Since so much has been said before, I’ll try to keep it brief. Here are some ideas:
There are basically two transcription system in use, Pinyin (Mainland) or Zhuyin (Taiwan). Choose one. But note that LingQ doesn’t support the latter, which makes LingQ not an ideal choice if your focus is primarily on Taiwan / Taiwanese Mandarin.
I think you can get by with only transcriptions for a long time if you so desire. I personally like the characters and started learning them from day one, so I’ve been mostly ignoring transcriptions.
Note, that LingQ’s Pinyin is auto-generated and might contain errors, therefore it is recommended to copy the correct Pinyin from a dictionary to your vocabulary definitions (most contain it already anyways).
- I don’t think it really matters what approach you take to learn them:
- most people probably use spaced repetition systems like Anki, choose some beginner deck, I believe the one from refold is very popular
- mnemonics Heisig remembering the Hanzi
- Or the low tech / old school approach of taking a list of the most common ones and copy them out by hand.
- The mentioned DeFrancis readers are good albeit really old fashioned, have low quality audio and are in traditional characters, but they are free on archive.org
Whatever works for you. Once you got the first 500 (maybe 1000) down cold, you can probably stop this activity and just pick words up naturally by reading and listening.
- I find listening comprehension to be the most challenging aspect, therefore I think this skill must be prioritized
- don’t underestimate the power of ‘passive’ listening do it whenever possible
- whenever possible read and listen at the same time
- repetition is key, at each level: word / sentence / lesson / course
How to use LingQ when you know nothing?
Choose a lesson with accurate timestamps (e.g. from LingQ) and go into sentence mode. Now repeatedly play the sentence audio. First while using all the assistance that LingQ offers, that includes looking at the text / Pinyin, looking up any unknown words, making LingQs and using the translation feature. The ultimate goal is to understand the sentence without looking at the text. This can take a lot of repetitions, maybe 5, maybe 20. If it gets too annoying it’s fine to skip to the next sentence. After going though a lesson in such a fashion put it on a playlist for passive listening. Cycle through the lessons, to balance novelty and repetition. For example if you do 10 lessons in total per day, add 1 new lesson, repeat 9 and discard the oldest - every day. Since this technique is rather intensive, I recommend working in 15 minute intervals. This also facilitates time tracking as LingQ won’t count listening time.
Why do I believe in this technique?
For one it provides immediate feedback (do you understand or not?) and it’s more efficient to spend time on the actually difficult sentences by repeating them many times, and easier sentences fewer times.
After some time you will be able to read along with the voice, then you may want to ‘graduate’ to page mode. But that’s another kettle of fish.
If you feel like it you can use the shadowing technique on lessons you already studied intensively. This way you can naturally segue into output activities. Especially since you’ll basically know the content by heart, so making modifications, summarizing or ad libbing will be comparatively easy.
If you’re using LingQ with the browser you probably want to reassign some keybindings, so that it becomes more ergonomic, e.g. only one keypress to reveal the translation etc. You can also try using a game controller or a bluetooth remote. A popular software for Microsoft Windows is https://www.autohotkey.com/ on Mac you can try https://karabiner-elements.pqrs.org/
How to find lessons?
- Try the guided course shelf
- Go here: Login - LingQ select ‘Courses’ and ‘Content type’ ‘internal’ then select the desired level
- My own stuff: Login - LingQ
Hope this wasn’t too confusing, I think it’s all really simple just make sure to listen and read a lot. Feel free to balance this with general immersion, like TPRS, Refold etc. Make sure you put in the hours and don’t get frustrated, it’s a long road.