Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Learn German Using Real-World Videos With FluentU (Win Free Beta Access for a Limited Time)

I love using German movies and music videos in my German studies, so when I was invited to beta test a new language learning program that utilizes real-world videos, I was excited to try it out. Now, I’m thrilled to get to share it with you! FluentU, which started off with Chinese under the name FluentFlix, was loved by beta testers such as this one and is now expanding to other languages, including German. FluentU also offers Spanish, Japanese, French, and English. Many of us have an interest in multiple languages. Now you can tackle them with one program as a FluentU account accommodates access to multiple languages.

For a limited time, my readers can get a slot for free private beta access before FluentU German opens to the public. Keep reading to see what the FluentU language learning experience is like and what I enjoyed about it. If it sounds like a program you’d be interested in trying out, enter using the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one of 30 slots for free private beta access. [Edit: Those who won with the Rafflecopter have been notified via email. I still have some slots available for a limited time, so if you’re interested, comment or contact me. I’ll update again when they’re gone or when time runs out.]

When you sign up, you’ll be prompted to pick a language, a username, and a password. Then, it’s a simple 3 step process to set up your learning experience. First you’ll be asked which kind of account (teacher or regular) you want to create. If you’re using FluentU for yourself, you’ll want the regular account. Next, pick a scale from Newbie to Native how good your German is. If you’re not sure, no worries. Scroll over the question marks which explain each level. If you happen to pick one and find out that it’s over your head, you can change it later under your username on your home page. Each language has its own rating, so you can start at an advanced level in one language while being a newbie in another.

For German, I picked intermediate, which is described as being familiar with the easiest vocabulary but needing a lot of practice before being comfortable with any situation and being ready for trickier vocabulary, slightly longer sentences, and more grammar. Next, you’ll be shown some videos appropriate to the level you selected. Just click on whichever ones strike your fancy. They’ll show up on your home page with recommendations for further videos on the side.

My home screen with the first few videos and recommendations.

Each video is short, usually a minute or two long, which is great for those with short attention spans or limited time per learning session. Have a special interest? You can search videos above your recommendations. Don’t know what you’re looking for? Just click “go” and, on the left of the next page, you can browse by topic and format. You can also choose different learning levels in case you can to go easier or harder without changing your level at the home screen.

The first thing you might notice is that these videos come from YouTube. So why not just watch the videos there? Well, I’ve done that, and it is a good starting point, but it is often difficult to find videos that not only have German subtitles and/or English translations, but have accurate ones that are easy to follow, and of course there’s no way to know if the video you’re about to watch is going to match with your learning level. Not only does FluentU break the videos down by learning level, but, directly below the video, you’ll see large German subtitles with a smaller English translation below it. This is all on one screen, unlike YouTube in which people often bury the translation in the ‘about’ box. Need to hear something again? I have found it much easier to select the spot I want to go back to with FluentU than on YouTube.

Due to differences between German and English sentence structure, the words might not be in the same order in both languages. So what if you need to know what a word means? If you were watching the video on YouTube, you’d have to pause and turn to your dictionary. With FluentU, all you have to do is scroll over the word you want to know more about, and you’ll get an in-context definition including information related to the type of word it is and, if applicable, its gender. The video stops when you scroll over the word and resumes when you scroll away. Need a little more help? You can click on the word to get example sentences.

The little white box is what you see when scroll over a word. The box at top is what  you see when you click a word for more info. THe vide this is from is "35 Meters Below: The World's Deepest Pool".

The little white box is what you see when you scroll over a word. The box at top is what you see when you click a word for more info.

If it’s a word you want to study later, click the green icon in the top right of the box. A check mark will appear on the box so you know it worked, and that word will be highlighted yellow in the subtitles. This highlighting remains even when you rewatch the video and when the word shows up in other videos until you learn the word. When you’re ready, just hit play and your video will continue.

