How Would You Describe LingQ (In 1-2 sentences)

Mine would be,

A language app that helps you become fluent using content YOU love.

How about you?


A language app that lets you in but never let you out with underhanded marketing. Just kidding. A little bit banter. :wink:

On a serious note, it has been 6 months. For sure, I have not achieved real fluency that I can claim If I am either speaking or writing fluently. However, when it comes to improving listening and reading abilities in German, I detected a little bit of improvement in terms of comprehending the language. Again, I have not read 2 million words as of yet so I reserve my judgment.

A language app that helps me not to feel alienated in times of a pandemic lockdown. It has been a good companion, so to speak.


Hi, Eric!

I would describe LingQ as follows:

LingQ is a flexible audio reader platform that allows autonomous learners to control the content and be more successful in learning a language!
In other words, entertainment, fun, interest, etc. are nice-to-haves, not must-haves. But making progress as an autonomous learner because you are able to control the content you digest is a necessity! This also means that successful learners are not addicted to fun, comfort, entertainment, and so on. They do whatever it takes to be successful …

Or, if someone prefers catchy slogans without the addiction to fun and comfort :slight_smile:

  • LingQ: Be successful by controlling the content you digest!
  • LingQ: Select the content you want and be successful / become fluent!

Have a nice weekend

  1. Duolingo’s annihilator (even though they didn’t need your help).
  2. The language app that really gives fluency with a different language learning approach.
  3. LingQ : The Community’s dictionary and content. (gosh, learning a language before the Internet must have been so slow… searching for one word in an enormous dictionary… now in one click we get a complete translation).
  4. Addiction, connection. Satisfaction, determination.
  5. The language app that gives you more results with less work (because of the community dictionnary and the philosophy of more confrontation with the language and less grammar)

A significant part of my life in the last decade - LOL


A daily priority goal


A tool that makes reading in a foreign language much easier, and allows one to comprehend content that would normally be out of reach.

I wouldn’t be able to read Game of Thrones in Portuguese without lingq. It’s ~15% unknown words which would make it a nightmare, but with lingq it’s not a problem. Allowing me to tackle more difficult content and get to the interesting stuff much quicker than normal.


“Duolingo’s annihilator (even though they didn’t need your help)”
Yes, something like:
LingQ = Owl Eater.
RIP Duolingo Owl :wink:


Duolingo makes no sense to me, I’m glad I stopped using it. The only useful thing is the forum but then again, there’s other sites like HiNative to ask questions. Other than that, they just ask us to put words in the right order and translate (weird) sentences over and over again, and they have a premium subscription for that :joy:

I think that the best thing to do and what I tell everyone is to get subbed to the shortest Babbel sub in order to get the basics of grammar and stuff, then switch to LingQ. Being subbed to Babbel longer would be completely useless since after completing all the grammar main courses, the rest of the courses is just a bunch of vocabulary. Besides, although their grammar courses are amazing, their marketing sucks. They make us all pay the same price even though Spanish is available up to advanced while Swedish has been stuck at pre-intermediate for more than a year. Then, the rest of the courses is just a bunch of vocabulary. I’m glad I was able to grasp a one free month promo code and that month was more than enough.

TLDR: I think Duolingo is a bad version of Babbel and they both end up making us stagnate after a while.


Hi, Leoutre!

Yes, I agree. Duolingo is highly problematic for language learning.

  • The translation method works as a complement, but it isn’t a substitute for massive immersion/exposure. Or to put it another way: If you want to translate well, you need a large active and passive vocabulary, especially conventionalized word groups = collocations, etc. In contrast, word-for-word translations with or without grammar lessons are simply bad without this extensive conventionalized language knowledge, because you tend to mess up your competence in the target language. That is, one tends to invent one’s own, more or less weird version of the target language.
    By the way, it doesn’t help in this context that Duolingo’s AI likes to produce semantically quirky sentences à la “The spider is eating the elephant” :slight_smile:
  • Maybe I’m wrong, but Duolingo seems more like a programmer’s dream (“Hey, we have all these new machine learning toys, what can we do with them?”) than a language learner/teacher/trainer’s dream. In other words, implementation is driven more by technology than by knowledge of second language acquisition. And that’s bad - in every domain (beyond second language acquisition)!
  • The stories for some important Indo-European languages are good comprehensible content for learners at an A2-B1 level. But, unfortunately, it’s difficult to “harvest” these stories in Audio Readers, MP3 players, external SRS, etc.
  • Duolingo’s bilingual podcasts, gamification. forum and user interface are excellent, but they can’t save the SLA mess.
    The funny thing is that Duolingo is the most popular language learning platform on planet Earth with more than 300 million registered users!.
    However, this means that a “wisdom of the crowd” approach is only a rational strategy for dealing with complexity if enough members of the crowd know what they’re doing.
    Duolingo is an example of a crowd that clearly has no idea how to effectively approach learning a second language!

