My LingQ Review: My favorite language learning app
Since I originally discovered LingQ several years ago, It has been one of my primary tools when studying foreign languages. This is why I have decided to put this LingQ review together, that I hope that you’ll read in order to get an idea out this great app for language learning.
I’m a firm believer in the importance of a heavy focus on input in all stages of language learning. You should read and listen as much as possible. This, however, can be easier said than done. In the beginning stages, all books, children stories and newspaper articles you may come upon are completely opaque and undecipherable. You need to look everything up and even when you progress and become more advanced, you need to be very selective in finding the right texts at the right level, in order to learn from context. This is where LingQ is extremely helpful.
How do I learn languages with LingQ?
LingQ has many different features, but the main strength of the system is the “reader”. You either chose a text from their library, which for most languages is quite vast and getting bigger by the day, or you import your own text to study.
LingQ is designed to work with native material or in other words, material written for native speakers of the language. This means that there’s no need for parallel texts, glossaries and that kind of thing. Once you have picked the text you’d like to study, you start reading it with LingQ. When you open the lesson, you’ll be met by something that looks like this:
As you see, all words are marked blue in this Japanese text. This is because I haven’t studied Japanese yet, and therefore all of these words are unknown to me. LingQ marks words that you see for the first time in blue. What you do next is study the text. Listen to the audio while reading along, and click on the blue words to look up their meaning. When you click a word, you will get a list of suggestions, or hints. These hints are based on what other LingQ users have picked before you.
You can also chose to look the word up in an dictionary and pick a translation from there. When you chose a hint, the word will turn yellow. Yellow words are simply called LingQs and these are the words you’re in the progress of learning.
You can see in the screenshot above that I’ve picked hints, or translations for most words, and that, to the right, the system shows me some suggested translations for the word 私. You might also notice that the name ”Emma” is white. This is because I’ve picked the option “I know this word”.
This is what LingQ does. It’s a reading tool that helps you read texts in foreign languages, and then remembers which words you know and which words you are learning.
In the image above, you can see an example of what it looks like when I study Arabic through LingQ.This is what LingQ does. It's a reading tool that helps you read texts in foreign languages Click To Tweet
In the upper right corner, next to my username, you see the number 37551 next to a flag representing the Arabic language.
This is, according to LingQ, the number of words that I know in Arabic. Each time you import or open up a new text in the LingQ reader, the system will remember your vocabulary in the language. This is why you see in the example above that most words are known (white) whereas a few complicated words, I’m still in the process of learning (yellow) and then a few words I’m seeing for the first time. The first blue word ” تذكّريني ” I actually know, so I click ”I know this word“ to turn it into ordinary text. As for the yellow words I still haven’t come upon them enough to change them to known – but I click on them in order to see their meaning and I make a note of it. Maybe next time I’ll see them, I’ll remember, and I’ll change them to known as well.
How to chose which texts to study with LingQ
Once you’ve been studying with LingQ for a while, you will have grown a foundation in vocabulary that you know, along with vocabulary that you recognize, but don’t quite know yet.
All of these data are stored on LingQ’s server, and this becomes very helpful for you when you want to pick a new text to study. With LingQ you can read even difficult texts, but if you want to keep things a little simpler, you should stick to texts that are at your level, or just slightly more difficult.
Whether you find your text through LingQ’s library, or you import texts that you find yourself on the net, LingQ analyzes the texts for you. It tells you how many words you already know, and how many you’re in the process of learning, and It calculates a handy ”New words” percentage.
As you see in the image above, from the Arabic library at LingQ, some texts have as little as 6% unknown words, meaning that they’ll be very easy for me to read. Others have 20% or more. I’d generally advice you to stick with texts that have around 15% unknown words. Sometimes, however, it can be helpful to read more difficult texts in order to push yourself (or maybe test yourself). On the other hand, you might also want to study some of the easier texts in order to get a little kick of motivation and see that things are evolving. As a beginner, or a new member of LingQ, however you’ll have to read the beginner material even with 100% unknown words, but it will quickly improve.
Measure your progress and get motivated
The number of known words, in my case the 37.000 words in Arabic, is a great way of measuring your progress in learning or acquiring the language.
When you decide to learn a foreign language to fluency. You have to be in for the long haul, and you’ll quickly realize that among the many challenges in becoming fluent is the one of staying motivated.