Click the green

In this screen, I had clicked the green box to add the word ‘deutlich’ to my vocab words.

When you click on a video, instead of “watch” you can also click the “learn” button. You’ll see a flash-card type screen with a vocab word, the definition, and an example sentence. Sometimes there’s also a picture or short clip. You can either click “next” or “already know”. The “already know” feature is a blessing because sometimes even words like ‘und‘ (and) and Sie (She/You/They depending on context) show up, and I really don’t want the tedium of ‘learning’ those when I know them.

One of the ‘flashcard’ type screens.

Spaced throughout, you’ll also be shown a sentence with a word blocked out and an English word or phrase displayed, and you’ll need to pick the correct translation from four options. Or you’ll get a sentence with a word blocked out, a hint what goes there, and blank letter boxes to type in the word. One that asks you to “translate” with each word in a box looks a bit tricky at first glance. I tried to drag and drop, and it doesn’t work. All you have to do is click each word in order. If you make a mistake, click it again to put the word back down in the word bank.

If you don’t get a question right when you check it, it’ll pop up the correct answer with the “learn this word” screen, and that question will come up again later. At the end, you’ll get a score with your accuracy, the percent of the video learned, and the percent of the video mastered. From there you can either click “Return to Home” or click “Continue Learning”  to keep learning more words from the video.

My score from the first section on

My score from the first section on the video “Stella Maris”-Einstürzende Neubauten & Meret Becker.

To access the words that you have saved, go to the the “Vocab” tab at the top of the page and click one of the options under “Now Learning”. With “All” you can see all of your words, the definitions, and what videos you added them from. If you feel that you know a word, you can click the green plus sign next to it and it will be removed from your vocab list. You can also click  “import words” to add words from outside the program.

You can review your words there, or go to “create new deck” on the left, click on ones you want to practice, and click “add to deck”. You can remove ones you’ve learned the same way as in the vocab list. From your deck, click “learn” and you’ll get flash-card like screens similar to those described above in the “learn” portion of a video selection. I’ve only been using this program for a little over a week in my spare time, and I feel like I have already learned quite a bit. Some of my favorite new-to-me words are: deutlich (clearly, obviously, distinct), dabei (with that; because of this; thus), plötzlich (suddenly), and eigenartig (strange, peculiar).

My saved vocabulary words.

My saved vocabulary words. Most of them come from Intermediate videos, but “Let it Go” is actually an Upper Intermediate video.

I have really enjoyed that the clips are short enough to squeeze in when I have a couple minutes between other things I’m doing. I also love being able to scroll over unfamiliar words for a definition and to add them to a vocab list for later if they aren’t cemented in my mind. The “learn” feature with the videos is a useful test to see if I really absorbed all I thought I did. I have found that even when I recognize a word when I see it, I sometimes have trouble recalling it if I’m asked to type it from memory, so that’s an area I know I need to practice, and I get that option with this program. I don’t worry when I get something wrong because I know seeing the correction and having the question come up again later will help cement it in my mind and that I’ll get another chance to get it right.

Although learning language is obviously the main goal with this program, another great benefit to using real-world videos is that you can learn about other subjects. Among other things, I’ve learned about Nemo, a 35 meter deep diving basin in Brussels, which is the deepest in der Welt (in the world) and Klarträume (clear dreams), also called luzider träume (lucid dreams). I really encourage anyone who is wanting to learn or improve their skills in German (or any of their available languages) to give FluentU a chance. For a limited time, you can enter with Rafflecopter to win one of 30 slots for free access to a private beta test version of FluentU German. Viel Spaß! (Have fun!). [Edit: Those who won with the Rafflecopter have been notified via email. I still have some slots available for a limited time, so if you’re interested, comment or contact me. I’ll update again when they’re gone or when time runs out.]

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: I received free private beta access to FluentU and free access for a limited number of my readers for the purpose of writing a post introducing the program. I was not otherwise compensated for this post.


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