Beginner's impressions


This is my first posting in the lingq forums. After lurking for around two years, I finally registered and bought a paid membership today. I am an “advanced beginner” (=loser) in Chinese and I am very curious how lingq can help me.

I vaguely remember that there was a discussion a while ago about how to make lingq more appealing to new people. So, I thought that it could be interesting to describe how I, as a fresh customer, have experienced my first day on lingq. Of course, I will only write about the bad things. If you pay for a service, you take the nice things for granted :slight_smile:

First comment: Lesson difficulty varies a lot
This is something that a friend of mine also noticed immediately (not for Chinese).
You can find extremely slowly spoken courses and extremely fast spoken courses. It is nice that you have material that is speed-wise close to how a native speaker would speak, but such courses should be marked in some way. Especially for a beginner it is quite frustrating to click through a long list of courses, trying to find a suitable one.
Difficulty of vocabulary also varies, even inside a course. You follow a beginner course, the lessons 1-8 are about general stuff (where do you live, where do you work, etc.) and then, in lesson 9, you find this dialog:
That can be a problem. Is it because he does not trust you?
That is possible. I do try my best but he does not seem to like me.
How do you know that?
Whatever I say he disagrees with me. Sometimes he does not know
much about the nature of my work, yet he still criticizes me. Whatever I do
is not good enough for him.
This is not exactly beginner material… Maybe I should simply accept the fact that lesson 9 of this course is too difficult for me and instead try finding another course. But such a “course hopping” sounds extremely inefficient to me. Moreover, this particular course is telling a continuous story running over 10 lessons.

Second comment: Dictionary is too dumb
I was quite disappointed that the dictionary function is so dumb and far away from what a computer could do to support the student. The offered word translations seem to be independent from the current context (=the lesson currently studied) and show all possible meanings of a word (the dictionary on my book shelf shows at least an example sentence for each meaning). It is up to the (clueless) beginner to pick/guess the right meaning. For a beginner, context is the most useful thing in language learning and especially in Chinese it is extremely important to know in what kind of sentence pattern a word appears. I have also the impression that free tools like Chinese Text Annotation - MandarinSpot or the Perapera plugin for Firefox do a better job in identifying word compositions. For example, lingq separates 并 and 不 in the sentence 但是他好像并不喜欢我 which does not really make sense.

Third: Quirks of the user interface
Some aspects of the lingq user interface seem to be more user-unfriendly than necessary.
Example: I click on “Learn” and the list of courses appears. I click on a course, see the list of lessons, and start with lesson 1. Then I remember that I already finished lesson 1 this morning. I click the “back” button in my browser because I want to go to lesson 2 and… I am back to the list of courses. On the other hand, if I click on the name of the course in the lesson view, I end up in the library, which again looks completely different.
I have also not found out yet how to split new words. For example, lingq tells me (by the blue rectangle) that the composed word XY in the sentence W X Y Z is new. Let’s say that, after consulting the dictionary, I come to the conclusion that XY are actually two words or that WY is one of the billion sentence patterns in Chinese (see comment above). I can extend the blue rectangle to WXY or XYZ or WXYZ but I cannot select X or WX, not to mention WY or XZ.

That’s it for the moment :slight_smile:

“Difficulty of vocabulary also varies, even inside a course. You follow a beginner course, the lessons 1-8 are about general stuff (where do you live, where do you work, etc.) and then, in lesson 9, you find this dialog”

I must agree with you here. I think there is a myth among a lot of us that the lessons in the courses should gradually become more difficult.The result is that lessons 1 and 2 are appropriate for complete beginners, lessons 3 and 4 are good for intermediate beginners, lessons 5 and 6 are good for advanced beginners, and lessons 7 and 8 are for intermediate learners. The problem is that nobody can possibly improve in a language at the rate that will allow them to keep up with the courses. I think every course, unless it has more than 200 lessons, should remain at exactly the same level of difficulty for each lesson.

(There is at least one good Russian course by Evgueny where he does topics in embedded lessons. I think this is a good idea, but should not be the norm.)

Thanks for your comments reus19.

Re your points.

  1. Varying difficulty of content within some beginner courses. Yes this is so. The Library can be a little overwhelming. Yes this is so. These are some of the weaknesses of the system.

I do believe that people should be challenged with more and more difficult material, rather than staying in the comfort zone of easy material. In the long run they benefit, in my experience. But this is a matter of taste and learning styles.

There are quite a few beginner courses in most languages and the learner can choose. For some people this is in itself a problem since many people prefer to have their hands held.

We are looking at ways to resolve these issues.

  1. Dictionary

The dictionaries are not our own. I think it would be difficult to have context sensitive dictionaries for all the combinations of target languages and learner languages. Google translate does this to some extent. Personally, I accept that I won’t really know a word until I have seen it in many contexts, so I really treat the dictionary definition as a “Hint” as we say.

We may not have the best character splitter, and that is something we may look at one day if we find the time to concentrate on the needs of certain Asian languages.

  1. Thanks for the feedback on the interface. It is difficult to make it work for all situations but your input is useful. It is also a matter of getting used to it.

If I understand your concern re saving words within phrases, you can do this from within a saved phrase in the pop up on the right hand side.

Perhaps others want to comment.

-There has previously been an idea to somehow curate the content at lingq - ie get user’s to recommend courses or lessons etc
-A key issue is separating wheat from chaff, as content is often randomly uploaded
-A larger issue is having people agree what is highly recommended content

  • ““course hopping” sounds extremely inefficient to me” – have a look at the research that suggests otherwise, consider the advice to dive into native content as soon as possible
    -The best Chinese mandarin content at lingq, imo, is the wolf and huahua series. This is world class. I actually do not know of better material anywhere (even from paid sources). The best approach, imo, is to use the material that will quickly let you get up to this content level. I would recommend the chinesepod dialogues and slow chinese dialogues for this purpose, but that’s just my own considered view.
    -There is a lot of content from just these dialogues (cpod etc) that could still legally be uploaded, but no one has ever done so.
    -There is also a lot of other content (that is just as good as cpod etc) that could potentially be uploaded, but no one has ever done so.
    -have a look here, for mandarin material ideas :

I think curating content or getting some kind of user feedback on lessons, including the level, sounds a great idea.

On the topic of courses and lessons, I still find the organisation a bit weird after several months. For example, I’d like to have a much better idea of what I’ve studied. It’s not terribly clear to me which lessons I’ve studied or not in one of the courses I’m trying to complete. As a result, every day begins with the question, “what shall I study today?”. I support making active decisions about study, but this is a bit tedious.

I like the “Conversational Chinese 301” series a lot, although Steve said “it’s boring and not natural”. With the LingQ system: I am very disappointed, too buggy, too many downtimes, missing features, not able to add or to switch to own dictionaries, tagging is poorly implemented, etc, etc, etc. Plus: Chinese words are not correctly identified. Finally I refrained from subscribing.
So I switched to something different, but I’d better don’t write any details about it here, otherwise my LingQ account will be cancelled.