"and they have a premium subscription for that "
Yes, when I saw this for the first time, I couldn’t stop laughing, because if the free version is already an educational mess… You’re probably just paying for the good intention of Duolingo’s founders (“free language learning for the masses”). But, as we all know: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” (even more so if you don’t know what you’re doing) :slight_smile:

Babbel or (in my case) Busuu
Short grammar lessons as a complement to a massive immersion / exposure approach can be quite useful.
But, I wouldn’t start with explicit grammar instruction in second language acquisition over an extended period of time because we know from the translation-grammar (TG) approach in classical and modern languages that it tends to produce good grammarians, but not competent language users, i.e. good listeners, speakers, readers and writers.
At the (absolute) beginner stage (= the warm-up phase), a soft approach to grammar à la Michel Thomas or the Thinking Method (The Thinking Method Guidebook — Language Transfer), introducing some basic syntactic patterns of the target language, is sufficient.

Have a nice Sunday


Hi there.

I have heard this criticism often, but I just do not get it. Duolingo is not about rearranging words in a certain order. That only happens if you chose to use it that way, using the word bank that can be easily deactivated. You can choose to deactivate it, so you have to type the whole sentence by yourself.

So basically it is a flashcard system, but with sentences, not with words. This allows a beginner to practice A1-A2 level active output and thus learn the grammar and vocabulary of that level, for free.

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A language GPS that allows us to explore languages without (level) limits


Hello Peter,

I think one of the strongest features of Duolingo is that it is not a word-by-word translation process, and that it does allow to learn collocations. This is the difference between Duolingo (sentence flashcards) and other flashcard platforms (focused on words).

At least that has been my experience with the courses I took there, although admittedly they are not all of the same quality.

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If you can only use a single tool for language learning, then LingQ is the best available.



Hi, jokojoko83!

I just checked my Duolingo languages (Spanish, French, Japanese and Latin) to see if anything has changed since I last visited about 2 years ago.
You are right, we need to be more precise here. What I meant to say is that Duolingo tries to teach you some basic vocabulary (mostly words, sometimes groups of words) that is often embedded in sentences about a specific topic (places, people, at home, at work, etc.). But they still highlight many “single words” that you have to translate within a sentence or without a sentence.
However, the main criticism remains: It is still a “poor or inferior” approach to learning an L2 because it fails in all four dimensions that are important for communication:

  1. Listening / reading:
  • Even with all the translation exercises and stories, Duolingo’s comprehensible content is simply not enough to grasp the highly conventionalized patterns of the target language. You have to digest more than 1 / 1.5 million words before these unconscious pattern recognition processes become reasonably automatic.
  • Acontextual translations of single words or sentences are not a substitute for reading and listening to authentic language material in context. At best, they can be a complement, but that’s about it.
  • It gets even worse when these sentences are just artificial constructs that native speakers would never or rarely use.
  • And why on earth bother learners with non-frequent words like “owl” = “chouette” (in French) right at the beginning of the exercise tree?
  1. Speaking: Yes, you can repeat the words/phrases of the translation exercises like a parrot, but almost all learners who rely only on Duolingo would probably collapse in a short conversation with a native speaker.
    Even the Duolingo guys themselves have failed in this regard:
    “After six months of studying French with Duolingo, von Ahn demonstrated a lack of basic verb tenses when asked to describe his weekend in French, “mangling his tenses.” Bob Meese, Duolingo’s chief revenue officer, did not immediately understand the spoken question “¿Hablas español?” after six months of Duolingo Spanish study.” Duolingo - Wikipedia (highlighting by me).

  2. Writing: I doubt that a learner who relies only on Duolingo for language learning is even capable of writing a short email of 10 sentences , for example, to a fictitious friend.

  3. Grammar: Even Duolingo’s grammar explanations are too superficial to be of much use.

In sum:

  • Both in terms of communication, i.e. all its four dimensions, and grammar, Duolingo is simply a poor approach. And it’s not surprising that language coaches like Kerstin Cable and linguists like Steven Sacco have come to the same conclusion: “Both Sacco and Cable added that Duolingo’s translation method of teaching is ultimately inferior to learning a language in an immersion environment.” Duolingo - Wikipedia (highlighting by me).
  • “A significant portion of our users use it because it’s fun and it’s not a complete waste of time.” (Duolingo’s CEO, Luis von Ahn). Don’t get me wrong here: Luis von Ahn seems like a great guy and is a great computer scientist, but he makes the same mistake that many of my students made when they tried to defend their poor learning strategies and study habits with questionable arguments. And, of course, there may be some biases at play here as well, such as the “sunk cost bias.”
  • In contrast, my position is: If the language learning approach is neither very efficient nor very effective, it’s a waste of precious life time.
  • Regarding “fun”: It’s no fun if you immediately collapse in an interaction with native speakers of the target language. Been there, done that (when I was a teenager) - not recommended :slight_smile:

BTW: Free and useless is still useless :slight_smile:


The Swiss Army Knife of language learning tools.

