As I was bumbling about the internet looking for resources earlier this week, I stumbled on a site called FluentU. Curious, I signed up. What I found was a truly integrative approach to combining traditional learning and immersion.
Once I choose an account type (regular, or teacher and student accounts which allow teachers to track student progress) and a language and filled out pretty basic account registration information, I reached a busy dashboard that seemed to have too many options. I was pleasantly surprised that, even with a noisy first impression, the site was mostly intuitive and easy to use.
There are 3 major types of content: video, audio, and flashcards. There are also playlists and you can mark favorites.
Flashcards are pretty much what you expect – stacks of cards for memorization. You are asked to fill them out in different ways: click the answer, fill in the blanks, and type the word. In this way it reminds me a bit of Cerego, and I like the variety of answer methods. Like Cerego, it does seem to be a spaced repetition system, though I haven’t played with it long enough to be sure. I find this functionality pretty standard relative to other systems.
What I like about this one, though, are the video and audio files. They are very similar: free videos in the target language taken from the internet, captioned, and presented as learning tools. (The audio are generally video files with images and sound rather than video and sound.) What’s interesting here is that each video or audio lesson is just that – a LESSON. It comes with a matching set of flashcards that you can go through before or after the video. Mousing over a word in the captions provides the translation of that word, and clicking it allows you to add the word to your vocabulary list or a custom flashcard set.
As language tools go, especially free ones, FluentU is surprisingly integrated, allowing you to learn in more than one way within a single application. I only tested the free version so I can’t speak to the quality of content in the paid version, but I’m impressed by the quality of the materials available to non-paying users. There is also a free iPad app available that offers the same functionality as the site.
I would say (based on only a couple hours of playing around, mind you) that the biggest drawback to this site is the number of languages. Right now, it only offers Chinese, Spanish, French, English, German, and Japanese. I’m not currently working on any of those languages, so I don’t see myself using the site right now. However, the menu says that Italian is coming soon, and that will be worth considering in the future as a way to vary things up.
FluentU’s site has a great concept and promising functionality. I’m interested to see how much growth it experiences in the next few years.