kitchen table math, the sequel: Fluenz, part 2

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fluenz, part 2

I've just this moment finished Lesson 11 of Fluenz Spanish and I love, love, love this program.

I love it so much I don't even need to write a post explaining why, because every word on the Fluenz web site is true.

The only thing they've left out is the fact that Fluenz Spanish is a fun way to while away the weeks and months of our recession-slash-depression. In Fluenz Land there is no recession-slash-depression, just vibrant, focused young people traveling to South America to learn Spanish, and Paris to learn French, and China to learn Chinese, & then coming back to America to create a language teaching software that smashes the unnamed competition to smithereens via direct instruction, "leveraging" of the (English) language you already know, and fabulous design. In short, the Fluenz people don't just have a software product, they have a mission and, even better, a story. So while you're learning how to say My suitcase is the big one you're rooting for Sonia Gil and her friends to slay Goliath, or at least survive long enough to pay off the venture capital and peaceably co-exist. And you're hoping that when the dust settles Fluenz is still here.

Extremely simple to use & virtually no software glitches.

Here's hoping I have the sense not to order Fluenz French.

Even though I really want to.

(This is probably Mom, right?)

Fluenz & the educational telepresence
lefty book recommendation & Concerned Parent on Rosetta Stone
Fluenz: 10 reasons to love us
Fluenz & Rosetta Stone
Fluenz at flickr
Fluenz on YouTube "Language is a human right"


Paul B said...

Catherine, I'm curious. I remember you having been critical of computer based learning in other posts ( I think).

What is it that makes you so positive about this one in contrast to others that you've taken or encountered?

And, secondly, is there something about your particular learning style that would make this good for you and not another?

I'm trying to understand what makes a good computer based learning experience from your perspective.

Catherine Johnson said...


I'm so glad you asked (I was forgetting).

Remember when we were all talking about a possible need for a teacher?

I think that may be it.

It took quite a while for me to "get into" Fluenz; I was having my standard experience of not wanting to use the fancy-schmancy educational software I'd purchased. (When I was feeling flush last summer I bought probably 3 different tennis software thingies. Have looked at one of them ONE TIME.)

But at some point I did get into it & now I've become somewhat hooked. (Somewhat -- I'll see whether I fade out later on.)

One of the main things that has happened is that I've become attached to the teacher. She tells brief stories about her friend Rachel; she also alludes frequently to the "Fluenz team" and what motivated them.

These references are very brief & don't distract from learning Spanish.

But they serve to create a connection between me and the "Sonia Gil character."

On top of that, I would say that the program does a terrific job of task analysis and positive reinforcement. Each lesson has 16 or 17 "mini-lessons," and you get an amazing sense of accomplishment clicking through each one. You're constantly getting things right, and you're constantly moving on.

Another important factor, I believe: each "big lesson" has the exact same set of 16 mini-lessons. Once I figured that out, I started to zoom. Before I realized that there was a set pattern to the mini-lessons, each "big lesson" seemed endless. It could take me 3 or 4 days to get through all 16 mini-lessons.

Once I understood the sequence a kind of sequenced "ritual" developed, as in church where you always follow exactly the same sequence.

Rituals are soothing, so I assume that's part of what makes the software work for me.

If you read their site, you see that they set out intentionally to produce an educational software that would be something people want to use; they're quite critical of educational software in general.

I think they may have succeeded.

Or, at least, they've come up with a concept that is quite different from what we've seen in educational software to date and that "has a shot."

One last thing: the design is beautiful and the photography is riveting. Half the reason I want to spring for the French Fluenz is that I want to see the photos of France.

I would say that the beauty of the photography helped keep me going during the initial weeks (months, really) when I hadn't yet been "hooked."

I'll be interested to see whether the Fluenz folks are onto something.

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, so far so good with The Teaching Company course ---- which is a very non-fancy video of a professor giving 24 lectures in a row.

I was wondering whether I was really going to watch the lectures, but I think it's possible I'm going to. It's a bit hard; I find myself feeling very restless while watching.

I probably need to take notes as I would in a live lecture. I took notes on Lecture 2 & was more engaged.

Still and all, it looks like I'm really going to watch (listen to) the lectures & I've seen comments from people saying they've collected dozens of these courses.

Is making educational software work as simple as filming a real person teaching???

Catherine Johnson said...

When you have the time, find the illustration of the sample lesson on the Fluenz web site. (I think there are two different videos posted, so you have to find the one that runs you very quickly through all 16 mini-lessons.)

You'll see exactly what I mean about the very rapid "progress" the student makes through 16 mini-lessons.

There's no need for the constantly changing mini-lessons that I can see apart from a desire to keep the student engaged.

All of the mini-lessons are on the same dialogue that opens the "big lesson."

There's certainly no educational need for the constantly changing visuals.

Catherine Johnson said...

"no educational need" in terms of learning Spanish, I mean

Ben Calvin said...

Sounds like a great product. Makes me interested in brushing up my Spanish -- a subject I learned and even used in real life, but never mastered.

On the other hand our recession makes it look likely I will be working MORE hours for LESS money, thus having even less time for something like this....

Anonymous said...

I know that Fluenz was designed with adults in mind, but I'm wondering how well you think it would work with a 10-12 year old?

Because of elective scheduling issues in middle school my child won't be able to start Spanish until 9th grade. In the meantime, we need a self-study Spanish course to use afterschool. Otherwise, I think that walking into Spanish cold in the 9th grade will produce anxiety in this child.

I've only begun to research this and I'm not sure whether Fluenz, Rosetta Stone or MangoLanguages (available through the public library) or some other program would be best for this middle-school age.