Although ‘Canadian’ might be more accurate.


Hello Peter,

You have raised many interesting and valid points, especially about unconscious biases in my opinion.

Nevertheless, I do not think all of them are valid, allow me to explain.

Part of the critic is that Duolingo is “incomplete”. For example, Speaking and Listening are almost non-existent, clearly insufficient at any rate.

However I do not see how that invalidates any tool. It just means that the tool needs to be complemented. The same criticism could be made of almost any other tool, expect perhaps full immersion. For instance Lingq’s active output tools are rather incomplete. I do not judge this to be a shortcoming, instead I think Lingq is the best programm at the core value it offers: helping users process passive input.

Just as I would not judge Lingq bad just because it does not include all possible aspects or features of language learning, I would not judge Duo (or any other tool) bad just because it is incomplete.

With respect to points 2 and 3, I am sure we can all gather anecdotal evidence of people failing with different methods. I only know thoroughly my own case. I learnt Russian (imperfectly) with Duolingo and I could communicate (admittedly rather poorly) with my Russian speaking relatives (mother-in-law, sister-in-law). Then I started using Lingq’s ministories and enjoyed the ride ever since, certainly Lingq is better and it can potentially help you up to any level (including C2) way beyond any other tool.

Regarding writing and grammar, I thoroughly disagree. Those are the strongest features I think, that you get with Duolingo. You have to write sentences in a gramatically correct manner all the time, it is basically all you do.

Let’s see about grammar. I think it is one of the best tools to practice grammar at A1-A2 level. I think this is the part where we differ the most. Let me elaborate.

Duolingo does not offer (almost) any grammar explanation. It just offers grammar practice. Again, this does not make it bad, just incomplete. They are supposed to be complemented.

By translating sentences you get grammar practice of several kinds at the same time: - morphological exercises (important in languages with declension or complex verbal systems), - syntaxis (especially important in languages with rigid word order), - different grammar structures of the sentence, in the cases where both languages tackle something in a different manner.

Examples from the French from Chinese course:

意思是: Vous boirez du vin blanc avec les fruits de mer.

J’ai acheté une commode avec dix tiroirs.
意思是: 我买了一个有十个抽屉的斗柜。

意思是: Les étudiants ont été très heureux d’étudier avec cette professeur.

Tu dois cliquer avec la souris.
意思是: 你应该用鼠标点击。

Nous avons tous nos amis avec nous.
意思是: 我们有我们所有的朋友在身边。

Je garde mon sac avec moi.
意思是: 我把我的包留在身上。

Je regarde la télé avec une grosse couverture.
意思是: 我盖着一条厚被子看电视。

意思是: Voudriez-vous venir avec nous ?

I can provide more examples, but as anyone can see you never get a simple explanation of the word “avec” in this course. Instead, you are forced to learn that prepositions are actually similar to verbs in Chinese, you are forced to break down the functions that have collapsed into French “avec” (company, instrumental, etc) and use them in Chinese in a context-sensitive manner (just by translating the instrumental meaning of “avec” you get different translations, depending on how you use that specific object). This goes beyond practicing syntax and morphology, you need to restructure the sentence quite dramatically. I think this shows how Duolingo beats any (word) flashcard active-output system.

Regarding semantics: by translating sentences you certainly lack a broader context. Nevertheless the words are not presented in an isolated fashion, and the rest of words of the sentence provide enough context to choose which way you have to translate a specific word.


Ich sitze am Steuer.
Перевод: Я сижу за рулём.

Ihm wurde geschrieben, dass er Steuern bezahlen muss. – Ему написали, что он должен уплатить налоги.

So you do not learn a one-to-one translation of “Steuer”, but you figure it out by context. The rest of the sentence is enough context to know when german “Steuer” is the steering wheel or the taxes.

Finally I am not sure whether collocations should be classified as a grammar or a semantic issue, but it is another of the strong points of Duo.

When translating a fairly simple sentence from Russian to German:

Wovon hängt das ab?
Перевод: От чего это зависит?

You not only learn the collocation of “abhängen” with “von”, as well as the collocation of зависить and от; but you also practice the verbal conjugation and the declension of a pronoun.


In short, by translating each sentence, you practice active output tackling several grammar and semantic aspects:

  • Syntaxis
  • Morphology
  • Collocations
  • Vocabulary

Within A1-A2 level.

It is almost devoid of any Speaking / Listening value. Its content does not go further into B / C levels.

