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FluentU Spanish is an alternative and complementary learning option for intermediate learners who want to explore a more interactive and entertaining way of learning vocabulary through a gamified version of YouTube videos. The wide catalog of content on topics around media, culture, and society makes this a very appealing option. However, this is not a good option for users looking for a comprehensive, structured way of starting to learn Spanish or continuing advanced learning.
FluentU is an online language learning service with the peculiarity of using YouTube videos as the main source of language teaching. The platform claims to bring “language learning to life with real-world videos!”. In this review, let’s see if the platform lives up to its promise.
What is FluentU?
On FluentU, every video has been selected and processed to serve as learning material. This gives a great immersion in Spanish-speaking culture and media world through video sources related to daily life topics. The video transcripts have been processed to let you learn new vocabulary through a gamified experience. In each video, you are expected to learn between 20 to 40 words shown through interactive tools where you need to associate their meaning with images and sounds.
FluentU Spanish has 2,919 videos in its database organized by difficulty levels: Beginner 1, Beginner 2, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Advance 1 and Advance 2. Since all videos come from YouTube, you will find that the subjects of the videos are more focused on lifestyle, entertainment, arts, and society. However, other more specialized topics such as politics, science, humor, business, or fashion are also included. This allows you to browse the content catalog as you would on YouTube, being able to filter the videos by difficulty, topics, or format.
The platform also has a small catalog of audio recordings and flashcards that can be complementary learning options if you want to use the service, but you cannot watch a video while doing these other activities.
In the platform, you can also access the playlists, which are sets of videos organized by specific topics. Although this can be a good way to follow a more structured learning path, this is not the focus of FluentU, so they are more of an accessory feature than real and linearly organized learning plans.
Overall, there is no clear connection between how the content has been selected and a coherent and cohesive learning structure. Although every video corresponds to a certain level of difficulty, the arrangement of the content seems arbitrary. I also found some videos without any content depth, which was quite disappointing. Besides, you will not find any speaking exercises in the content as the service focuses mainly on developing your listening and reading skills.
How does it work?
When you first sign up, the platform will ask you several questions to personalize your learning experience. It will ask about your learning level, age, daily learning goals, and subjects of interest. Fluent U has no placement test, so you must choose the level you believe suits your learning needs better.
The platform will ask you to choose the first video to get started. While you play it, a written transcript will be shown below. Every word of the transcript corresponds to a linked flashcard where you will find the English translation and the grammatical characteristics of the word. When you click on any word, a screen will show several examples of phrases where you can use it and the possibility of adding it to your personalized flashcard sets. This allows you to organize the vocabulary into words that you already know or the ones that need more practice in the future.
The fact that FluentU uses native Spanish content using YouTube videos is unique. This will allow you to have an immersive experience with relevant and interesting content that has high circulation on the internet and that native speakers consume daily. This method sets FluentU apart from a structural and strict methodological way of learning towards a more natural progression while watching several videos.
After watching the video, adding vocabulary to your flashcard sets, and learning new words, you can proceed to the test. Here, you will be shown different flashcards corresponding to the new vocabulary introduced in the previous video. You will see the word’s meaning, sound, grammatical characteristics, and possible uses in different phrases.
Then, you will be asked to choose the right word that fills the blank in a given phrase or the right translation of a phrase extracted from an audiovisual excerpt taken from the video of the session. You might also be asked to type a word corresponding to a voice recording. These exercises can vary in format and difficulty, making the testing system dynamic and challenging.
FluentU offers a 14-day free trial with no commitment, the possibility of canceling anytime, and a 20-day money-back guarantee you can get by emailing customer service within 20 days after your purchase for a full refund. The full content can be purchased monthly for $29.99 or yearly for $359.99. By October 2023, FluentU offers an October Sale of 60% off, decreasing the cost to $8 per month ($96 annually).
What are the pros and cons of FluentU Spanish?
- Diversity of content focused on entertainment: Videos taken from YouTube allow you to learn Spanish while watching blog-style videos on culture, history, music, or TV.
- Good design and balance between interactive and pedagogical elements: The overall visual design of the platform is well-crafted, which gives a good sense of organisation and ease for browsing videos and navigating through the platform.
- Gamification of learning tools: The sessions feature an interactive and dynamic way of learning new vocabulary and testing your knowledge.
- No clear learning structure: There is no specific learning plan that follows a well-structured progression of difficulty levels. The lack of more formal aspects of the language leaves this option complementary to other more structured learning options.
- No placement test: FluentU does not feature a test you can do to see which is the corresponding difficulty level you should start learning from.
What is the right audience for FluentU Spanish?
FluentU is a good option for intermediate learners who want to complement their learning path with entertainment content from Spanish-speaking countries. For those who are rather beginners or advanced learners, this is not a good option. On the one hand, the lack of a clear teaching structure will be a great obstacle for users starting to learn Spanish. On the other, if you already have a comprehensive command of the language, the lack of an interconnected learning system between reading, listening, and speaking skills will pull you backward in your advanced learning experience.
My overall review
Although using YouTube videos to craft a language learning option is clever and innovative, it is not a good option for comprehensively learning Spanish. The content is not well targeted to linguistic learning goals and remains a complementary and fun way of expanding further knowledge on entertainment and culture in Spanish for intermediate learners.