Fluenz Mandarin 1+2+3 for Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad & Android Phones, Version 3
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- We will coach you every step of the way to fluency. Amazing tutors in hundreds of videos, helpful explanations, and the most immersive platform to practice your speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
- Follow the full program on your iPhone, online from your computer, or install it in your hard disk from the DVDs included in the red box.
- Fluenz blends a video tutor with a range of engaging, interactive workouts to improve your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in a unique approach that is currently being used by the US Navy, and more.
- The most comprehensive digital program to learn Chinese,
- Fluenz Mandarin 1+2+3 will guide you in English through the challenges of Mandarin with a proven system.
- Language tutors Yi Wei and Sonia Gil, recent graduates from Harvard..
- And speaking skills -- including a recording engine to perfect your accent.
- Two audio CDs for additional training, downloadable podcasts, & the handy Fluenz Navigator for on-the-go referencing of important words & phrases.
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Fluenz Follow the full program on your iPhone, online from your computer, or install it in your hard disk from the DVDs included in the red box. Additional audio CDs allow you to practice in your car, additional comprehension MP3s and access to our digital Flashcards make for the possible learning experience.
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The first time I asked "where is the bathroom" and the person understood me, I was amazed!! Sounds simple to those of you who have been at this a while but for me, this last trip was amazing and I must say, my colleagues were impressed! Of course, lots to learn moving forward but a big "shout out" to the Fluenz program for providing common words, "real life" situations, and a major focus on pronunciation. There is much to learn and I take advantage of opportunities for practice and to supplement my learning of Mandarin.
Overall I had a positive experience, so I'll start with the negatives. Many of these seem minor, but I thought they all degraded my experience significantly.
1. The software seemed to be fixed at a low resolution, and often used a small font. On my laptop, even in full screen mode, most of the screen would be blank, and the window would only use the center of the screen. I found myself squinting to see accents sometimes.
2. You do a lot of writing (pinyin) in the software, and the software is picky about accents. This is a good decision, but the software never explains to you which letter you should put the accents over. I found a simple rule for this online, but they would have saved me time during Fluenz 1 if they had explained this.
3. As I mentioned, you do a lot of writing. When you get a sentence wrong, the software just beeps at you. It doesn't tell you whether you are using the wrong word order, or if you have the wrong accent, the accent over the wrong vowel in a diphthong, etc. Occasionally I would ask a native speaker and she would confirm that my translation was fine, but just one not anticipated by Fluenz. When this happened repeatedly I lost trust in the computer---when I was marked wrong I wouldn't know if I really got it wrong or not. A feature that would highlight the differences between the user's results and the closest correct answer would be helpful.
4. The dialogues, especially in later lessons, are sometimes incomplete. I could tell based on the discussion and questions later that sections of the dialog were just missing. This only happened a few times but was confusing when it did happen.
5. Finally, I think the product could have put in more listening exercises and fewer writing exercises. There's a great listening exercise (that I'll talk about under "positives" below) that I would like to have done more of.
On the other hand, here are some positive features of the software:
1. Well organized and structured. Fluenz really thought about how they were going to teach Mandarin from the ground up, and they designed step-by-step lessons that build on each other and present the material logically.
2. Many individual lessons I thought were very well done. For instance, they had good lessons on the uses of the "de" particle, as well as on measure words. Just as I had been wondering about these topics, a lesson showed up to explain it.
3. Comprehensive explanations of all new topics and words. Some people (who are more intuitive with languages than I) may think the software goes too slowly, but I was glad that Fluenz presented in-depth discussion after every dialogue. It doesn't just assume that you'll naturally understand new aspects of the dialog.
4. Lots of drills---in each chapter there are multiple different exercises that really drill the material into your head. My favorite exercise would have you listen to a question in Mandarin, and then select the correct Mandarin answer. It seemed this tested multiple skills simultaneously: vocabulary, grammar, tones, listening speed, etc. Many of the other exercises involved a lot of typing (in pinyin). These I thought were helpful, but their listening exercises were the best, and I wish there were more of them.
Overall, I'm satisfied that I started my Mandarin education with Fluenz 1,2,3. It's definitely not a complete solution. I'm not sure I would have gotten through all the lessons without a flashcard program (I use Mnemosyne). And to actually be able to understand and speak Mandarin, I'll have to do a lot more work, starting with learning much more vocabulary. (Fluenz probably only teaches you a couple hundred words, but even an intermediate speaker needs thousands.) But I think Fluenz gave me a solid background to build on.
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The only reason I didn't give this program 5 stars is that if you install it to your hard drive you still have to put the 'original' disk (not a back-up) in your drive every fifth time you use the program. Not a massive inconvenience but if you take your laptop to work etc you need to take the disk along. Not sure what happens if the disk gets damaged/lost?? Also there is no way of registering different users i.e my wife, daughter and me. You need to keep a track/record of your own progress because if someone else uses the program after you it shows where they were last.
If you have viewed the video demo you'll see just why this program is so good. The on-screen teacher Sonia adds a nice touch and the lessons are very engaging. Quickly learning to type/spell pinyin is a great idea and this program uses it from the start. Because each lesson is split into several segments you can move backwards to refresh anything that was unclear but the teaching is very clear as is the audio.
After the intial sample conversation on each lesson you need to match up pinyin phrases with english and many of these were not heard in the lesson but use words from previous lessons etc and are a great way to increase your use of words in different sentences. We are all quickly learning which tone mark is used with each pinyin word due to the immersive repetition.
I'm combining this program with transparent premium chinese http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparent-Language-Chinese-Premium, it has printable flashcards and a great style of teaching at an incredible price.
The same company BYKI have an excellent Mandarin app for the iphone/android and I have Pimsleur Mandarin (1,2,3) which is just audio which I listen to mainly in the car.
My wife and daughter like this program better than others. I highly recommend it.