Extensive reading and why I am breaking my Finnish streak at 1401

Issue summary
I have been using Lingq daily since september 2020 and next september I will pass the 4 year mark. As I currently live in Finland I am acutely aware of my inability to understand Finns on television or in podcasts. My suspicion is a lack of vocabulary and I also suspect that my way of reading contributes to the slow buildup of vocab. So I started reading extensively, but I noticed that it is practically impossible for me to do this for extensive periods. Unlike LIngq, which I could do forever.

Lingq and what is the problem?
Reading through Lingq forces one to look up and define all the words in a lesson. Even to the extent, that if you declare a lesson finished, Lingq will define all new words as … “empty”, no definition. In other words, I never dared to declare a lesson finished before defining all the words. That slows down the process of reading a lot.

The long term effect of this way of working is that I eventually got used to knowing the definition of every word I read. As I understand it, this is intensive reading where you can only progress so much per day.

Unfortunately, I only recently became aware of this feeling. In retrospect I should have realized sooner, but I was pretty focused on doing a minimum amount of work in Lingq and the rest of the time I did Finnish was outside of Lingq, listening to podcasts and television broadcasts (mainly news). And to a lesser extent, reading articles.

Extensive reading
Recently, I understood why people need extensive reading as well and so I started. As this is impossible in LIngq due to the obsessive “filling-in-empty-definitions”, I started reading a book. That is when I discovered the enormous amount of discomfort one experiences when reading extensively.

The idea is, when you read a full chapter in one go, without looking up words, you jot down words that occur multiple times, enough to bother you in understanding the meaning of the chapter. So, once done, you look up the 3 or 5 most occurring words that seem essential to the chapter. Then you have a choice. You can re-read the chapter or you can just continue, both with your newly looked up words in mind. If the words are indeed essential, they will return. Provided you read enough in a day, your subconscious will pick up both words and structures automatically. And I do stress enough.

EDIT: Of course extensive reading implies understanding the text globally. 98% always makes me smile when picking up a book to read. We are not accurate and certainly not for 98%. As long as I understand the text mostly, I am fine. Thanks for the comment @dominic_deboer.

why do I have to break my streak at 1401?

Upkeep of my streak has become an obligation, in stead of a marker of progress. It is the first thing I do every day and it has become more and more of a grind where I can only do Finnish properly after finishing Lingq.

Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to use Lingq. It will just no longer be driven by a streak. My need to listen and read intensively or find new vocab will drive whether I use LIngq or not.

Also, the feeling of obligation needs to go. I have no use for it. My suspicion is that the motivating effect it had lasted only the few months, maybe a year. After that, the effects diminish. I was too much focused on showing that Finnish was serious to consider it a disadvantage.

Now I know better. I have to throw off the chains of needing to know all the words and focus on massive reading and listening. I can still use Lingq, but no longer driven by obligation.

So, I hope this helps someone who may have experienced the same issues. Or not.


It’s still intensive reading if you do not know a lot of the words. Extensive reading is knowing 98% of the words you read. So I think the solution is to just read and listen to more basic content.

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Well, you don’t really have to use LingQ that way. Especially with the ai translation feature you can just read a sentence, guess what it means, countercheck with the ai translation and maybe fill in definitions for those words you consider essential for the text.

I second that the streak is not useful, though. If I could, I would disable all the streak and statistics stuff.


Not exactly. The crux of extensive reading is to as it were “overload” the brain with content from which the subconscious creates structure through pattern recognition and meaning through deduction of massive input. In order to achieve this one needs to grant the brain enough content to do this work, and time to figure it out.

The crux is the massive input where you have no idea you are learning and all the while your brain is doing the work. Consciously though, you are just reading. All this time somewhat annoyed that you don’t understand everything.

As I understand from experts who know what they are talking about, that is the essence of learning through extensive reading: trust that your brain will figure it out.

So reading line by line and guessing its meaning, then checking with AI, is not exactly equivalent to extensive reading. You are forgoing the chance for your (subconscious) brain to do the work.

I hope I made clear what I meant. Otherwise, feel free to respond. To be honest, this aspect of learning is new to me as well, so comments might grant me the chance to learn a thing or 2. Thank you for your comment!


Well, of course you can just skip the check. The point was, that you are not obligued to create LingQ’s or care about known words statistics etc. The excerpt of you first post I quoted earlier on seem to apply that somewhat.

