February 8, 2013 | Mandarin

Fluenz Mandarin

In which I try out some new software.

I have been meaning to try out Fluenz, a multimedia language-learning product, for ages. Tonight I finally sat down and did it.

This Is My Fluenz Chinese Teacher

This Is My Fluenz Chinese Teacher

As regular readers may know, I am not keen on being tied to a computer. I don’t like clicking things, and I don’t like looking at screens. I like lounging on the sofa with my eyes closed, thinking foreign-language thoughts, while Pimsleur tests my oral skills.

For visual instruction, I tend to like to supplement with books, not computers. I have some good books this time, but the thing is, with a very difficult language like Chinese, one that has an initially impenetrable writing system, it is hard to use books at the beginning.

I—and others, I would imagine—often need a little more handholding than is afforded by a mere paper product. 

So anyway, the nice young lady pictured above is currently holding my hand. You may notice: she is not Chinese. I noticed that, too. Nor is she a native speaker. Her accent sounds good to me, but what do I know?

In any case, I did the first three lessons tonight and finally, finally, finally am getting a handle on pinyin. Pinyin skills appear to be a rather basic and important part of this program, which is kind of a relief, because the intensive pinyin lessons are forcing me to learn not only the letters but also the tones. And I need it.

I have in three lessons already had to do a whole lot of writing practice. I liked it. I am not sure how I would have felt about it had I not had the benefit of 62 Pimsleur lessons first. (I just began Level III of Pimsleur.)

I might have been frustrated. It is hard for me to tell at this point.

The thing is, the vocabulary from these early Fluenz lessons is all completely familiar, so I can’t see it with totally new eyes or hear it with totally new ears. But I’m going to keep going and will report back when I have reached more advanced lessons.

Comments (2)

Elizabeth • Posted on Mon, February 11, 2013 - 2:00 pm EST

A timely review, as I’m researching programs to try out for a new language and came here to see if you had used Fluenz before. I hope you’ll follow up with your thoughts on the full Fluenz course. I’m not sure it would hold my attention for languages I’m reviewing (from many years ago), but may be a possibility for Mandarin or Italian when the time comes.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, February 11, 2013 - 2:36 pm EST

Hi, Elizabeth! You know, I can’t imagine using Fluenz for languages I’m reviewing. I would be too impatient for that! There are faster ways to review (grammar books, for example, and depending on the state of your skills, maybe Pimsleur as well).

For Italian, which I started from scratch, I did Pimsleur and (mostly “Practice Makes Perfect”) grammar books; that combination worked incredibly well for me. Italian was my most successful unit during this project, so if you are fond of grammar exercises and audio lessons, I would recommend that route.

Back to Fluenz: I think the big question with any product is ALWAYS what happens down the road when I have used it a while and gotten further along. For example, I liked Rosetta Stone initially, quite a lot. But then something happened as I went along…disillusionment set in…I gave it up…and a key characteristic of a good language program is that it keeps you going!

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