LingQ employs several techniques aiming at keeping its users motivated, and the word-count, is one such. When I look at a number that’s slowly rising, I can’t help but feel that something is happening, even when it feels like I am not progressing.LingQ employs several techniques aiming at keeping its users motivated Click To Tweet
If you make a goal of reading one million words of French in a year, reaching 10.000 known words in Russian within six months, or simply finishing your Agatha Christie before the end of the month, seeing the page-count, or the number of words rise will help you stay motivated. LingQ also offers you the option of having daily reminders sent by email, as well as studying with flashcards, cloze deletions and other things. I don’t personally use these, but they might be a nice feature for some.
Lastly, as a LingQ user, for each language you study, you get a little avatar which is a funny little creature that grows bigger as you learn more vocabulary. You can also earn points which you use to buy new accessories for your creature. I don’t use this feature either, and personally am not a great fan of these gamification deals, but to some learners, it might be a helpful encouraging element.
LingQ from the very beginning?
You might be a complete beginner in a foreign language and ask if LingQ is useful for complete beginners. I think that it is possible, but I’m a little reluctant in recommending that LingQ be your primary study tool in the beginning.
Personally I prefer starting with a beginners course like Assimil which provides a solid base in the language, as well as an introduction to the alphabet (if the language you chose to study uses another alphabet than the one you know.) Such a course will also provide you with some useful info about the culture, and explain what to expect when studying the language.
Most language courses available will ridiculously claim that you will become fluent after completing it, or reach a certain level. This is only marketing, and you shouldn’t take their word for it. Use these courses as beginner material only. LingQ, however doesn’t claim anything that it can’t deliver. With LingQ you’re in charge of what to study, how much and for how long, so becoming fluent in the language is entirely in your own hands.
If I were a complete beginner, especially in very exotic languages, I’d use LingQ in combination with Assimil from the beginning. However, if you study a language that is fairly close to your own (like German for an English speaker or Spanish for someone who already knows French) you can make great progress from the start relying solely on LingQ.If I were a complete beginner in a foreign language, I'd use LingQ in combination with Assimil Click To Tweet
Study on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
LingQ was originally designed to work in your browser on your computer. This remains a great way of studying, but since I got a hold of an Ipad, I haven’t used my PC a lot. Their new app for the Ipad and the Iphone is extremely well designed and makes your study session so much more comfortable. I study wile lounging comfortably in an armchair, and I also bring the Ipad along on train-rides. I haven’t tried the app on an Iphone, but would be happy to hear people’s opinions of how it fares in the comment field below.
For android phones and tablets, LingQ is in the process of developing an app like the one available for Apple products. If you prefer Android, you can still use LingQ’s browser version, though, which works reasonably well on tablets.
Learn French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and many more languages with LingQ
One of the advantages with LingQ is the number of languages offered. LingQ currently supports 14 languages fully, as well as 10 languages in beta. The languages in beta generally have less material available in the library, but otherwise they work fairly well. Arabic is an example of a beta language, and there are some small disadvantages where more attention is needed from the developers, but it still works.
The supported languages are English, German, Japanese, Russian, French, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin), Korean, Polish, Dutch and Greek.
And the languages in beta are Arabic, Czech, Finnish, Esperanto, Hebrew, Latin, Norwegian, Rumanian, Turkish and Ukrainian.
The team at LingQ is constantly working at improving functionality and are quite fast in reacting to inquires and solving any problems there might be, although their priorities seem to lie with the fully supported languages. More beta languages are gradually being integrated into the list of fully supported languages and new languages keep being added into beta.
Personally I’m in the process of translating and recording some easy material that might be used as a base for adding Danish (my native language) to the list, and many other people are working on a voluntary basis at getting more languages added to the system. You can see some of my Danish lessons for LingQ here: Mini stories in Danish and “Hvem er hun” Danish dialogues.
Verdict, price and conclusion
As you might have realized while reading this review, I am quite fond of LingQ. I’ve used their program for learning French and Arabic, and am beginning to dig into Spanish and German now. So far, LingQ has been my main tool in language learning, and even though it could have been done with other methods, I keep coming back to LingQ. I warmly recommend it to everyone who is serious about studying a foreign language (or at least the ones that are on their list).
LingQ isn’t entirely free. You can sign up for a free basic account and get a feel of how it works, but you’re limited to creating a certain number of LingQ’s which means that you need to become a premium member in order to take real advantage of the system.
A premium membership is $10 per month, which is less than most people spend on pizza. There’s also an option of upgrading your account further, which I don’t necessarily recommend, except if you want to use LingQ’s community platform where native speakers help you with corrections and tutoring sessions.
To conclude. If LingQ sent me a hat and a t-shirt, I’d wear them! I’m a huge fan of their system and I warmly recommend it.