Reviewing FluentU: An interactive approach to learning Chinese

Introduction

Many people recommend foreign language learners to watch songs and movies as a less boring alternative to studying from textbooks. However, oftentimes translating the content can be quite tiresome and using subtitles results in people being lazy and reading subtitles without actually absorbing too much new knowledge.

 

What is FluentU?

FluentU is an innovative way to learn languages through experiencing trending media content in that language. It allows you to access the best foreign language content on the web such as movie trailers, movies, music videos, songs and inspiring talks.

 

How does FluentU work?

FluentU works by allowing you to pause the videos and songs and focus on specific words and sentences creating an experience that you don’t get from the regular subtitling of videos. It’s pretty much watching foreign language media content but with tools that enable you to slow it down and learn exactly what is happening in each song lyric, or frame of the video.

screen fluentu 1

Assessment

 

Pros

  • You can pause at ANY frame to hear the pronunciation, see the pinyin and characters of the word that peaks your curiosity.
  • You can learn all the vocabulary before watching the video, but even this learning section has interactive videos from Chinese Media to go with each word/grammar point.
  • All vocabulary and dialogue from the video and audio files are catalogued with pinyin, characters and pronunciations – great attention to detail.
  • You can download the transcripts if you want to save it to your system.
  • You can browse the video and audio libraries by different topics, different formats or by the difficulty of the content.
  • Extensive library with over 2,300 video files and almost 500 audio files.
  • You have the option to favorite media files as they browse and these are saved under the “My Content” tab to be much more easily found later on.
  • Much more fun, interactive and appealing than learning from a textbook.
  • Lots of content is accessible even without a VPN.
  • Website design is done in a manner that makes it very simple to navigate.
  • Also contains the more traditional methods of flashcard-based learning if one requires it.

screen fluentu 2

Cons

  • Lacks the structure of a classroom approach where new knowledge builds upon old knowledge.
  • In this model, despite each video having a difficulty rating, the learning process is quite random and up to the individual’s mood/preference of videos.
  • The Plus mode, which showcases the best attributes about this product costs $18 per month. Even you just want unlimited access to videos and songs, you must pay $8 per month. The free mode doesn’t seem worth it and that’s the biggest con for all you frugal readers out there.

 

Verdict

Overall, I’m a great supporter of this platform because it is much more appropriate for the modern learner. These days, we have all the equipment to make learning interactive rather than the rote methods of textbooks and standardized testing and FluentU capitalizes on this idea. They have also done a complete job by cataloguing all the vocab and dialogue on every video for you to be able to study it line by line. The only problem is that there is a substantial cost to get the best out of this product. If you paid the amounts they require, would you be disciplined enough to use the product without external pressure from teachers and learning programs to consistently use it?

Learn more at FluentU.

Dhruv Chatterjee

Dhruv Chatterjee is currently in his third year in China. After spending two years as an English and Music teacher in a small village in Guangdong, he has spent the last year living and working in Shanghai. He enjoys writing, Chinese, music and exploring all the wonderful things Shanghai has to offer.