LingQ Review - Learn Languages By Reading (And With No Grammar!)
- Mille Larsen •12 mins read
Since I originally discovered LingQ several years ago, It has been one of my primary tools when studying foreign languages. It's not the first app that comes to people's mind when they think about language learning tools, however. That's a shame, so I have decided to put this LingQ review together, in order to share some points about one of my favorite reading apps.
LingQ is language learning app that helps you learn vocabulary and grammar from context. What's beautiful about this is that you don't need to study tedious grammar tables and do exercises with this method. You simply read. When things get difficult, LingQ will help you, and the system will then remember the words you found difficult for later.
Why do I recommend a grammar-free approach?
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. (Go read my article on the difference between language learning and language acquisition).
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 undecipherable. Often, you'll need to look everything up as you go. Imagine looking every word on a page up in a dictionary.
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 material written for native speakers of the language. This means that there's no need for dictionaries, parallel texts, glossaries and that kind of thing. Once you have picked the text you'd like to study, you simply start reading it with LingQ.
When you first open the lesson, you'll be met by something that looks like this:
This is what the LingQ study screen looks like on a desktop computer
Unknown Words In LingQ
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 read 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 online 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.
After Finishing A Study Session, Edit Your Hints
One of the most effective strategies I have figured out while using LingQ is to never stick with an instant dictionary lookup!
LingQ is great for looking words up on the go and creating yellow words without it interfering too much with the flow of reading, but to really learn the words, I recommend that you go edit the words.
Because instant translations is a quick fix. It tells you what the word means immediately, but then the brain forgets about it. You've found the word pretty easily, so why bother remembering, right?
To make your brain remember an unknown word, you need to do something with it. So I recommend that you go back and edit your LingQs into something other than the direct translation. Can you think of a synonym, another way of explaining what it means or perhaps a silly association that you won't be able to forget? Perfect! Put that in there.
Now, the next time you stumble upon this yellow word, you'll immediately be reminded of the hint that you came up with yourself.
Making your brain "work for it" helps knit a much tighter web of synapses in your brain, and you simply remember better!
If you'd like to read more about my thoughts about remembering vocabulary, go read my article on how to remember words.
Known Words, And Words You're 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 unmarked. 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.
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 seen them enough to feel comfortable 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 Choose 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 this data is 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
A great way of measuring your progress, is the number of known words.
In my case, seeing that the counter tells me that I've learned 37.000 words in Arabic encourages me to keep going. It's an achievement after all!
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.
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 novel 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, but to some learners, it might be a helpful fun 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 Arabic or Assimil French (or whatever language you're studying.) The Assimil courses provide 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.
Study on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
LingQ offers both apps for Android and Apple products, and these are great and very handy if you want to lay back and study foreign languages in the couch.
I haven't used my PC much for language learning since LingQ published its Android app, but the computer does have to utility, especially when it comes to editing hints.
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 23 languages fully, as well as 14 languages in beta. The languages in beta generally have less material available in the library, but otherwise they work fairly well. Arabic used to be a beta language when I began studying it, but I've never has any problems with it aside from a few small bugs.
The list of languages offered is getting longer and longer, and I recommend that you go the the LingQ website yourself to check it out.
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've taken part in translating and recording some easy material into Danish. These dialogues have been added to the system in order to make Danish a supported language.
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 Of My LingQ Review
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 I could have succeeded 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 LingQs which means that you need to become a paying 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.