In regards to extensive reading as you describe it:
To me it sounds like the approach you basically pursue in your native language. As a beginner a.k.a. child you build up vocabulary and basic grammar via adults pointing it out for you. Later on you just get input (conversation, audio and video and reading and so on).
In respect to learning a foreign language it means that you build up the basics using whatever learning material you consider useful and at somepoint switch to input. I don’t think that you need a tool like LingQ for that, though.
The difference is that most of us learning another language are doing so in an environment where the language isn’t spoken. I for one mainly learn Spanish and Korean, but I live in Germany and know neither spanish nor korean people. And even if, they would probably prefer to speak German to me.
Another point is that there is this transition from learning the basics to expanding you capabilities via sole input. This is probably where a tool like LingQ is most effective. In addition, even though this mimics somehow the way we acquire our native language, I wouldn’t assume that this is necessarely the most efficient way to learn a language. It just turns out to work at that age, in that environment over a rather long period of time. If you consider how long it takes natives to learn their mother tongue to a level where they are able to express themselves or complex thoughts and understand everything written in their native language (in terms of the language, not necessarely the content, of course) and that some people never really reach that point, it is probably a bit ambitious to assume that you will develop advanced language skills just via input. At least if you aim to do so in a reasonable amount of time (let’s say less then a decade, for example).

Maybe, or perhaps this is just a technicality.

Our brains are lazy; they conserve energy, don’t do things that aren’t really necessary, and prefer activities that are more rewarding.

What you need to do is to give your brain no choice. The more your brain feels the importance of your target language, as in a life-or-death scenario, the faster it will learn and the more associations it will make.

That’s why your brain will learn faster if you live, work and interact daily in your target country. Especially if you put yourself in a scenario where you’re in trouble if you don’t speak the language, you won’t survive.

If you get input from your home, but there’s no big need, and you can skip it if you want, or you can go very slowly, your brain will learn very, very slowly and will never make any effort to learn important things.

If you want to speed up, you need to increase the necessity of your target language to the point where it becomes paramount to achieving the target level you need.


Thank you for your response, you might be right. Just for nuance, however. Suppose you have driven a car for years, but are not really interested in cars in general. At some point you decide that you are interested in buying an alpha romeo. Up to that point you never, ever noticed any alpha romeo cruising by, but low and behold, from the moment you turned your interest to buying one, every alpha romeo passing by, attracts your attention. Why? Because subconscious has a vested interest (you could say life or death interest) in feeding your conscious what it thinks your conscious finds important. It would do exactly the same if you were dreaming about in a park and someone calls your name. Or if a lion appears in your peripheral sight.

The point I am trying to make is that importance and level of necessity is a concern of your conscious. Your subconscious is just there to serve. Exemption is burning your fingers on an oven. You react before you know it, to prevent further bodily harm.

Remember, your subconscious runs a million processes per minute, monitoring blood pressure, activating your immune system against some minor threat, monitoring heart beat, retracting your hand when you burn yourself long before you notice it. It cannot afford to be lazy. Your conscious being, you, that is the one that is lazy. Your subconscious works day and night, no interruptions (barring brain damage).

For the subconscious, this is just another Thursday, and pattern recognition and assigning meaning to things, is part of what it does. No lazyness involved. Only the fact that the conscious appears to be interested.

Consciously though, you are completely right. I am as lazy as can be. That means, when I spend half a day or more reading a book and I keep encountering stuff I don’t understand, it must be important to me. This to the subconscious is enough to have a few processes monitoring what is going on there. And eventually, it will work out patterns and meanings and signal back what something means.

So, even living in Germany while studying Spanish, you can get enough input from all sources, including youtube, movies, podcasts etc and lingq can help with the listening and analyzing aspects. Plus extensive reading.

Now, I feel I should expand on why I feel extensive reading is important for me. I already have a level of Finnish where I understand stuff, just not enough to understand people speaking at full speed. With the extensive way of reading, I would expand vocab in a different, less forced way. Every chapter I read, adds to existing vocab and grammar understanding. While I am interested in finding out why the detective does this, or asks that, subconsciously the gaps are being filled in, effortlessly, without me noticing.

Well, that is the theory. Now for practice, I will start reading and hopefully test the theory.

Sources: I listen to a lot of youtubes on this subject. The one from which I quoted (alpha romeo example) was a video of the channel “Matt vs Japan”. I always enjoy his videos even if they sometimes are very elaborate. Recommended.

Thanks for your response. It helps me put things in perspective and tests my assumptions so far.


You are completely right. The complete environment at the moment is tuned to learning a language without living in the environment. All aspects help. The youtubes, the articles read, the netflixes, the tv broadcast movies etc, tools like Lingq and eventually also reading a lot.

For me the above is a personal account of how I feel. I am at a stage where I understand a lot, but not enough. Also, my vocab has been trailing at a snails pace. That annoys me a lot. So I decided to analyze what I have doing and especially what I could do differently to help me acquire more.

That is how I landed on extensive reading in addition to all the above tools.

I hope this explains why I wrote this. And to be honest, having other people analyze and give feedback helps me a lot. So, thank you for your response.


Interesting answer. The Alfa Romeo example is a cognitive phenomenon called the “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon” or “frequency illusion”. It involves two different cognitive biases: selective attention and confirmation bias.

These phenomena are interesting, but what I was saying is a bit different. I agree that I misused the word laziness, which is probably a vulgarization of the correct phenomenon that occurs and that I don’t remember.

