FluentU Review: Does Expensive Mean Better?

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7 Total Score
An expensive way to improve listening skills

FluentU is a language learning app that uses a variety of videos, audio samples, and flashcards to help users improve their foreign language skills. Each piece of content includes a transcript and a translation to help learners follow along and learn new vocabulary. It’s a pretty expensive program though, and it doesn’t include any speaking practice.

User Experience
8
Quality of Content
7
Available Features
7
Value for Money
6
PROS
  • Videos are entertaining and recent
  • Helpful to learn useful words and slang
  • Can really improve listening skills
CONS
  • The game-like aspect is distracting
  • Can’t create your own flashcards
  • Focuses on memorization instead of communication
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FluentU is a well-marketed language learning app that has a pretty substantial library of videos, audio clips, and flashcards to help learners improve their comprehension skills. It’s a pretty straightforward platform and is easy to use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most effective. This FluentU review will walk you through how to use the app, its features and costs, and show you some FluentU alternatives.

FluentU logo. FluentU is a great language learning app that uses media from around the internet!

To start, let’s take a look at how to actually use the app. It has a sleek design and a unique interface that makes it stand out from other apps. Its activities and content are pretty standard though. In addition, using FluentU to learn isn’t always the smoothest process, especially with certain languages like Spanish. 

Table of Contents

FluentU App Review: A Step-By-Step Walkthrough

Signing up for the FluentU app is really straightforward. Once you log in to the app, you can review your achievements, browse the content, or study the content you’ve already saved. 

The Achievements page shows you how often you use the app, how many words you’ve learned, how many captions you’ve learned from the videos, and your points.

The achievement screen from the FluentU app

Honestly, I never really checked this screen because the information isn’t that helpful for actually learning a language. If you’re curious to see how you’re progressing in the app though, it’s there for you to look at.

A Review Of FluentU’s Content

The main part of the app is the content. FluentU has a pretty big library of videos, audio, and flashcards for each language. With each piece of content, you have a transcript, a translation, and a list of important vocabulary and phrases. 

The FluentU video content for the Spanish language

A lot of the videos seem to be commercials and advertisements, movie trailers, music videos, or short snippets of video taken from TV shows or other programs. Overall, there’s a pretty wide selection. You can also sort the content by level (beginner to advanced), different topics like business, culture, or politics and society, and format. The formats consist of commercials, how-to videos, interviews, music videos, news, trailers, and more. 

The breadth of FluentU content available can be really helpful for improving your listening skills. However, the actual process of working through the content and learning new vocabulary and phrases can be a little slow and repetitive.

The Language Learning Process with FluentU

The overall design of the FluentU app is pretty easy to navigate, but what matters most is how effectively it can teach you a language. I used the app for a few hours to get a clear understanding of the methodology and technology behind it. Some features were really impressive and helpful, while others seemed like a waste of time.

FluentU introduces the vocabulary of each video before you watch it

When you select a video, you’ll see a description, a vocabulary list of words you’ll hear, and a full list of phrases from the video’s dialogue. There’s no need to study these too much before watching the video though. You see them in real-time as the video plays.

You can see a video transcription and translation of each FluentU video

You can adjust the speed of the video while it’s playing or just follow along at normal speed. One feature I really like about FluentU is that while you’re watching a video, you can tap a word or expression and instantly see its definition, hear its pronunciation, and see a list of other phrases that use it in context. There are also links to other FluentU videos that use the same word or expression. 

A screenshot of how FluentU helps you review vocabulary and grammar within context

Using words and expressions in the proper context can be one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language, and it can also be one of the most embarrassing mistakes to make. I’ve definitely been there, done that, and tried to forget about it!

This feature of FluentU is really useful for understanding how to use certain words appropriately, and it’s not something that most other apps help with. 

Quizzes and Study Tools

After you finish a video, you can take a quiz to review what you learned. You’ll see the words and phrases from the video and you can either add it to your review list or tell FluentU you already know it. If you choose to review the word or phrase, you’ll see more information about it.

A screenshot of a FluentU vocabulary quiz

This screen shows the same information that appears when you click this word or phrase during the video: what the word means, phrases that use it, and an audio pronunciation. 

