Recent years have seen an incredible rise in the number of language learning materials available — overwhelmingly digital.
Most of the language learning Apps around are pretty poor in quality and superficial at best.
It seems that for the people behind the Apps, their digital creations must—first and foremost—provide a nice and cozy experience so that the learner comes back to them.
This is more important (to them) than the question whether the method and the content are actually helping the language learner advance.
Fortunately, there are exceptions:
Some language learning Apps have used modern technology to offer something that language learners of earlier generations could only dream of.
A giant database of subtitled videos coupled with an intelligent and entertaining “learn” mode that really helps to thoroughly learn the videos’ content.
And while FluentU — like any other language learning App — isn’t perfect, it’s constantly evolving:
New videos are added all the time, and recent changes — mostly to improve the user experience — have made FluentU even better.
At face value, FluentU comes across as a pretty self-explanatory App.
The FluentU team, led by Alan Park, have made it so that everything is within a few clicks, at most.
But still, and we’ll get to the basics in a little while, there are some features that are less obvious — and there’s also a lack of information on how to get the most out of this extraordinary App.
That’s where this guide comes in.
When I say the most, I guess I should really say more. There’s always more to get out of something and it also depends on your personal learning goals and path.
Even so, I think you’ll find some tips in this guide that are helpful to you:
- A feature you didn’t realize existed
- Or a tip on how to use the videos that significantly enhances your learning experience
So, after this somewhat long-winded intro, let’s get started!
Before we get to the better stuff, let’s review the FluentU basics.
If you already know the basics or you’re not interested in them, go straight to the Pro Tips On Getting the Most Out of FluentU.
The FluentU home screen is the portal from which you can access everything that FluentU offers.
Let’s take a quick look at what you can find here:
In the left sidebar, you can find your total points score accumulated by watching videos, doing the accompanying quizzes, or by reviewing your flashcards.
You can see by the orange progress bar that I’ve reached my daily goal, and I’m now on a one day streak. If I fail to reach the necessary points tomorrow, the streak will be broken and I’ll have to start again. You can adjust your daily points goal in the account settings. The lowest being 100 points (1 minute on average) and the highest 2000 points (30 minutes). Of course you can always do more if you so wish.
A little lower, you see the Browse section. Here you can browse through all videos, audios, flashcard sets and video playlists available in FluentU.
My Content is all the content — be it Videos, Audios, Flashcards, Playlists or your personal favorites — you have consumed. TIP: If you watched a good video but forgot about the name, look here first.
In the middle section of the page, you’ll find the flashcards that you need to review, and your flashcard sets.
In the upper right corner of the page you can find your account settings, help and the logout link.
In the account settings you can also change the language you’re learning and the level you’re at: beginner, intermediate or advanced.
Tip: You can change the language you’re learning with FluentU whenever you want. You don’t have to buy another subscription!
Let’s get your feet wet.
Time to watch your first FluentU video.
In the Browse menu click on Videos.
The audios work the same as the videos and actually offer some great lesson content, but instead of video they show photos that change every few seconds.
You now see a list of videos with thumbnail images. On the left, you see the video categories. There are categories for difficulty, topics, and formats.
Click on any category you like and you will see only videos from that category.
Notice the empty progress bar below each video?
This is a cool and extremely useful feature.
Once you start learning more and more words, these bars will indicate how many words of a video you already know.
In other words, you’ll know which videos are an excellent choice to watch next, and which to avoid for now because they have too many unfamiliar words.
Use this feature to your advantage.
Once you’ve selected a video, you’ll see a screen similar to the one below.
Lower down the page, you can take a peek at the vocab and the dialogue of the video. Again the progress bars are present, but this time they show how well you know an individual word.
Now click on Video to enter the video player screen.
TIP: Press F11 in Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox to go full screen and minimize distractions.
Each video is divided into small segments.
The arrows on both sides of the video player simply allow you to jump to the previous or next segment.
In the blue bar below, you can click on any segment and the video instantly goes to the start of it. Press play to reproduce that particular segment.
