renting it. You can only install it on two computers, and cannot sell it to anyone else ever...even though you legally bought it. Furthermore, my friend contacted Rosetta Stone because she had installed it on two computers, but one recently died. She was unable to re-install Rosetta Stone on her new computer. She called Rosetta Stone's 'customer service' and reached someone in India. Basically, after spending a half hour trying to get over the language barrier as English was obviously not the phone rep's primary language, she was told she had already used up her two licenses. She explained that she was still the original purchaser, and that her one computer had crashed, so she needed that license freed up so she could install on her new computer. No such luck. Despite spending $500 for the product, and being a customer, they left her out to dry. Now, if her other computer dies, her Rosetta Stone will be completely unusable as they won't allow her more licenses to install on more than those 2 original computers. It's a completely asinine philosophy, especially considering computers become outdated within a few years and many need to upgrade. Rosetta Stone treats you like a criminal (like you're trying to get away with something), when all you're doing is simply trying to use the product you purchased from them. Fluenz treats you like a customer, and bends over backwards to make sure you are completely satisfied (even a year after you're original purchase).
In summary, I cannot recommend Fluenz enough. The product is far superior to anything I have ever used, and they stand behind their product with stellar customer service even after you make the purchase. I already loved Fluenz and their product, but after my experience with them a year after purchase, I will now be a customer for life. When I'm done with French, and want to learn another language (possibly Italian because we love Italy almost as much as France), I'll definitely be giving Fluenz all my future business. Go with Fluenz, you won't regret it!
on December 6, 2013
I cannot commend this program enough.
I've owned it for about 3 years now (purchased it direct from fluenz in 2010). I've made it so far to the beginning of level 4.
Some background: I studied french for 2 years in high school but didn't take it seriously and learned very little. I have a few friends who went the distance in high school and studied it for the full 5 years they could in middle school/high school. I can tell you now after this program I speak French better than my friends who have studied it for 4+ years in high school. Which is a bit sad, might partially be the teacher's fault, but makes this program look all the better. I have also shocked my close friends who speak french fluently with the leaps and bounds I've made with my french in a very short amount of time.
For those who want a comparison of this program to Rosetta Stone... Rosetta stone is good for expanding your vocabulary. RS will not go over the critical grammar you need to know in order to speak French fluently. French grammar is very complicated and confusing (easily the hardest of all romance languages, if you want a less difficult language I would probably go with spanish..) and you NEED a thorough explanation of it. Rosetta stone will not provide this for you. For this reason I do not think anyone can learn French from Rosetta stone alone. Rosetta stone also starts you off on things like "the house is blue"... "the table is white"... These phrases are not useful for people who want to travel to French speaking nations as tourists. Fluenz starts you off with useful phrases such as "my name is..." "where is the train station?" Rosetta stone, in my opinion, is a glorified dictionary. However being that the advanced language programs are few and far between in its own way it can be useful.
By all means if you have the money purchase both programs. Fluenz is a little lacking in vocabulary. But grammar is harder to grasp and more important. Vocabulary is something you can expand as you go along. If I was to rate rosetta stone I would give it a 3/5 stars but fluenz is an easy 5/5 stars for me.
If you take language learning seriously this is the software you want to buy. I have taken college level courses for Spanish and I think buying these CDs are more valuable because unlike a class you can play the information over and over again to your heart's content. I would actually recommend this program over taking a college course.
I'm not being paid any money to write this I am just a huge advocate of this program as someone who loves travel and language learning. If you are someone who wants to learn french purely to enjoy France more if you are planning a trip, I'd probably recommend you purchase levels 1-2 and stop there. I recommend this program to anyone who seriously wants to learn a language. I think this program is worth every penny it costs. It is BY FAR the best language learning software currently on the market.
Fluenz also has stellar customer service. I recently updated my macintosh to OS X mavericks from snow leopard. I contacted the company about replacement discs to run on the new OS and they responded very quickly (less than a day) and had new discs shipped to me within 3 days free of charge to me. So I'm a bit confused about people in reviews saying they had a poor experience with their customer service because to me their customer service is the best I've experienced.
on October 8, 2013
I recently finished all 150 lessons of Fluenz French (1 - 5)
After French 5:
-- I am quite impressed with my reading and writing ability. I can compose fairly complex sentences with a high degree of accuracy (although prepositions--which to use and when to use them--are sometimes still tricky.) I'm comfortable with the basics of French grammar. I've recently begun correspondence with some native French pen pals, and they have all told me my French is understandable--I'll take it!
