How Much Time do we Save with LingQ Compared to Paper Books?

I was wondering, compared to having just paper books and magazines the old-fashioned way, and LingQ software today, how much time do you think we save?

If you didn’t have LingQ, how would you optimise your reading (without considering listening time) with paper books and paper dictionaries? But keeping the same concept of reading and building vocabulary?

What would be more efficient to do?

Just random curiosity. :thinking:


I didn’t really have such a hobby back then. I’ve definitely done reading a paper book as extensive reading and looking the word up on my phone. I would follow some rule that I can’t look up a word in a dictionary unless I’ve failed to understand its meaning several times in a row. The slow part was that I’d have to unlock my phone all the time, so if I was to do this, it would be faster to read next to your computer with the dictionary tab open.

As to how efficient LingQ is compared to paper books, as others discussed in the Is extensive or intensive reading faster for vocabulary acquisition? thread, it depends. My conclusion from the thread was the ‘semi-intensive’ reading is more efficient for vocabulary acquitision, but only if you can reduce the faff, such as flipping through a paper dictionary and reducing the digital equivalent on LingQ or whatever other software you use.

That said, vocabulary acquisition isn’t always your primary goal, especially as you become advanced in the language. You are more focusing on soldifying the words you already know, learning the nuiances of the words, which is only possible with lots of exposure, and other goals, etc. This may mean you are reading texts with a high amount of known words and very little need to look things up in the dictionary. For example, if you know 99%+ of the words in a given text, what benefit do you get from studying it on LingQ?

Firstly, I would use books specifically designed for language learners, such as those with key vocabulary in the margins and bilingual readers. If that’s not an option, I’d be very selective in what I read to make sure that I have very high comprehension (the magical 98%, which everyone loves to quote) and do mainly extensive reading, only looking up the very occassional word in the dictionary, if I encountered it many times in a row and still didn’t know the definition. But if I had the option, I’d throw out the paper dictionary and instead have an advanced/native speaker next to me as a ‘verbal dictionary’ to ask “What does X mean?” This would have much less faff than using both a paper dictionary and using LingQ. Alas, it’s not easy to get a cheap ‘verbal dictionary’.


So much time, when i was learning portuguese before lingq, just making flash cards took forever let alone looking up every unknown word. The more you use lingq the more you don’t even have to look stuff up. And most of the time more advanced users are trailblazing the path for you so its even easier.

Lingq literally was a solution for all of the problems i had with language learning. Obviously its not perfect as a website or language learning tool (I think it should have a better introductory system like duolingo, and maybe an extension like language reactor) but its fucking amazing.


I’m still functionally illiterate in Japanese, for all but the most simple stuff. Kanji is a massive hurdle. So I wouldn’t be able to read anything without LingQ or some other crutch.

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I learned my German in the old days, with a paper dictionary, writing my own glosses in the margin. I would read every book twice: one time through making notes and the second time through using my glosses so that I could have a “semi-extensive” experience the second time through. Then I would add the words to Anki manually.

I had a favorite hand-sized German dictionary - I think it was a Harper Collins dictionary with an orange cover. I liked that dictionary because the definitions were more than adequate and it was easy to use at my desk, or to take with me. I would use these dictionaries until they fell apart, and I remember when it was discontinued, or at least much harder to find, because I ordered a few copies.

I can’t quantify it for you, but compared to this, Lingq is absolutely amazing. A godsend. I made tremendous progress in my target language simply because I could read about as much in my target language as I would ordinarily read in my native language. I would say I read at least 3x as much in Italian last year as I did in German in about a year’s time, and the whole process was much less tedious.


I save a huge amount of time, personally.

Just the combined amount of time it took to manually look up words in dictionaries, write them down (or use a PDF, Anki and Google Translate which only took marginally less time), go back to the original text, even if each one of those operation usually took less than 30 seconds, it quickly adds up.

The alternative is too read much simpler texts intended for children or beginning learners, so you don’t need to rely on dictionaries so much; but in my own experience, after the initial excitement of learning the first 100-300 words of vocabulary and basic grammar, the content of texts themselves become quite tedious.

I’ve easily read far more in Romanian or Spanish here in the past few months than I did in the past few years, just because when you can work through intermediate/advanced texts with only minimal interruption, learning no longer feels like a chore.


For me, it’s not a matter of efficiency. It’s lack of distraction. Trying to read a paper book that won’t lay flat, then looking up words with another book (that won’t lay flat) or device is annoying and distracting. It breaks my whole train of thought trying to keep the sentence in my head while I try to look up things that way.

It was so annoying and distracting, I looked all over the internet for something that would let me upload a book of my choice, and look up words in the same app. Everything pointed to LingQ. The free version was so limited and disappointing that I almost deleted it and looked further. But I never found anything even close to it and it was exactly what I had been looking for. I popped for a 6 month sub and when that expired bought another year.

I’ve been using it for a year now. It’s buggy and sometimes unpredictable, but Support is very responsive and usually fixes things I bring up. I won’t mention that the process sometimes adds new bugs…but that’s how programming works.

Anyway, I think it is more efficient and productive, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. I import ALL my own material from newspapers and nearly a half dozen novels so far. I read things ONCE, then delete them to keep it fun. Reading the same thing over and over is BORING, and I don’t learn when I’m bored.


I spent a year listening to French podcasts on podcast apps. I am pretty much fluent in comprehension of podcasts on gardening, politics etc. Films were impenetrable due to the speed of talking, the informal register and background noise. I decided to listen to some Lingq lessons with everyday speech, then read the texts. I was astonished at the improvement in my comprehension of film dialogue after only a few days. I still cannot follow a film fluently, but I now get many sentences that I previously missed.