One of the great features of FluentU is the Loop button, which looks like this:
With the Loop button you can infinitely loop any segment to really focus your attention on what’s being said.
The Volume button speaks for itself.
The Subtitle button is more significant:
With it you can control the subtitles of the video. Later on, I’ll give some tips on what I think are the best subtitle configurations.
If you hover your cursor over the subtitles you can automatically look up any word in the Hover dictionary.
If you left click on a word in the video player, you can see more usage examples taken from other videos or audios in which the word appears.
In case of an audio, just click the little speaker button on the left to hear the sentence.
To see the segment of another video in which the word is used, click the play button. If there are more than one video listed here, all examples will be played in sequence.
This is a great way to quickly see how you can use the word used in various contexts.
The quiz is where most of the post-video learning takes place. It’s a great way to squeeze as much out of a video as you can.
Once you’ve watched a video, click on continue before the autoplay function starts the next video.
Now click on Quiz to test your knowledge of the video’s content. If a question has an accompanying video, make sure you left-click anywhere in the video’s window to play the video.
You first get to see some examples of the words or phrases you’re going to be quizzed on. Use the arrows on the side to see and hear all the examples. When done, click continue. If there are more examples, check them out and click continue again.
The Quiz is pretty straightforward, but extremely useful.
There are several types of exercises, like multiple choice, listening and writing exercises.
The exercises give you the choice of solving the exercises through a different context.
That is: a different question or phrase — taken from another video — but with the same answer.
To see these alternatives, all you have to do is click the arrows on the sides of the image or video.
This is a fantastic feature that many people may not use when they first start to fiddle around with FluentU. It really enhances the learning process.
TIP: For best results, make sure you check out all the examples and variations.
Throughout FluentU you’ll be presented with the Already Know button.
This is another excellent feature that makes sure you don’t waste time on stuff you already know.
If you click on this button, you won’t see a word appear again in either the Quiz mode or in the flashcards.
This is FluentU’s way of personalizing your learning experience. I strongly recommend you take advantage of this feature as it will speed up the learning process.
TIP: Make sure you know the word well before you click on this button.
Once you’ve done a quiz, the words featured in it are automatically sent to your flashcard set.
The flashcards use spaced repetition to make sure you better remember the words. You get notified once it’s time to review the words.
The review process isn’t boring like reviewing regular flashcards. Instead, the quiz mode is used again to make sure you learn the words well and don’t get bored out of your head.
You can send any word in a video to the flashcard set of your choice. To do so, click on a video and scroll down to Vocab. Here you can select the words you want to send to a flashcard set.
Now, look for the button that says Add to and click the downward arrow just to the right. You can now send the word to one of your flashcard sets (including the set with words already known) or create a whole new set.
You can also click Flashcards in the MY CONTENT menu, and then click the + New Flashcard Set button.
Make sure you also check out the pre-made flashcard sets by clicking Flashcards in the BROWSE menu.
In the Learn Mode (Quiz, flashcards), there are several keyboard shortcuts that can speed up the process a little bit.
The search engine is yet another great tool in your arsenal to learn a new language.
You can find the search bar at the top of the page. Enter your query and click GO.
FluentU’s categories are rather broad, but you can use the search engine to zoom in on videos that cover topics that interest you.
For example, if you’re interested in soccer you can find a number of videos dealing with this sport.
But maybe Animals are more your thing.
No problem, FluentU’s got you covered.
Got a job interview coming up in your target language? Search for “job” and see what comes up.
Expecting to go to a restaurant? Do a search for that and learn from the videos that the search engine turns up. You’ll be way better prepared.
So play with the search engine.
See what kinds of videos come up.
You learn infinitely better from videos that excite you!
You don’t buy tools just for show.
Gotta to use them, my friend!
And to get results out of them, you must also know HOW to use them.
FluentU is an amazing App, but if you simply start watching random videos, you won’t optimize your learning. And if you don’t see results, your motivation will probably wane.
To help you with that, here are: my 6 most important tips to accelerate your language learning with FluentU:
With so much video content at your disposal, it makes little sense to learn from videos that bore you out of your mind.
