Introduction to French and other language. Opinions please

We are trying to come up with a short introduction to LingQ followed by an introduction to the language that the learner is studying. The learner would hear the intro and do a short lesson. If he/she completes the simple lessons he would earn a free online discussion with a tutor.

There are two parts, but we may combine them into one. The lessons are short, but the longer introductory narrative would be available to listen to, preferably in the language of the learner.

We are still at an early stage. Please advise.

Also please advise if you would like to do for some other languages what I have attempted to do for French. We can collaborate on this.


Hi,this is Steve, the founder of LingQ.

Welcome. Be prepared to enjoy yourself and learn. LingQ is different from most language learning systems. At LingQ we want you to first understand the language you are learning, and to notice the words and patterns of the language. All of the features in our system are designed to make sure you do that. Once you have done that you will find that speaking and writing will become much easier.

Your main activities are to listen and read and to save words and phrases to your own personal database, for regular review. There are many different items of content in our Library for you to choose from. I recommend that you focus on the items that appear in the My Level shelf in our library, since these should be most appropriate for your level.

Just relax. Do not worry about what you can’t do or can’t remember. Language learning is a gradual, and natural process. You will steadily acquire new habits, the habits of another culture and language.

You will know when you want to speak and write, and LingQ provides you with lots of opportunity to do that. You can easily book discussions with native speakers, or submit writing for correction by our tutors.

I also recommend that you take the time to get to know our community. Make some friends with people who have similar interests. Get to know other members at our Forum.

To start things off, just do the simple lesson here below to get a feel for the pleasures of LingQing.

Your next step will be to study A Brief Introduction to English. If you complete the 5 lessons in A Brief Introduction to French you will receive a free online discussion with the tutor of your choice.

Welcome here.

I speak English. Do you speak English?

I know you can learn to speak English at LingQ.


French is, to my ears, a lovely language, with its pleasant nasal sounds. In a way, part of what makes it pleasant is the fact that all the nouns have a gender, either masculine or feminine.

We have “le” for masculine things like “le pays”, the country, and “la” for feminine things like “la pomme” “the apple”. There is no rhyme or reason for the gender, except that the Romans did it. There are rules to help you remember the gender of nouns. You can find these in grammar books and by googling on the Internet. But it will take a long time to get used to the gender of nouns and to get them right. In my experience you will continue to make mistakes. Don’t worry about it, I don’t.

Another fun thing about gender is that the adjectives have to agree with the gender of the nouns. This means that we have “un grand pays” and “une grande pomme”. Another problem is that adjectives sometimes come before the noun, and sometimes come after the noun. You will learn to notice that on your own. Again there are some rules here, but I find that you just get used to it but doing a lot listening and reading, and saving phrases when you create LingQs.

French verbs are a bit of a challenge, and will be a part of your learning for a long time. Decide that you are going to like them and enjoy them.

First of all the form of the verb, that is to say the endings, change with each person. “Je parle, tu parles, il parle, nous parlons, vous parlez, ils parlent”. Since one of the delights of French is that letters are often silent, you may not hear the fact that the endings are different. This is great since you can fake it a little when you speak.

But there are other problems. There are many irregular verbs. So when we talk about going somewhere, we get “je vais, tu vas, il va, nous allons, vous allez, ils vont”. Nowadays it is easy to google “French verbs” and find tables with all of the forms of any verb you want. So I will not give any more examples here.

There are two very important verbs in French that are used to form the past tense. The verb which means “to have” , “avoir”, and the verb that means “to be”, “etre”. The French do not say “I ate”. They say “I have eaten” “j’ai mange”… They do not say “I went”. They say “I am gone” “je suis alle”. “Etre” is used for 16 verbs of motion and “avoir” for all the other verbs. You also need to know that verbs will often agree with the gender of the subject or the object of the verb. You can look up the rules but it will take a long time to get used to this idea. Just be aware of it and watch as the forms of some of the verbs change. If you are confused you can ask on the forum.

There are more tenses and more rules but I would not worry about them now. Rather you should just let yourself get used to the language. I recommend that you save every form of the verb that you come across at LingQ. Each form is a different tense or person, and the phrases that come with it are different each time. Do not be stingy with your LingQing. The more you LingQ the better you will learn.

Pronouns in French can be a little difficult to get used to. Just be aware that the form of the pronoun changes depending on whether the pronoun is a subject or object. Check out the tables you can find by googling “French pronouns”. But mostly just let yourself get used to the pronouns by LingQing them when you see them at LingQ.

That is enough explanation to get you going. French word order is very similar to English. Much of the vocabulary is similar. But there are differences. You are going to discover these differences and gradually get used to them. Be prepared to enjoy your studies and don’t put pressure on yourself.

Do the following five lessons and you will earn your free discussion with the tutor of your choice.


(Header) Nouns are either masculine and feminine. French uses articles, like English.

La pomme est sur la table.

Le livre est ici.

La pomme verte est sur la grade table.

La table est grande.

Le livre est vert.


(Header) Verbs change their form depending on person and tense.