-- I am rather frustrated with my listening skills. This is not a fault of the software--you're getting a basic foundation. There is no substitute for practice. I can understand much of a French newscast with its straightforward structure and clear topics, but I find movies almost impossible--fast, subtle, fluid and idiomatic. I can only guess at this point, but I think I'd be OK with an actual conversation--gestures, obvious topics and the opportunity for repetition and word choice changes.
-- I don't know how good my speech is. This is the weakest part of the software. You can record your speech and play it back, but you are the only judge--and of course you know what you wanted to say. I can't imagine any software being efficient at this, so again I don't blame the software. (Check out Gabriel Wyner's YouTube French Pronunciation video--this is excellent.)
My voyage through the software:
-- The customer service is excellent--responsive and courteous.
-- At first it's super fun and super easy. However, it becomes like school after a while--not necessarily unfun, but no longer a game. This is actual, quality French instruction. The learning itself is the primary reward. For example, I got tremendous satisfaction translating a long, complex English sentence on the first try.
-- In French 1, I was able to do two lessons a day when I was on vacation. It's pretty easy and it's the honeymoon phase. You will need your own internal motivation to get past French 1. I soon was down to one a day (still pretty good) and then by French 5, well... it took a while. It's not that it's that much more difficult, it's just more of a grind.
-- During the lessons themselves, I enjoyed going at my pace (which is usually fast, but not always.) I often found a classroom environment annoying. Too many students needing individual attention. Too much repetition. Too many laundry lists of vocab. Here you get what you need in digestible chunks with many changes of pace.
-- Sonia's accent did not bother me. Although now that I'm used to native Caroline since French 3, I might be mildly annoyed if I went back to 1 and 2. Both instructors are bright, articulate, and motivating. I'm pretty sure they love doing what they do. Highly recommended.
-- The lessons felt integrated with each other, always building on each other. Just when I might have forgotten something, I'd see it at some future point and say, "oh, yeah, I remember that." Eventually, it sticks. The entire course feels perfectly laid out.
-- I, personally, would not have felt ready to travel in France after French 1 , 2 or even 3. It's not the quality of instruction, it's the confidence in and the versatility of my French I felt I had at those points. Now, after French 5, I think I could fumble my way around without resorting to English if I had to. I think it's all or nothing--get all 5 levels and do all 5 levels.
-- The software does not cover all the verb forms, but you will be surprised how flexible you can be with what you do learn (present, future, past, imperfect, and various shades within those (just having done something, in the middle of something, feeling like doing something.)) If you want more, check out something like Barron's "French Verb Workbook"--I'm using it now, and I'm surprised at how confident I am going through it, to which I credit Fluenz.
Good luck in your studies.
on December 18, 2011
6 Months ago after a family vacation to Bogota, Colombia, I decided that I would learn Spanish and bought the Fluenz 1-5 Spanish. My wife had Rosetta Stone French and was frustrated by the generic approach and the voice recognition system not recognizing anything - at the suggestion of others, she even recorded the Rosetta speaker and played it back into the microphone and it would still say she was wrong. Because of this, she was not making gains in learning French and I had no desire to use any Rosetta Stone product.
After my experience with Fluenz Spanish, my wife wanted me to buy her Fluenz French. After three months of the flashcards and podcasts at the Fluenz website (free for users of Fluenz software) and Fluenz 1-5 (she's on level 3) my wife is able to have basic conversations with a native French speaker - there are online language groups to skype with people wanting to practice languages. As a side bonus, my 10 year old began working with Fluenz and is making good progress also.
As other's have mentioned the course is biased for travelers, which is what we are, but we still believe that the course will introduce you to enough basic situations that no matter the goal, you will gain the confidence to speak - which is the key to fluency.
What we have both found helpful is to listen/read what is presented on the screen, say what is on the screen, listen/read again, and type text, then speak a final time before moving to the next drill. The more you speak with the exercises, the faster you will learn.
We also try to complete every lesson at least twice to "over-learn" the material. The flashcards at the Fluenz site are very helpful for our over-learning goal because we can repeat the material in the lesson in a random order so that we don't accidentally memorize the order of phrases and quit learning.