App Linguistics

Fluent Forever Released to App Stores!

It’s finally happened. After a year and a half of intense development work, our app is officially available in the Apple and Google Play app stores. Holy crap.

Before I jump into the announcement, I want to take just a quick moment to mention that the Fluent Forever Team is the best group of people I’ve ever had the honor of working with, and everything that makes this app and this platform successful is due to their incredible efforts.

What’s changed since the Beta?

If you’ve been actively participating in our Official Beta, then you’re already pretty up to date. The big difference between this official release and our previous beta release is that you’re able to get it without going through all that pre-release HockeyApp silliness to install it.

But if you’ve been following us more casually and only have a sense of where we were at a few months ago, a lot has changed. The app looks and feels radically different now, as we’ve added a daily goals home screen that tells you exactly what to do whenever you’re using the app.  

You can still manually create and review flashcards, but you definitely don’t need to leave that home screen, well, ever. That, coupled with piles of backend optimization, bug fixes, content fixes, user interface improvements, new videos and new language content means that we have a solid app that you can effectively use to learn new languages using our method, without needing to spend a ton of time reading user manuals and quickstart guides.

So now what?

Now we get started with the next phase of development: iteration. This app is just on the cusp of its full potential. It’s ready enough that we can get rid of HockeyApp distribution and the “beta” title, but it’s certainly far from done. When we do surveys of new users, we see that they like it on average, but that’s not the same thing as intense overwhelming love for our app. And so we have work to do. As of today, our features backlog has around 700 substantial items in it. That increases weekly as we interact with our users. And to figure out which items are the highest priority, we do user surveys and pay close attention to the comments and suggestions that come in. That allows us to focus our efforts on the features you need or want most, rather than making wild guesses about what’s theoretically important.

In terms of a release schedule, we’re going to be moving towards something known as Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment, which basically means that when our developers write a new feature, big or small, it passes to our test team, and when the test team approves it, it passes to our users. That means you’ll be seeing new updates to the app all the time, rather than big piles of updates every couple of weeks. In practice, that allows us to improve the app more quickly.

How did we get here?

It’s taken us nine years to reach this point. Back in 2010, I was coming up with the first versions of the Fluent Forever Method to help me learn French. That method evolved from year to year, as I began using it for Russian, Hungarian, Spanish and Japanese, and as I began writing about it and teaching it in workshops to other learners.

In 2013, nine months before my book’s publication, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign, to help fund the creation of a line of pronunciation training tools and Word Lists, designed to be used within a flashcard creation platform called Anki. That Kickstarter led to the birth of the always-growing Fluent Forever team, and together, we spent three years developing those products.

Throughout that process, our customers’ feedback was consistent: our products were tremendously effective, but they were also challenging to use. Learners were yearning for a faster, easier way to learn languages – a method that didn’t require a steep learning curve, and didn’t require users to spend hours each week creating flashcards. As such, we began early plans for a new, streamlined app that automated all of the busywork of the Fluent Forever Method, so that all of a user’s time would be spent learning, rather than figuring out how to install various tools or performing repetitive, boring tasks.

We created our first mockups in early 2017, showed them to users, collected feedback, made new mockups, and continued testing until we saw that we had landed on a product that people would actually enjoy using. Then, in September, we launched a new Kickstarter campaign that would blow away all historical records for crowdfunding an app. Ultimately, we exceeded the crowdfunding record for an app five-fold, raising more than $1.7 million dollars.

2 years later, and we’ve built an amazing team around a friggin awesome product. Today, we get to officially send that product out into the world. And tomorrow, we can start iterating on it based on feedback from all of you, improve our product further, and shape it into the best damned language learning platform the world has ever seen.

Core Features of our Release

Here’s what you’ll be able to do with our app today:

  • Daily Goals:
    • Not sure what to do? The home screen will give you 5-10 minutes of effective language learning tasks to do every day. Just follow those and you’ll be good to go.
    • Have extra time? Below your daily goals, you’ll find bonus tasks. Those are longer term tasks that you’ll want to complete over the course of a week or two.
  • Languages we support:
    • Spanish (Latin American [MX]) – complete set of words/sentences
    • Spanish (Castilian) – complete set of words/sentences
    • French – complete set of words/sentences
    • German – beta/partial set of words/sentences*
    • Italian – complete set of words/sentences
    • Portuguese (Brazilian) – half set of words/sentences*
    • Russian – nearly complete set of words/sentences*
    • Korean – half set of words/sentences*