Je mange une pomme.

tu vas a la maison

nous avons mange une grande tarte aux pommes.

Ils sont alles a la maison.


(Header) French verbs always require a subject, and often that is a pronoun. There are many forms of pronouns depending on how they are used. Don’t try to remember them. Just LingQ them and get used to them.

Nous avons vu la maison. Nous l’avons vue.

Je te donne la pomme. Je te la donne.

Je veux manger du pain.


To ask a question in French you can either reverse the word order, much like in English, or use the pattern of “is it that you are going?” “est-ce que vous allez?”.

Voulez-vous du pain?

Est-ce que vous voulez aller a la maison?

A-tu vu la voiture? Oui je l’ai vue.

Est-ce qu c’est la pomme que tu a achetee?

Pourquoi n’est tu pas venu?

Combien coute la voiture?


The French are not happy just saying “I am not”. They like to add another negative word. So they say “Je ne suis pas”. Watch for the double negatives.

Je n’aime pas la pluie.

Est-ce que tu aimes la pluie? Non, je ne l’aime pas.

Je n’ai jamais aime la pluie, mais j’aime la neige.

Moi, je n’aime pas la neige.

Note that the short sentences are the lessons. There is a brief introduction to each which would appear in the description.

I think it’s a good idea. It might be something that motivates newbies to get more involved in their studies and in the LingQ community.

I second that! It’s a great idea! Just a little thought: If LingQ promotes “natural language learning”, then this brief grammatical introduction might freak out thouse who have dissappointed in classroom education, because basically they got the same thing there. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, because I find that I remember easier if I know “what is happening behind the curtain”, but words like “tense”, “gender”, “irregular verbs” might scare off newbies. Or is it just me?

Excellent work. I even learned a thing or two by reading these. The one thing that felt awkward in the French lessons were the double negative sentences. Always wondered why “pas” was just stuck in there. /lingq’d

Now all I need is to learn when it’s appropriate to use “est” and I should be ready to start saying simple sentences in conversations.

This will definitely be a good introductory course. I’m for it, as well.


I must admit I don’t exactly understand what purpose the proposed video will serve. My guess is the vast majority of people who come to learn French on LingQ would have some knowledge of French already. So they should be familiar with those basic concepts in the intro video already. Those who will actually use LingQ to learn French (or any language) from scratch are likely to be existing LingQ members. If they have problems, they will post questions in the forums and other members will help them.

So if we the goal is to attract more French learners, I feel that the video should be targeted at those with some knowledge in the language already. In the video, we should show them how LingQ can help them further their study in the language.

Some examples:

The problem: How to learn verb endings?
Solution: As you have mentioned in recent posts how you learn Russian endings.

The problem: Not sure about the placement of adjectives.
Solution: LingQ is a powerful system. You can make LingQs not just of individual words but also phrases! In this case, you can make LingQs of the nouns and adjectives together. Tag them with the word “adjective” for easy review later.

The problem: Not sure about whether avoir or être should be used for the passé composé.
Solution: LingQ examples of avoir or être with its past participle. Tag them with word “past tense” for easy review.

The problem: I want to be more familiar with the passé simple.
Solution: In the library, there is a category called History. The passé simple is more likely to be used in the text in these lessons.

The problem: Sometimes I understand all the individual words but together they don’t make sense.
Solution: (1) Use Google Translate to give you a rough idea of the text. If you suspect the words together form a set expression with a special meaning, you can look them up in a dictionary and highlight the phrase. (2) If you are still stuck, at the bottom of the lesson, click on the “+ Add Comment” link and ask the tutors and other members. You might first have to click on the printer icon which will allow you to copy and paste the text.

The problem: I can read but I am not sure if I can write in French.
Solution: In that case, you can submit writings to a tutor from time to time. A native speaker will correct your writing together with suggestions. (Screenshot of corrected writing.)

I hope the above examples have made clear what I am trying to say. I feel such a video would be more useful to people interested in learning French on LingQ.

I was not clear. We are looking at creating a sort of Michel Thomas type of easy introduction to each language. This would be followed by 4 or 5 lessons that a newcomer would have to complete to get his free discussion with a tutor.

This is not a video. On the other hand, Cantotango, your ideas would be good for a special tips and tricks section. The problem is that most people do not get started and may not understand what we are talking about in these tips and tricks.

We want to get people started.

I will put up a simple look at Japanese and Chinese later and await more comments.

Here is a first stab at a brief introduction to Japanese to give you an idea. It would be great to reactions from others who have struggled with and overcome different languages. We just want to get the new learners over the first hurdle of the language.

Japanese is a flexible language. It seems that there are always a few ways of saying things, none of which are necessarily right or wrong. You kind of feel your way along in Japanese and settle into a style that works for you.

Take the word for “I” for example, pronounced watakushi. Compared to je, you,io, ya, jag and “wo”, the Japanese “I” is quite a mouthful. Furthermore it is only one of several possible ways to say “I”. There are others. No wonder they often do not bother even saying the personal pronoun. And they still understand each other perfectly.