The point is that you can expand on why extensive reading is important to you, and you will get close. But you need to expand on why the language you are learning is important to you and make it more and more important to you. You need to write about your needs and fish in your subconscious with creative and spontaneous writing about why this is important. Your conscious mind will learn about it, and with that rational mind you can now reinforce it to create a loop where you feed both conscious and subconscious.

It’s a trick you can use to force your subconscious mind to make the associations and connections you need to speed up language learning. But you also have to trust your mind to do the work. With your conscious mind, you do the planning, and you show up every day to do the work.

The main problem is probably that we need to measure our daily practice by the amount of effort we put in, not just by the streak. It’s not easy to maintain the same level of effort, and it’s even less easy to increase it if we don’t have a real need. Your subconscious mind needs to know why you want to make this effort because, as you said, it’s busy doing other things; it doesn’t see the big deal!

Basically, your subconscious will do the hard work, but you need your conscious mind to reprogram your subconscious to do the work.
If there is no real need, you have to create it yourself, but it’s not so easy to unlock all that, and I certainly don’t have the magic wand yet.


There was a long discussion a year back on the faster method of increasing your vocabulary - intensive vs. extensive reading. My conclusion was that semi-intensive reading (reading with the ability to quickly look up definitions) while listening is the fastest way. I do this with YouTube videos with dual subtitles using Language Reactor, where I merely need to glance down at the English translation of the subtitle to quickly discover the definition of the unknown word, but you can do this with @roosterburton’s Video Tools or his Reader to link it up with your LingQ data. I can get through 2x or 3x as much content using this method (of relying on sentence translation as my means of finding the unknown word) than I was getting through with how I used LingQ previously.


Thanks for the advice, David. I will keep it in mind, although the specifics of how it works is still a bit misty to me. I do know why I am learning Finnish and why I want to shift the bulk of reading from intensive to extensive reading.

My first instinct is to determine a window for doing extensive reading. That is how I have been doing Finnish all along and it has worked (to a point). Then I need to follow up on doing it as planned. And finally, I need to find a way to measure whether it works as expected. That last one I still need to figure out.

Intuitively, this might entail experiencing more ease in reading. Alternatively, I might experience an increase in known words in Lingq.

In other words I am still puzzling, but I will figure it out. Thanks for your advice, David! I appreciate it.


In Reading mode → settings
→ Reader → General

Try the different options given in “paging moves to known” and “Auto LingQ creation”.

This may help you use Lingq for extensive Reading without the problems you described.


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No, have been using these option since they existed. I think, in theory, one can use Lingq in an extensive way, but it is not what Lingq invites us to do. If I pick up a book, the only way to keep reading without interruption is to once in a while write down a word that bugs me and continue reading. Using lingq that does not work, the dictionary is only a click away, but so is the interruption.

For that reason I find books to be less forgiving in terms of lookup. If I want to read a lot, I have to keep reading until I finish a chapter and then I can look up a limited amount of words. That way the reading is more continuous.

Although I like the way Lingq supports acquiring new words, it does not seem to be intended for extensive reading. Of course, this is very personal. It is my experience and as the Americans say “YMMV” :wink:


This might be helpful to you. Use an e-reader with an inbuilt dictionary. Look up the words that really interrupt the flow of your understanding. That way, you can enjoy what you read without making notes or going back. You can do this on your phone or a dedicated device. I’ve been doing this for years for French - it’s much more fun than struggling through and discovering at the end that just knowing one word would have made the whole chapter more meaningful! (My problem with French is auditory comprehension, but that’s another story).

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I used to read on the Kindle a long time ago, but I didn’t find the dictionary very useful, not even the way it saved the words. I don’t know if it’s improved nowadays. Additionally, I personally prefer to write my own definitions and also use ChatGPT for advanced definitions.

I don’t know a better system yet.

I don’t use it for specifically learning vocabulary.
Just for reading uninterrupted.

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Kindle is pretty limited in terms of languages supported, but the monolingual dictionaries are actually pretty good (English and Spanish, at least; and Japanese seems to be provided with a rather good word splitting, unfortunately there is no support for Korean). Those become only helpful once you’ve reached an intermediate state, of course.
Another approach is to use a tablet and the split-screen functionality, thus having the reading app on one side (you can use a simple pdf reader for that sake) and either a dictionary app or google translate on the other side. You can directly select a word or phrase and input it into the translator app. If you can speak clear voice input should also work. I can’t really judge on that, though, as voice recognition works very bad with my voice.

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Finnish vocabulary is just plain difficult to acquire. Each word is a struggle. Add to that we need to build up a much larger vocabulary base than your average language.

Personally I think the LingQ offering for Finnish is a bit rubbish. Theres not a lot of relevant content. As I am sure you know, prioritizing content and thus vocabulary is important to progressing towards a goal.

Have you been to the local library yet? Theres shelves of comic books, I find this a good resource.