After you let the app know which words and phrases you need to study, it asks you a series of questions. These questions are pretty similar to most other language learning apps, like Drops, MosaLingua, or the FluentU alternatives listed below. They consist of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, translations, and spelling to test how well you remember the expressions.

A review of FluentU's quiz questions

I didn’t find these quizzes particularly helpful for remembering each video’s content. The questions can be pretty repetitive and finishing the quizzes seems really slow sometimes. You get points for completing the quizzes though, so it seems like FluentU just uses these to enhance the game-like qualities of the app. If you don’t like them, you can skip the quizzes (thankfully). 

FluentU Language Learning App Features

The core aspects of the FluentU language learning app are pretty straightforward. There are some additional features that may add extra value for some learners though. On the other hand, FluentU seems to be missing some key features that could really enhance its value. Let’s take a look at all of these below. 

FluentU Offline Access

You can access some FluentU content offline if you download it beforehand. When I first saw this feature in the app, I thought it was definitely a value-add. My opinion changed when I actually tried it though. 

You can access quizzes offline with FluentU, but not videos

Unfortunately, you can only access the quizzes, audio clips, and flashcards in offline mode. You can’t watch any of the videos. Since FluentU’s main selling point is its library of videos, this was kind of a letdown. The quality and quantity of FluentU’s flashcard sets also vary for each language, so you’d probably be better off using an app like Memrise if you want more in-depth flashcards to study offline.

The In-App FluentU Translator

Even though I mentioned the FluentU translator before, it can actually do more than translate the content as you watch it. You can also use it to look up your own information. It’s really unique because, unlike Google Translate, the FluentU translator adds context to your search terms. In fact, you can use it to:

        • Find words and phrases
        • Find content by title
        • Find content by grammar and vocabulary points (for example, “travel” or “past tense”)
The FluentU translator shows words in context

I searched for the word “pregunta” (which means “question” in Spanish), and received these results. The FluentU translator showed how the word can be used in different contexts, as well as accurate translations of the contexts. For each separate entry, you can click and the app will have different audio samples that pronounce your search terms and show the videos that use the term.

I’m really impressed with the FluentU translator and I think it’s a great value add. It’s one thing to directly translate words between languages. There are a lot of apps for that. There aren’t many other apps that can translate a word and show you its application in different contexts though. I also haven’t seen any other apps that can immediately show you content that uses the word as well.

Use Existing or Custom Flashcard Sets

Even though the FluentU translator is a really helpful tool, the flashcards don’t really stand out when compared to other language apps. I was a little underwhelmed by the Spanish flashcards, mainly because there weren’t a lot of different sets to choose from. With Spanish being a common language, I assumed there would be a huge amount of flashcards. There weren’t though.

FluentU flashcards can teach you vocabulary, grammar, and idioms

There were some interesting ones at least, like Spanish idioms and Business Spanish vocabulary. Overall though, I didn’t find them very helpful. It’s important to note that the amount of flashcard sets varies a lot by language though (Chinese has a lot, for example).

What FluentU Doesn’t Include

For its price, I would expect FluentU to be a pretty comprehensive app that helps learners improve all of their communication skills. It’s missing one of the most important though – speaking. While FluentU can improve your listening and reading skills, it won’t improve your pronunciation. You can always repeat the audio you hear, but there’s no way to see if you’re actually pronouncing it correctly. It would be a huge improvement if FluentU added a speaking feature in the future, but it doesn’t seem like they have plans to.

FluentU Languages Review

FluentU curates, transcribes, and translates a lot of content in multiple languages. Because the content is specific for each language, the quality and variety of the videos, audio, and flashcards are different between languages. To give you a more specific idea of what’s available in the FluentU app, I took a closer look at some of its most popular language programs below.

FluentU Mandarin Chinese Review

FluentU is actually a company based in Hong Kong, and this shows when you look at its Chinese language content. The app offers a flashcard course for beginners, as well as 1,494 videos, 440 audio samples, and 153 flashcard sets for beginner to advanced Mandarin learners. While it doesn’t teach you how to write characters, you can choose to study simplified or traditional Chinese characters in FluentU. You can also set the review questions to use Pinyin or characters.

