Anyone with a similar language learning experience?

Small back story;

Currently learning Russian.
First time learning a language.
Used LingQ in the past, got to around 5000 words.
Stopped learning the language for around 8 months due to work.
Came back to LingQ recently so just reset my stats to start a fresh seen as the word count was so low anyway.

Now to get to the topic title.

There are two greater points that I have in my mind when it comes to language learning as I understand it;
I understand comprehensible input is important and one should ideally find material slightly above their level.
I also understand that one should be enjoying the whole process. It goes without saying that if you enjoy something you will stick to it.

Now I find beginner material absolutely boring. Simply due to the nature and topics of beginner material I suppose. I like the speed of conversation but the topics themselves don’t really hold my attention.

What I do is watch Youtube videos in Russian with Russian subtitles and import them into LingQ.
These will be videos about Tv series’, films or video games that I have seen so I understand what is being spoken about it least.
For example I was watching a video essay about the horror film ‘The Thing’. 40 minute video, watching along, reading at the same time, making LingQs, loved it, hardly understood a thing :joy: BUT I understood more due to me having seen the film and the additional context being there.

The other thing I do is play some of these videos while I am working. At this point it’s only the audio so I’m not getting the additional context from watching the video but some words might jump out again due to me having seen the film the video is talking about for example.
I get about 3 hours worth of audio in like this per day.

My question is, does anyone else learn a language in this way? And I suppose my greater point is; how much am I slowing down the learning process by ‘learning’ in this way?
I know I am throwing myself into material way beyond my understanding, I mean these are just normal videos made for native speakers not learners.

I see people hunting for material at their level and I think to myself ‘Damn, maybe me watching videos of native speakers isn’t a great use of my time and I really should put the effort into watching some more slower beginner material’

Thoughts welcome!
Cheers guys.


Watching content you don’t understand does very little to your language abilities. At 5,000 Known Words in Russian though, you know a decent number of words. If you find beginner content boring, you should be able to find some native content, which you understand with the help of translation or a dictionary. Try watching the YouTube videos with Language Reactor or @roosterburton’s Video Tools, so you can turn on dual subtitles and have hover-over dictionary look-ups. Ideally you want content though, which has only one or two unknown words per subtitle line, otherwise you’ll have to keep repeating them too often, which is kinda annoying.


I think it’s perfectly valid to “start” with native level content from the start, especially for someone who is familiar with LingQ and/or comprehensible input methodology and also has confidence that comprehensible input works. One of our old time users (no longer posting here) did this with Spanish. Started from scratch with native material and felt he progressed at the same rate. The caveats is that you might not learn a lot of the basic vocabulary and phrases to allow for early speaking if you solely do it this way, but eventually you would get there…you could also supplement this type of thing as an additional activity.

I’m not sure how much your listening while working is really doing for you though (depending on what you are doing for work). I’ve tried doing this every so often…and while there maybe is a small benefit, it distracts my work far too much to be an overall plus. If I’m doing dishes though…perfect.

I also think I wish I had done a lot more native speaking listening and reading of those conversational videos and audio much earlier (i.e. things like easy German). You ultimately want to be conversing with natives and the sanitized nature of audiobooks or documentaries makes things a little easier. Real conversation has incomplete sentences, abbreviations of words, hems and hahs, starts and restarts. So getting acquainted with that earlier I think is one thing I would change with learning other languages.

I think the main problem with using native language from the start is that it can feel really tedious depending on how you do it. I prefer definitely to work on sentences as a whole for this. Read the target language, read the sentence translation. Gather the lingq’s. Try reading again with the newfound knowledge. Having the fully translated sentence though will keep you in tune with what is going on moreso than just looking up the individual words. You can actually also move quite fast with sentence mode such that it’s not too tedious. Other times you may want to be more intensive.


Me too. I jumped into the first French Harry Potter, when it was about 40% New Words. It took me six months to get through. Perhaps that was a less than optimal choice. But I finished Harry Potter, I did learn stuff, I’m still motivated and I’m now reading Hemingway at a much faster clip.

I would simply ask, are you learning, are you enjoying it and are you motivated to keep doing so.

Much of language learning is a brute-force numbers game – how much time you spend with the language.

I haven’t taken your route, so I can’t comment specifically on it. I do know that my approach to French has changed over time according to my needs.

Stay hungry.

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I got to around A2 in Chinese by (online) lessons. After that, I started watching Chinese movies and TV series in Chinese on Youtube. I watch with English sub-titles, so I can follow the plot, have a rough idea about what people are saying, and thus enjoy the drama. When possible, I also have Chinese sub-titles too, so I know the exact set of words people are saying (and compare the sounds they make with that).

When I started, the full-speed speech was way above my comprehension level. I needed to study it one sentence at a time. I used Language Reactor in Chrome for that. I also used the Zhongwen add-on, which pops up an English definition when I hover the most over a Chinese word (it only works on words in the sub-title). I didn’t study every sentence but I did that often, so it was a good way to learn, for me.

The combination is almost as good as importing the episode into LingQ. Working from a LingQ import would be better if I wanted to study every sentence. My LR alternative is better to simply enjoy the drama, stopping every minute to analyze a sentence (which may lead to other things on the PC).

I’m using LingQ now to study Turkish, where I still need to look at every word.

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TL; DR I suspect using input that is way above your level is inadvisable, and will impede your progress.

When I restarted French, and moved away from apps such as Busuu, I would listen to podcasts and YouTube videos that were above my level. I suspect I didn’t benefit as much as I could have done, due to the level. Yes I did learn, but slowly.

Later on I discovered LingQ. For me one key feature of LingQ is listening to audio while reading the transcript. I discovered that this trains my brain to recognise the words. In truth speech patterns when plotted on a graph look a right mess, and the brain really does an amazing job of decoding them. I gain benefit from this even when I don’t understand many words.

However, I have found that for German using appropriate content really does improve my learning. Not only do I get new words, I also get context that is comprehensible, and grammar that is known but not properly understood. I import learner material from YouTube, yes it’s not exciting, but honestly it works, and that’s what children hear too. Language learning is hard work, and not exciting at the lower levels,

For French I got bored of input for learners. Sometimes they talk too slowly, usually they cover the same subjects in the same way, so basic phrases relating to daily life are missing. And they use idealised speech, not phrases that people actually use. I progressed to semi formal French, debates and discussions produced by TV companies for example. The French is clear, and articulate. I get most of the content now. I’m now trying to move to film French, it’s tough, sometimes I get most of it, sometimes I struggle, it all depends on the actors and the script.

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