      * – A “complete” set of sentences means that we’ve loaded around 1875 sentences into the app (around 19,000 words in total). That’s enough content for at least a year of study. For the languages with smaller sets of sentences, you’ll have plenty of content to tide you over for a month or two while we finish those sets up.
  • Pronunciation Training
    • Videos: Learn the basics of the International Phonetic Alphabet, along with Consonants, Vowels, Word Stress Patterns and Spelling Rules for your target language through a collection of video lessons
    • Basics of Spelling: Access a series of customized flashcards to teach you every detail from the video lessons
    • Ear Training: Minimal Pair Testing [LINK] will rewire your ears to hear the sounds of your target language.
  • Base Vocabulary Training
    • Easily build flashcards for 625 high frequency, easy-to-visualize words. You’ll learn them with images, rather than translations, so that you can rapidly learn how to think in your target language.
    • Words are presented in Story Order, a more efficient order for memorization
    • Choose 1-4 images for each flashcard you create. You can select those images from popular images for each word, or use our integrated image search to find anything you can imagine.
    • When you review, those flashcards will follow our Spaced Repetition algorithm, to ensure that you’re always reviewing a word at the optimal moment, to help move that word into your long term memory.
  • Grammar Training
    • Easily browse through 1875 sentences: 3 example sentences (easy/medium/hard) for every word in our 625 word list.
    • Learn Vocabulary, Word Order and/or Dictionary Forms for any word in any sentence. You’ll learn these – again – without memorizing translations, by building associations between your target words, the other words in the sentence, and images that you choose yourself.
    • Select 1-4 images for every flashcard, using our Advanced Image Search engine that can easily provide custom searches for any word or combination of words in your target sentence, in your target language or in English, with just a couple of taps.
    • Automatic Flashcard Generation – with noun genders (!) – for all words.
  • Vocabulary Tracking
    • Swipe to mark words as ‘Known’ or to Skip them
    • Over time, as you mark known words and create flashcards for new words, the app will learn your vocabulary.
    • Custom Frequency List: Once you’ve passed the initial 625 words, we’ll be showing you the most frequent words in your target language that you haven’t learned yet. By monitoring what you already know, we can determine the most important words for you to learn next. Tap on any word to see example sentences for it and learn them in context.

Video Walkthrough of the App

The Subscription Plans

We now offer a 14-day free trial! Once that expires, users can choose from one of four subscription plans. The main subscription we offer is a monthly $9.99 plan, which gives you unlimited app access to learn a single language. We also offer three discounted long-term plans:

Upcoming Feature Highlights

There are way too many features planned to list them all here (we’ve captured 700 of them in our lists, but that’s just a start). That said, here are some highlights of what’s to come:

  • Daily Goal Customization: We’ll ask you how many minutes you’d like to study per day, and we’ll use that to determine exactly how you should best spend your time.
  • Reminders: Easily add custom mnemonic imagery to your flashcards to help you remember abstract concepts like noun gender
  • Explore and Search: Search for example sentences for whatever word you’d like to learn, and browse through new sentences added into our database.
  • Edit Flashcards: Don’t like the images you’ve chosen? No problem; you’ll be able to edit your cards on the fly.
  • Add Your Own Sentences: Use our web interface to add your own custom content
  • Tutoring Interface: Collaborate with a tutor to build your own sentence content
  • Community Database: As users add sentences to the app, we’ll have native speaker staff curate those sentences for inclusion in a huge community database of sentences. That means that there will always be more content to learn on a daily basis and many high quality examples of all of the top words in your target language.
  • Sentence Q&A: You’ll be able to ask and answer questions about any sentence within our database, and our staff will highlight the best answers within those Q&A threads. In practice, that means that you’ll be able to read hundreds of specific discussions about grammar topics within your target language.
  • Expansion to the rest of our official languages: Dutch, Hebrew, Arabic (Syrian/Levantine), Mandarin, Japanese.
  • Expansion to English as a Second Language and localization of the app interface into each of our offered languages (i.e., you can learn English as a French speaker)
  • Expansion to all languages: We’ll be adding a framework that allows users to learn any language using our platform with the help of a tutor, and share the sentences they create with all other users studying that same language.

A HUGE thank you to all our early backers and beta users: we couldn’t have made it this far without you! If you’re new to Fluent Forever and eager to learn the language of your dreams, check out our app now and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear your thoughts and what features you think could make it even better.

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