Overall, FluentU Chinese is a strong complementary study resource and it has a huge amount of content. However, to learn Chinese fluently, you’ll need to combine it with Chinese learning apps.

A review of FluentU's Mandarin Chinese content

FluentU French Review

FluentU offers a beginner French flashcard course, as well as videos, audio, and flashcard sets for beginner to advanced French learners. There are 1,497 French videos, 50 audio samples, and 59 flashcard sets. What makes FluentU different from other French apps is its video content. With real-time transcriptions and translations, FluentU can greatly improve your listening skills and show you the spelling of each word while you listen to native speakers pronounce it.

Even though it can help your listening comprehension, FluentU doesn’t help much with writing or speaking. Therefore, if you choose to use it, it shouldn’t be your only learning tool. There are a lot of other French apps you can use to improve all of your skills.

FluentU's French content reviews vocabulary and translates phrases in context

FluentU German Review

The FluentU German online course uses flashcards to teach you basic words and phrases, like greeting and introductions, questions, and conjunctions. There are 1,024 German videos, 48 audio samples, and 9 flashcard sets. There’s actually a lot of content available, too. Ranging from movie trailers for Maleficent and Divergent to music videos, FluentU’s German content can help you learn how actual Germans speak, as well as teach you about German culture. You’ll need to find different German apps to reach a more conversational level though.

A review of FluentU's German content

FluentU Italian Review

Similar to its other language content, FluentU Italian has different videos, audio, and flashcards to study. It doesn’t have a beginner course like Chinese, French, or German though. There are only 17 flashcard sets, 12 of which are for complete beginners. The Italian video library has 230 videos, but isn’t nearly as big as some of the other languages. Having said that, the content FluentU does offer will improve your listening and reading skills.

You’ll definitely need other apps to learn Italian fluently though. Due to its price and somewhat limited available content, a monthly subscription would be better than a yearly subscription for practicing Italian with FluentU.

FluentU Japanese Review

The FluentU app’s Japanese content contains 1,105 different videos for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners, as well as 52 audio samples and 55 flashcard sets. The flashcards include a beginner course and specialized flashcards to help learners prepare for the JLPT exams.

You don’t learn how to read, write, or speak Japanese with FluentU, so it shouldn’t be your main learning tool. With such a wide selection of content though, using FluentU can be a great way to enhance your Japanese comprehension. There are a lot of Japanese apps that can teach you the other skills.

FluentU's Japanese content includes a beginner course as well as a lot of other helpful content shown here

FluentU Korean Review

The FluentU Korean content contains 356 videos and 14 flashcard sets. Most of the videos are for intermediate learners, but there is still a decent selection for beginner and advanced learners. All of the flashcards are definitely for beginners though. They teach some basic vocabulary and Korean phrases, but you won’t learn any grammar. In addition, FluentU doesn’t teach you how to read, write, and speak Korean.

You’ll probably need to use other Korean learning apps before you use FluentU. It can improve your listening skills though, but with such limited content, the price of FluentU may not be worth it for Korean learners.

FluentU Spanish

FluentU has 2,454 Spanish videos, 71 audio clips, and 38 flashcard sets to help beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners improve their comprehension skills. There is also a basic Spanish flashcard course for beginners. You can definitely learn a lot of useful phrases and improve your listening skills with FluentU’s Spanish content, but there’s no way to practice speaking. 

An example of the type of video you can find in FluentU's Spanish content

There are also so many different accents in Spanish, and there’s no way to filter the content for specific accents. If you want to learn Castellano (Spanish from Spain), for example, it’s difficult to find content from Spain in FluentU. Having said that, FluentU is still a useful study tool for Spanish learners, but you’ll need to combine it with other apps if you want to become fluent.

FluentU Price Breakdown

The price of FluentU is $30 per month or $240 per year. It’s important to note that FluentU is based in Hong Kong, so some credit cards may charge an additional 1% to 3% transaction fee. In addition to individual pricing, FluentU offers academic pricing. Starting at $29.90 per user per year, the minimum number of users for an academic subscription is 10.

