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.
- Videos are entertaining and recent
- Helpful to learn useful words and slang
- Can really improve listening skills
- The game-like aspect is distracting
- Can’t create your own flashcards
- Focuses on memorization instead of communication
Languages Available on FluentU:
Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, English, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese
Table of Contents
FluentU uses content from around the web to immerse users in their target language. All content comes with a transcription and a translation that allows users to follow along with the video or audio clip. There are also quizzes and flashcards to help reinforce new phrases and vocabulary. FluentU doesn’t necessarily teach a language though. Instead, it focuses on improving listening comprehension. It’s a good complementary app for casual practice, but it won’t necessarily help you become fluent.
FluentU is a well-marketed language learning app that has a substantial library of videos, audio clips, and flashcards to help learners improve their comprehension skills. It’s a 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.
For individuals, FluentU costs $29.99 per month or $240 per year if you pay annually ($19.99 per month). For schools, the cost of FluentU starts at $29.90 per user annually, and this cost decreases as you add more users. Both the individual and academic plans offer a free trial, so you can try FluentU before subscribing.
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. FluentU is quite a bit more expensive than most other language apps, and it’s also gaining more competitors, like Lingopie.
FluentU Free Trial
You can try FluentU for free before buying a subscription. 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.
The only discount FluentU offers is its yearly subscription, which saves users $10.00 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’s 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 Review: Getting started
Signing up for the FluentU app is 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.
I never really checked this screen because the information isn’t that helpful for 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 large 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.
A lot of the videos seem to be commercials and advertisements, movie trailers, music videos, or short snippets of videos taken from TV shows or other programs. Overall, there’s a wide selection. You can sort the content by level (beginner to advanced), different topics like business, culture, politics, and society. 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 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 impressive and helpful, while others seemed like a waste of time.
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 adjust the speed of the video while it’s playing or follow along at normal speed. One feature I 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.
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 been there, done that, and tried to forget about it!
This feature of FluentU is 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 them 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.
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 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 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.
I didn’t find these quizzes particularly helpful for remembering each video’s content. The questions can be repetitive and finishing the quizzes can be slow sometimes. You get points for completing the quizzes, 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 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 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 other Chinese learning apps.
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 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 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.
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. 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 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 Korean Review
The FluentU Korean content contains 356 videos and 14 flashcard sets. Most of the videos are for intermediate learners, but there’s still a decent selection for beginner and advanced learners. All of the flashcards are 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, or speak Korean.
You’ll probably need to use other Korean learning apps before you use FluentU. It can improve your listening skills, but with such limited content, the price of FluentU may not be worth it for Korean learners.
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 learn a lot of useful phrases and improve your listening skills with FluentU’s Spanish content, but there’s no way to practice speaking.
There are many different accents in Spanish, but 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 Review: Additional 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 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 a value-add. But my opinion changed when I actually tried it.
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 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 do more than translate the content as you watch it. You can also use it to look up your own information. It’s 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”)
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 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 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 helpful tool, the flashcards don’t really stand out when compared to other language apps. I was 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 large amount of flashcards, but there weren’t.
There were some interesting ones at least, like Spanish idioms and Business Spanish vocabulary. Overall, I didn’t find them very helpful. It’s important to note that the amount of flashcard sets varies a lot by language (Chinese has a lot, for example).
FluentU Review: Areas of Improvement
For its price, I would expect FluentU to be a more comprehensive app that helps learners improve all of their communication skills. But it’s missing one of the most important skills – 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 Review: Alternatives & 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.
Rosetta Stone and FluentU 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. You can learn more in this Rosetta Stone review.
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. 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 has better quality, but Duolingo is a decent free alternative. You can read more about it in this Duolingo review.
FluentU and Babbel are completely different. In fact, some of their characteristics 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. You can learn more about Babbel in this review.
Yabla and FluentU are 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, 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. You can learn more about the app in this Yabla review.
Comparing FluentU vs LingQ is difficult because they are very different. FluentU is 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. To decide which is right for you, you can read more about LingQ in this review.
Both FluentU and Memrise 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 limited and the pace can be slow and repetitive. Both apps have their advantages, but neither will make you fluent by itself. You can learn more about Memrise in this review.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 subscription, 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 use 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 comprehension and learn how to use phrases in the appropriate context, FluentU is might be 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 that 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 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.