The FluentU team has done a great job in ensuring the entertainment value of the videos, but there are still some videos more entertaining than others.
So, if a video bores you, try another. You learn better if you’re engaged in what you’re learning.
The exception is when certain words or phrases you want to learn aren’t covered by multiple videos. In that case, you have no choice but to stick it out. But hey, it’s a video, not a boring textbook. So you should be fine.
When you watch a video for the first time, watch it without subtitles.
You want to try to understand as much as possible before using the aid of subtitles.
This is an important part of the learning process and should not be skipped. Make sure you use the tools you have at your disposal, like the Loop button.
Focus on the harder parts of the video. It doesn’t make sense watching the segments you already understand over and over. Focus on what you don’t get, strengthen your weaknesses.
Once you feel you can’t progress any further with the subtitles switched off, add in the subtitles in the target language.
Again, use the tools like the hover dictionary and the additional examples that come up when you left click on a word.
If — after passing through the video various times — you still don’t understand much, you can either pick an easier video to watch or add in the English subtitles.
FluentU is an input tool — a great input tool.
But that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that speaking isn’t a skill that you directly improve through FluentU.
At least not when you’re just going the motions.
Therefore, a key tip is to always say out loud the sentences and words you’re learning in the “Learn” Mode.
In fact, I cannot stress this enough. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise it is, just say the word or sentence out loud.
It not only helps to you to reproduce the sounds of your target language, but also to better remember the stuff you’re learning.
Basically, you’re converting an input only tool also in an output tool. That’s efficiency for you. You kill two birds with one stone!
Did you know you can import your own vocab into FluentU?
Just go to one of your flashcard sets — or create a new one — and click “+ New Words”. Here you can enter new words, one per line.
The cool thing is that you can then learn the word the same way you would learn a word from a FluentU video — complete with video segments and all. The only exception being a word that’s not yet in the FluentU database, but that’s rare.
This feature is a huge deal, as it can transform FluentU in an incredible all-encompassing language learning input tool.
FluentU’s flashcards are better than standard ones…and infinitely more entertaining.
Let’s say you’re reading a book in your target language and you see a word you don’t know. You can then add it to FluentU and start to learn the word through FluentU’s video and audio content.
You can do the same when you hear words you don’t know.
You can even add some phrases and expressions as flashcards. In that case, you’ll have to use three dots between the words, like this:
Here you will have less success than with single words, but it’s worth giving it a shot.
One of the criticisms of FluentU is that it would not have enough structure in its learning material.
But that depends mainly on yourself. You have the tools at your disposal that can bring the desired structure:
- The Already Know button
- The bars below the videos that indicate how many words you already know
- And, of course, the video flashcards
It’s incredibly easy to just start watching nice videos and have a good time. But that will remove any structure from your learning. And by doing so, you will certainly not get the most out of FluentU.
Even though FluentU features YouTube videos, it’s NOT YouTube. YouTube is great, but it can also be a huge distraction.
If your mission is to learn a language, don’t let FluentU be YouTube!
Use it as a learning tool instead.
That’s why it’s important that you actually review the flashcards you learn.
When it’s time to review flashcards, FluentU gives you reminders in the flashcard section.
Make use of them!
Most people using FluentU watch a video and then do the quiz. They move to another video immediately afterward.
If you understand the video’s content well, there’s nothing wrong with using FluentU this way.
But when a video seems a little too difficult for you, try to go back and forth between the video and the video’s quiz.
So, first you watch the video, then you do the quiz, then the video, then the quiz, etc.
This tip comes from the founder of FluentU, Alan Park himself, and is one of the best ways to dramatically improve your listening comprehension in a short amount of time.
Try it for yourself, and you’ll see great results.
Now you know how to improve your FluentU learning experience, you’ll probably enjoy working with FluentU even more.
However, as you go about mastering your new language, questions may arise from time to time.
When that happens, you can visit the FluentU support section.
Additionally, you can always shoot me an email at:
I wish you all the best in your language learning journey!