In general I don’t like reading, I prefer listening so I can pick up the pronunciation especially the timing, intonation and stress.

I know you asked about reading, so to answer your question, I think Lingq saves us a lot of time, and importantly helps us sound more natural. I have some French books to read, but after my recent experiences, I will use Lingq texts once I have finished the books, as it is so much more convenient.

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Thanks to all your answers. It is very interesting to see different perspectives for all of you on how convenient LingQ is compared to an analog way.

However, I was thinking now that we “as a whole” went from the old-fashioned way to this convenience but not the opposite, so we don’t have experience about it.

Now that we know how studying with LingQ is, how could we optimise the process in the opposite direction? Let’s say, making an extreme example, if we were to live in the mountains without internet for 1 year, or detoxifying from the computers for a long period of time, etc.

I believe there are pros and cons on speeding up or by slowing down. I’m not sure about all of them.

Collecting some of your thoughts, this comes to my mind:

  1. Choosing one or two big books written in modern language, with probably long stories and dialogues, like a romance, fictions with adventures like “Heide, Tom Sawyer, The Odyssey, The Hobbit…”.
  2. Learning the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
  3. Having a reliable dictionary that go to the point (even if we miss a few things here and there).
  4. Having a grammar text book with the essentials.
  5. Build the right set-up where we study so we can be comfortable for longer hours.
  6. Repeating the same book multiple times.

Considering a pencil only, to make it simple, I’m not sure the most efficient way to tackle this now.
I wouldn’t write the definitions on the book itself and I would try to write only the essential as we might encounter the same word over and over again or never.

Probably, I would write only one direct “translation” in the specific context of the sentence and a code that will quickly remind me where to go in the dictionary.
In the dictionary I will write another code that will remind me where I have encountered that word in the book (in the case I want to see where there are more variations of the same word I have already seen).
Probably a notebook to connect few things during the first read or even after the first one.

Just speculating to see what we learnt from LingQ to optimise an analog system.

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LingQ was a HUGE help in building my present vocabulary and knowledge of Norwegian. I would not want to learn another language with strictly analog methods ever again.

However, I do often go back to old-school reading in Norwegian. Now that I have a working vocabulary in Norwegian, I can read printed materials well enough that I may only look up a word every page or so. That’s not the burden it was pre-LingQ when I had to look up a dozen words on every printed page.

In English, I sometimes read Kindle books in bed at night, but most of the time, I’m reading a printed book. It’s no problem switching between electronic and printed materials. The same is true when you acquire enough of any language to work with all materials, though you may have a preference of one over the other. So if I got stuck somewhere on a desert island with no internet and only a couple of printed books, I would have no problem with adjusting.


Just as you are preparing for your year by collecting books, to what level would you use digital technology to prepare for that year? All books these days use digital technology to create the book (from it being written on a laptop by the author to the cover design digitally painted). If this is the case, would you allow digital use on your end to prepare for your year?

Here are some examples:

  • Ask on forums for advice from previous language learners for favourite books and materials
  • Check book rating websites to find other great books
  • Use some software or a rating like the Lexile Measure to determine to order of the books to read in (so you read the easiest books first)
  • Create your own bilingual books and print them
  • If you are allowed a CD player, copy a large number of podcasts to CDs
  • Transcribe those podcasts with Whisper prior and bring along bilingual transcripts

I’d order groceries exclusively online, because I’d rather have my monks copying out my library than have them toiling in the fields.

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I haven’t read a paper book in years; I was as eager adopter of the Kindle when it first came out and I’ve never looked back (in terms of digital books over paper, not necessarily the kindle itself).

So for me it’s LingQ vs a digital book with device dictionary, and they’re about the same. LingQ’s benefit for me isn’t so much with the speed it allows me to read at, but
a) the fact that I can see whether I have seen a word before or not, and
b) I can read content other than books

I’d personally find paper books too much of a faff now, but that includes in my native English, so not sure whether that opinion is worth much!

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Well, personally I prefer physical book copies to a kindle every single time, but when it comes to language learning, the efficiency difference is so huge it trumps all other considerations.

My goal would be to build enough vocabulary here to the point I could read a full physical book without needing a dictionary.

The issue is course with understanding ordinary rapidfire and colloquial speech, there it really seems repeated basic audio drills are positively required, but I just find listening to the same lessons of the kind ‘Jimmy the cook is happy today’ over and over too tedious.


I agree. The mini-stories might be ok in the very beginning, but they become tedious quickly. Children’s stories are also a chore for most adults. I find the language and the situations a crashing bore.

Once you have a basic vocabulary, try teen and young adult books. The stories are complex enough to entertain most adults, and the vocabulary is challenging without being frustrating. Short stories and novels are also interesting enough that it isn’t a chore to reread them after some time has passed. I found a Norwegian series based on three teen friends who solved a crime in their neighborhood. Crime stories have build in suspense, adventure and human interaction.

Another good thing about novels is you are exposed to a lot of words because of the length, but you are also exposed to a lot of repetition because a particular author tends to use the same words and phrases repeatedly. You spend a lot of time seeing the same words in many different contexts. And lots of intelligent dialog is usually written in ordinary speech with lots of expressions and colloquialisms.


I’ll just add that Lingq doesn’t save me time at all, because I’m spending a lot of time reading/studying that I just never did before. I’ve always wanted to get to the point that I can read paper books without looking anything up (see: collection of ~60 paperback French novels I’ve bought to read “someday”), but because I wasn’t there yet, any effort to read paper books was quickly abandoned. So, it’s not that my time is more efficiently spent with Lingq than before, it’s that the barrier to entry is now low enough that I’ll actually dedicate the time to it when before it was too exhausting and slow to actually convince myself to do it.