FluentU Subscription Types

The FluentU subscription types are straightforward, just like its pricing. You can choose between a monthly or yearly membership, depending on how long you plan to use the app. This gives you access to all of FluentU’s content for all languages. FluentU does not currently offer a lifetime subscription. 

FluentU Free Trial

If you want to try FluentU for free before buying a subscription, you can. The app offers a 14-day free trial for all new users. The trial lets you access all the content and use FluentU for free. You have to enter your credit card information when you sign up for the trial though, so make sure you cancel before the trial ends if you don’t plan to use the app.

FluentU Discount

The only discount FluentU offers is its yearly subscription, which saves users $10 per month over the course of a year. There doesn’t seem to be any FluentU coupons or discount codes available for further savings. For academic subscriptions, there is an increasing discount based on how many users sign up in the group. For example, 10 teachers and students costs $299/year ($29.90/user) and 50 teachers and students costs $649/year ($13.20/user). 

FluentU Alternatives and Competitors

FluentU is a unique app that offers an interesting way to improve your language skills, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives or competitors. There are different ways to learn a language, and different apps and programs have different approaches to teaching languages. Some of the main alternatives to FluentU are Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, Babbel, Yabla, LingQ, and Memrise.

FluentU or Rosetta Stone

FluentU and Rosetta Stone are two popular language learning apps, but their approaches to teaching are completely different. FluentU is self-directed and you can choose how you want to learn while Rosetta Stone is more structured. The two apps also help improve different skills. FluentU focuses on listening comprehension, but Rosetta Stone is more well-rounded and includes speaking practice. The table below shows other key differences that will help you choose whether to use FluentU or Rosetta Stone.

FeatureFluentURosetta Stone
Free Trial14 days7 days
Price (Monthly)$20.00 to $30.00$6.99 to $11.99
Languages1024
Course StructureSelf-DirectedFlexible Structure
LevelBeginner, Intermediate, AdvancedBeginner, Intermediate
SkillsListening, ReadingSpeaking, Listening, Reading, Writing
Overall Rating7/108/10

FluentU or Duolingo (FluentU Free Alternative)

Duolingo is one of the most well-known language learning apps, so it’s common for learners to use FluentU or Duolingo (or both!). The two apps are completely different though, so it’s important to know what each one can help you with. FluentU can be useful for beginner to advanced learners while Duolingo is really only for beginners. In addition, FluentU provides content with native speakers and Duolingo only uses a computer-generated voice. Overall, FluentU is definitely better quality, but Duolingo is a decent free alternative. The table below shows you a comparison of FluentU and Duolingo.

FeatureFluentUDuolingo
Free Trial14 days14 days (Duolingo Plus)
Price (Monthly)$20.00 to $30.00$0.00 to $12.99
Languages1038
Course StructureSelf-DirectedStrict Structure
LevelBeginner, Intermediate, AdvancedBeginner
SkillsListening, ReadingSpeaking, Listening, Reading, Writing
Overall Rating7/107.4/10

FluentU vs Babbel

Comparing FluentU vs Babbel can be interesting because they are completely different. In fact, some of their characteristics can actually complement each other. FluentU allows you to choose the content you’re interested in so you can immerse yourself in your target language. On the other hand, Babbel has more of a course structure and helps you build a solid foundation of vocabulary and grammar. The table below shows you each app’s features to help you decide between the two.

FeatureFluentUBabbel
Free Trial14 daysFirst lesson
Price (Monthly)$20.00 to $30.00$6.95 to $12.95
Languages1014
Course StructureSelf-DirectedStrict Structure
LevelBeginner, Intermediate, AdvancedBeginner, Intermediate
SkillsListening, ReadingSpeaking, Listening, Reading, Writing
Overall Rating7/107.5/10

FluentU or Yabla

FluentU and Yabla are actually pretty similar, so it’s important to compare the two before choosing which one to use. FluentU excels in teaching words and phrases in the correct context. The FluentU translator is very accurate and shows a lot of examples to help you understand new words. Yabla is more affordable though, its activities are more engaging, and you can filter content by region. You can’t do that with FluentU. Depending on your needs and budget, Yabla is a strong competitor to FluentU. The table below compares the two apps.