So I think it is incomplete, but very good at what it does provide.

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Hi, Jokojoko83!

Unfortunately, the forum software doesn’t allow me to reply directly to your last comment, so I have to reply to my own last comment.
Anyway, regarding your points:

  1. Incompleteness
    My main point was never about the “incompleteness” of certain aspects of language learning with Duo. It was about
    a) its a-contextuality
    b) its a-communication
    c) Its poor grammar explanations
    In all three aspects, Busuu, for example, does a “far” (!) better job than Duo. But, even Busuu as a digitized version of the grammar-translation approach shouldn’t be used at the (absolute) beginner stage.
    The reason is: The (grammar-translation or more general: type-token) idea that one must first internalize explicit (grammar) rules in order to then apply them when speaking/writing, esp. when translating, is an approach that doesn’t work well in oral and written communication.
    Although it’s fine as a (“short”) complement for immersion / exposition-heavy approaches. Let’s say: 90 / 95% exposure / immersion (plus a mix of output activities) - 10 / 5% grammar / translation.

In other words, there’s a reason why, esp. in the West, there was a “communicative turn” in language teaching / learning in the 1980s, and why the grammar-translation approach was shunned. We shouldn’t behave in the digital world as if this communicative turn didn’t happen in the analog world before :slight_smile:

  1. “we can all gather anecdotal evidence of people failing with different methods”
    It’s not simply “anecdotal” evidence that grammar-translation or a grammar-first/grammar-heavy method fail in communicative situations. This has been a constant theme in second language acquisition (SLA) research since the 1970s, especially since Krashen.
    Again, this doesn’t rule out explicit grammar or translation exercises once and for all. It just means that the main focus should be on permanent and massive immersion/exposure (this, by the way, is also the main reason why bilingual teaching works so well in SLA in schools!).

  2. Writing
    Duo’s main problem here is still its “a-communication” and “a-contextuality”.
    My point in this context is: Short deliberate practices on some topics of interest and relevance to a learner with (immediate) feedback from native speakers are far superior to Duo’s a-contextual and a-communicative grammar translation exercises.
    Co-textual information by embedding individual words in sentence structures isn’t enough because language learners need much more in oral and written communication, e.g. discourse markers / connectors, opening and closing structures, knowledge of the appropriate degree of formality / informality, etc.

As I said, take someone who has learned an L2 only with Duo (say after 12 months) and have them write a text of 10-15 sentences on any topic. The results will probably be pretty “depressing”
Hm, thinking about it: My sister has been learning Spanish with Duo for more than two years… :slight_smile:

In short:
Deliberate writing practices are great if you have a concrete communication situation, enough context and almost immediate feedback by native speakers. This is exactly where Busuu shines and Duo fails!

  1. Grammar
    "In short, by translating each sentence, you practice active output tackling several grammar and semantic aspects:
  • Syntaxis
  • Morphology
  • Collocations
  • Vocabulary
    Within A1-A2 level."

a) Are beginners using only Duo’s grammar translation exercises really able to understand, for example, the subjunctive in Romance languages like French or Spanish without massive immersion and/or excellent grammar explanations?
I’m not sure, having already studied both Romance languages in university, but I really doubt it. Most would probably not even know what I mean by subjunctive :slight_smile:

b) In general: Grammar(-translation) drills without communication situations, context, relevant topics, discourse markers, native speaker feedback mechanisms, etc. are probably only of “very” limited use.

c) The a-contextuality / a-communication of Duo’s drill structures also has a negative effect on language learners’ memory function, as it’s very difficult to remember things, esp. frequent collocations, without the contextual and communicative embedding.

  1. Regarding the “fun” part of language learning with Duo
    Despite reaching about 80000 XPs and getting all the awards that Duo 2019 had to offer, I was bored to death most of the time with all these a-contextual and a-communicative drills.
    So there’s a triangle of learning death at play here:
  • no real sense of progress reg. the richness of the language itself
  • no fun
  • no thematic or intellectual interest
    What kept me going were mostly “external” incentives, i.e. XPs and awards. And that’s not a good thing in any learning environment.
    OK, I wasn’t a regular language learner in French and Spanish, but rather a tester. But that’s another story…
  1. In sum
    Compared to Busuu, for example, Duolingo even fails as a complementary grammar-translation tool.
    Not to mention that the “grammar-translation” method shouldn’t be the first or only approach language learners use: As a stand-alone approach, it failed in the analog world decades ago, and it still fails in the digital world.
    But, the funny thing is: it’s one of the most prominent approaches in the world, esp. in non-Western countries, to this day. And Duolingo, as bad as it may be, only confirms that fact :slight_smile:

Have a nice day

An effective and motivating language app centered on gaining vocabulary through reading.