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Sunday, December 5th
Fluenz believes the best way to learn Mandarin Chinese - or any other new language - is by referencing the one you already speak well: English! This addresses one of the biggest frustrations many students have when taking Chinese lessons: being expected to "just pick it up as you go" by listening, with no direct explanations of what is being presented.
Plenty of help in English
Fluenz teaches Mandarin through video tutorials and "workouts" where you practice what you've learned. Everything is written in Pinyin: the approximation of the pronunciation using the Roman alphabet we use in English. The tutor, Yi Wei, offers explanations and strategies for word order, tones and pronunciation, sentence construction and vocabulary.
Three levels of Chinese lessons
There are three levels of learning available for Mandarin Chinese. Levels 1 and 2 include the basics like writing in Pinyin, identifying the tones (sounds plus marks), counting and making comparisons, and other topics to help you gain the ability to navigate through a new city. Moving up to Level 3, your Chinese lessons will include how to speak about the past and future, how to handle situations like exchanging money and dealing with technology, and so on. As far as we could see, Fluenz Mandarin doesn't delve into writing in simplified or traditional Chinese characters, relying solely on Pinyin. If it's important to you to be able to read and write in Chinese, this probably isn't going to be the right program for you.
No free trial
Fluenz is the only program in our review that doesn't offer any way to "try before you buy" : no sample lesson, no week-long free access to the student dashboard, nothing. If you choose to buy Fluenz Mandarin sight-unseen, at least you can rest assured that your purchase is covered by a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
One-time fee, no subscription needed
Unlike many Chinese lessons, Fluenz doesn't require you to pay a monthly fee to access their program. Instead, you buy the level(s) you want and then use it for as long as you like, for up to three user accounts per household. You'll pay $258 for Fluenz Mandarin 1 + 2, $187 for Fluenz Mandarin 3, or $318 for Fluenz Mandarin 1 + 2 + 3. Sometimes Fluenz has promotional discounts: we got a pop-up as we browsed that offered to send us a code via email.
Needs more transparency and content to be competitive
While Fluenz Mandarin gets a lot of positive feedback from users, so much so that it's used by the Navy's Special Warfare Command, it just doesn't measure up to most of the Chinese lessons in our review. Plus, with no apparent way to learn Chinese characters and only three levels of content, this platform doesn't seem to be as well-rounded as some of the higher-rated programs we evaluated. We'd need to see a lot more upfront - like access to a dashboard or some kind of sample lesson - to move Fluenz up in our rankings.
If you're interested in the language, you're in good company: according to recent statistics, there are more than 25 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a second language, with over 200 million people outside of mainland China who speak it! A few decades ago, eager students had to find a college offering Chinese lessons in order to learn, but today Chinese can frequently be found in high schools, enrichment programs, and even dual language or immersion programs for elementary school children.
Not one of the lucky ones to have classes nearby? Don't worry! There are many different options for taking Chinese online now too. Whether you want traditional-style lessons with detailed grammar explanations, multiple choice quizzes, and lots of repetition with flash cards, or you prefer a more modern, game-like approach, you'll have no trouble finding something that fits your learning style and your available study time.
Of course, Chinese probably isn't going to come to you as easily as a Romance language like Spanish or French. Not only do you have a completely new writing system to comprehend - one that uses characters instead of letters, too - but the tonal aspect of Chinese is notoriously difficult for English-speakers to master. (For example, a single change in tone can make the difference between saying "to buy" or "to sell" , "flower" or "painting" , or "panda" and "chest hair" !) You'll want to choose Chinese lessons that help you learn what you need most - like travel phrases or everyday conversation - while teaching you the well-rounded basics too.
How can you tell which Chinese lessons are right for you? Here are several things to look for as you consider different programs:
To help you get the most out of your language studies, TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the best Chinese lessons available online today. We're confident that this information will help you pick a program that fits your unique learning style and fluency goals.
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