FeatureFluentUYabla
Free Trial14 days15 days
Price (Monthly)$20.00 to $30.00$8.33 to $12.95
Languages106
Course StructureSelf-DirectedSelf-Directed
LevelBeginner, Intermediate, AdvancedBeginner, Intermediate, Advanced
SkillsListening, ReadingListening, Reading
Overall Rating7/107.5/10

FluentU vs LingQ

Comparing FluentU vs LingQ is difficult because they are very different. However, they both have the same goal – teaching you a language. FluentU is more focused on improving your listening skills but LingQ can improve your reading comprehension, especially your vocabulary. With a LingQ premium membership, you also have the opportunity to improve all of your language skills, including speaking. You can’t do this with FluentU. The table below compares more aspects of FluentU and LingQ to help you choose which one is better for you. 

FeatureFluentULingQ
Free Trial14 days15 days
Price (Monthly)$20.00 to $30.00$0.00 to $39.99
Languages1018
Course StructureSelf-DirectedSelf-Directed
LevelBeginner, Intermediate, AdvancedBeginner, Intermediate, Advanced
SkillsListening, Reading
Speaking, Listening, Reading
Overall Rating7/107/10

FluentU vs Memrise

For language learners who like to use flashcards, it’s worth looking at FluentU vs Memrise. Both use flashcards, but the methodology and quality of the apps are different. Memrise is specifically a flashcard app and its look and feel are smooth and engaging. It also offers some video content with its flashcards and official courses, but not nearly as much as content as FluentU. On the other hand, FluentU’s flashcards are pretty limited and the pace can be slow and repetitive. Both apps have their advantages, but neither will make you fluent by itself. The table below compares some other features of FluentU and Memrise.

FeatureFluentULingQ
Free Trial14 days7 days
Price (Monthly)$20.00 to $30.00$8.99
Languages1022
Course StructureSelf-DirectedFlexible Course
LevelBeginner, Intermediate, AdvancedBeginner, Intermediate
SkillsListening, ReadingSpeaking, Listening, Reading
Overall Rating7/107.5/10

FluentU Review FAQ

The FluentU app is not free to use, however there is a 14-day free trial that allows you to try the app before buying a subscription. You can choose between a monthly, which costs $30 per month, or a yearly subscription, which costs $240 per year ($20 per month). 

FluentU is good for improving your listening comprehension and learning new words and phrases in context. The app offers a lot of content that lets you watch native speakers, as well as practice the vocabulary they use with flashcards. However, FluentU isn’t good for improving your speaking skills because you don’t interact with live tutors or speech recognition technology. Your reading skills can improve by reading the video transcriptions, but your writing skills won’t improve with FluentU.

Compared to its competitors, FluentU is on the more expensive side. Especially since it won’t improve your speaking skills, the FluentU app may not be worth the price for all language learners. However, if you want to improve your learning comprehension and learn how to use phrases in the appropriate context, FluentU is definitely worth it.

Because FluentU doesn’t help you improve your speaking or writing skills, you most likely can’t become fluent by using it. You can significantly improve your listening and reading skills though. Despite the fact you can’t become fluent with FluentU, you can still use it as a supplementary learning tool. It will definitely help you on your path to fluency.

FluentU may not be good for learning Korean. It doesn’t have a wide variety of Korean content and it also doesn’t help you practice speaking or writing in Korean. It can be a good complementary resource for Korean learners, but definitely shouldn’t be the only learning tool. In addition, you’ll need to be able to read Korean before using FluentU. For this reason, it’s more appropriate for intermediate or advanced learners.

FluentU does not improve pronunciation. While it offers a wide variety of content to improve listening comprehension, FluentU does not offer activities to improve speaking and pronunciation. If you’d like to improve your pronunciation, your best options are iTalki or Preply.

About this FluentU Review

This is an independent FluentU review. This review is not sponsored by the company and I have no relationship with FluentU. To write this review, I signed up for the 14-day free trial for the app and used it for around 10 hours to understand and test all of its different features. 

Chad started Langoly to help others learn and teach languages more effectively. He's a language enthusiast, and loves reviewing language learning and teaching resources.

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