My husband and I just returned from a 10-day trip to Mexico, and we barely even opened our phrasebook thanks to this wonderful software!
In the three months prior to the trip I did 45 lessons total from Fluenz Spanish 1 & 2 (I completed all of DVD 1 and half of DVD 2) on my Macbook laptop, and my husband did about 6 lessons from DVD 1. Once there, we were easily and confidently able to take taxis, order food and drinks at restaurants, make hotel reservations and check into hotels, go shopping, buy bus tickets and take intercity busses, and more--all practical topics which are thoroughly covered in the Fluenz lessons.
What's more, I even had some actual conversations with locals, talking about who I am, what I do for work, a previous trip to Mexico (past tense lessons came in handy, there!) and so forth. Plus I read local newspapers, wrote postcards to Spanish-speaking friends and understood a good portion of the movies that were playing with Spanish dubbing on the intercity bus rides.
Fluenz is a very sneaky piece of software--sometimes the lessons feel slow and basic, and you worry you're not learning fast enough. Then you realize that you have actually internalized the vocabulary and structures so thoroughly that the words and phrases come naturally!
The format is excellent--instead of being stuck just doing writing or reading (as with books) or just with listening with no idea how words are spelled (as in Pimsleur-type programs) or just with uncontextualized vocab (as in Rosetta Stone), you get it all--practice listening, understanding, pronouncing, reading, writing, plus indepth video explanations from the program's language tutor. Plus, it's just plain fun to use (and the nice graphic design and modern look doesn't hurt, either).
Nothing can substitute for a real-life class, but the tutor-driven format of Fluenz is as close to a real-life class as it gets, and it has two big advantages over a class: first, price (since it's a DVD, both my husband and I could share it) and second, pacing/flexibility. On busy weeks I did only one or two lessons, but when I had more spare time (like when I was stuck home with a broken foot) I did a lesson each day. And I didn't have to worry about being at a class at a certain time each week.
I should note that we didn't use the Fluenz DVDs completely alone--I supplemented the lessons by watching favorite DVDs with the Spanish-language tracks turned on, by reading local New York City Spanish-language newspapers and Spanish-language children's books, and by doing some of the written exercises from the excellent book Colloquial Spanish of Latin America: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series (Book Only)). But I think that's a good idea with any language-learning program. And I definitely got my main base of understanding--and especially of pronouncing and speaking!--from the excellent lessons and practice I got with Fluenz.
Fluenz also has really excellent and fast customer service--one of my DVDs didn't work right in my computer and they immediately sent a replacement.
My only suggestions to improvements in the software would be: 1. Changing it so it's not tethered to the DVD itself (I just get nervous because DVDs are so easily scratched and damaged), 2. Adding a way to track progress or record progress and 3. Adding more levels (like level 3).
But those are small things! In sum, I highly recommend this software--and I'm planning on buying the Fluenz French 1+2 Learning Suite Mac, Including DVDs, Audio CDs, Podcasts, and Fluenz Navigator. Next-Generation French Language Learning Software set to prepare for a upcoming trip to France.