FluentFlix: learn Mandarin watching great video content!

peckishlaowai Posted in Learning Mandarin,Tags: ,

I’ve recently received a test invite from FluentFlix after I was one of the first ten people who commented on a similar post on the ChineseHacks website. I was really happy to receive the opportunity to try it out over the last week and my exact words were that it had “blown me away”. (It is still blowing me away if you were wondering…)

FluentFlix have offered me 10 beta invites for people reading my blog too – so the first ten people to leave a comment below will receive an invite from FluentFlix to try out their beta version of the product.

How does it work?

The FluentFlix concept is indeed very simple – in fact it is so simple it is simply brilliant!

I think their idea is incredibly ingenious. They’ve taken real life videos (sourced from YouTube) and provide the ability to learn new vocab as you watch the videos that match your level and interests.

Essentially you specify your categories of interest and your level and are then presented with suitable video content that you can watch. (You can obviously change your interests and level at any time. I’ve set my level to beginner and I am learning plenty!)

Screenshot 1: Watching a video inside FluentFlix

Learning Vocab with FluentFlix

Hovering over a word gives you an explanation. The vocab you've favorited to learn is highlighted in yellow.

Screenshot 2: Learning new vocabulary and sample sentences

Learning vocabulary with FluentFlix

Screen overlay shows favorited word as well as sample sentences - really great for sentence mining!

Just to give you an idea – I’ve watched and learned vocab from:

  • A kids’ story with a green frog and a tortoise that teaches a story about the idiom 井底之蛙 or, ‘a frog in a well’.
  • A video that makes fun of Siri
  • A Nike commercial with Li Na
  • A short film about a couple quarreling
  • One very teary BNP Paribas advertisement that actually had me in tears
  • The “You are the Apple of my Eye” movie trailer

Essentially this product as it stands now has my stamp of approval and my love. Yes – especially the latter. The only thing that remains to be seen is pricing. I think there are still a few improvements that need to be made but none of these for me personally are show-stoppers and I have already communicated some of these suggestions to Alan of FluentFlix.

Some of my suggestions or enhancements I’d love to see:

  • For someone who’s been dabbling in sentence mining with Anki, I think they should be including the full pinyin for the sentences they supply. Yes I know I can use Google Translate for example to get the pinyin but it’s yet an extra step I need to take to get the pinyin. I also realize that each character has its pinyin presented on mouse-over but if f they simply provided the pinyin right below the hanzi it would be 很方便.
  • They allow you to add words you’ve learned from videos to your main vocab list. However I can see for example that I might want to add a word to another list – let’s say vocab related to food. Or move a word from my main list to one called ‘studied’. Once I delete a word from one of these lists, it deletes that word from both lists. Once a word has been added to a list it should break the reference to the original word. This would be a significant change for FluentFlix and definitely is something I can live with but I reckon users should know how this functionality works.
  • Fluent Flix doesn’t have traditional characters yet – but from what I can gather from the ChineseHacks website this is something that Fluent Flix will be considering as a future enhancement. Naturally this doesn’t affect me yet as I’m learning simplified but I have to support the traditional hanzi learners and say that this certainly would be a crucial and core aspect required by students who learn traditional hanzi.
  • The final thing I’d like to see FluentFlix is allow users to submit requests for videos to become “course material”. Naturally, it would be up to FluentFlix to choose and decide which videos to include but having a feature like that would be quite good to have within the product . The other alternative is to allow users to submit videos and all users to vote on these videos. Then if a video is popular enough well then FluentFlix would not have a choice but to analyse that video for their users :) . A nice to have feature – but it would be kind of nice to have, wouldn’t it?
  • Now without further ado, please leave a comment below and if you’re one the first ten people to comment then you’ll have a chance to be blown away too and receive one of 10 beta invites to try FluentFlix before it is released to the public.

    All the invites have gone – no more left unfortunately.
    Thanks for everyone who’s read the post and commented. I will be forwarding your email address to FluentFlix and you should be receiving an email invite from them soon. I hope you enjoy FluentFlix as much as I am doing. :) Good luck with your studies! :)