Looking on the bright side, nouns do not have gender, no masculine or feminine. What is more there are no plurals really. You just kind of tell the number from the context. So you get the sense that Japanese is a touchy feely kind of language. No Cartesian logic here.

You will soon realize the importance of the little words that come after every noun or pronoun. They help to direct traffic. Watakushi (I) can take a “wa” of “ga” if it is the subject of the phrase But if it is the object of the phrase, it takes a “ni”. If we are doing something with a thing or person then a “to” comes after the noun or pronoun and so on. I recommend you LingQ these little words to see how they work. That way they will always be highlighted in yellow on your screen.

I recommend that you learn to read the kana or Japanese phonetic writing system fairly early. Each symbol represents a syllable. There are two parallel systems, hiragana and katakana. Quite unnecessary in my view, but that is how they do things. The hiragana is more useful. The katakana is for foreign words or words that represent sounds, in other words, words that are not really words, if you know what I mean.

I would also start learning characters, which is a whole job of itself. There are lots of helpful website on learning Japanese Kanji.

The approach to verbs in Japanese is unlike European languages. There are fewer tenses, but there are more forms. The present tense is the same regardless of person, but there are various forms. For “go” you can say “iku” which is the simplest, then “ikimasu” which is a little more formal or “mairimasu” if you really want be humble. Don’t even try to remember the rules for what to use when, you will gradually get used to it with enough exposure.

The past is achieved by adding “mashita” as in “ikimashita” but this can also be shortened to “itta” Just watch for this and LingQ the different forms as you go.

Endings in Japanese are key. Tacking suffixes on to words can change the tense, and even add meanings like “if” or 'in order to" etc. Make sure you save the many forms of the verbs that you come across. You can tag them or you can search for them by endings in the vocabulary section later on.

A goog idea, but I wouldn’t want to read so much native language if I were beginner. I would like to listen to phrases and to repeat them aloud again and again without reading too much mother tongue’s explanation…That’s my opinion.

Maybe it will also be nice for somebody having certain knowldge of other languages to learn English again.

This would be purely audio. There would be 4 or 5 short lessons, very simple lessons. A newcomer would have to complete them to get the free discussion. The audio could be turned off.

Maybe, but overwhelming a newbie is a great way to discourage them. I’d suggest maybe dividing all this up into sections that are said at certain intervals or something like that. Most people don’t deal well with the thought that it’ll take at least 6-8 months of their lives to achieve minimal fluency, and that is by doing at least 90 minutes or so a day. I’d say the best way to have newcomers approach language learning is by giving them very little, to give them the need to want more. This is just my current take on it.

I doubt a very beginner would be able to have a conversation in the target language just after having five lessons. However, I adhere to this idea, and as I offered in the past to organize a free discussion to every newbie, I confirm my contribution.

In retrospect, what would have helped me in Swedish which I started here from scratch:

  1. A good understanding of the terminology used within LingQ and how to use the system well (I already knew about the philosophy behind it because I had read Steve’s book on TheLinguist.) and,
  2. Some pronunciation “exercises” in the form of, say, tongue twisters. I would have loved to have had those at the very start to get used to the sound of Swedish and how they swallow words.
  3. Thinking about the free taster session with a tutor - I think that is a good idea for paying members, mainly to get to know the tutor and get a feel for how it is like to speak with them - 5-10 free minutes of getting to know you - the next conversation can then be started properly, with initial doubts, it is hoped, overcome by that easing in session.

As to the brief intro to the new languages being only on audio sounds good! The only printed things seen in each lesson would be the sample sentences (which would be accompanied by a matching audio), is that right?

I also adhere on this idea! :slight_smile:

Sanne, If you upgrade to a paying membership you get 500 points for free. This is enough for a conversation. That is what I did.

After I read Steve’s great introduction to Japanese, I felt that how lucky I am being born in Japan therefore no effort for me to understand such complicated rules. I think it is good to know what kind of thoughts are behind the language.
For example, in Japanese, the reason they have too many ways just to say “I” is that there are a lot of concern with age/ gender etc.etc. when they speak. Well, as I am a free spirit, I do not personally care about such petit matters, but it is how Japanese language is formed.

I’m very interested in seeing the Chinese intro. I am at the beginning point in Chinese right now. I met some new Chinese friends a couple of weeks ago. That evening I decided to dip into Chinese on Lingq. I felt like I was running into a wall - despite the fact that I know how Lingq works and am using it for other languages. I wasn’t looking for grammar explanations at that point (although they would be interesting enough); I was just trying to find an entrance to the language. I listened to some beginner content, but of course couldn’t tell which Chinese character meant what until I “hovered” over the character. It didn’t seem to be useful to make any lingqs because the characters at this point just look to me like a somewhat random collection of lines (Remember I am almost a pure beginner. I know that they’ll make sense to me after a while and after some study, but just now they mean nothing.)

What I really wanted was to look at Pinyin and Chinese characters on the same page while I listened, but I didn’t find any files like that (maybe they are there after all.) I searched in the Forum for information and read that I could find sites online that change the characters to pinyin. OK…but my internet skills are somewhat weak, so this is going to take me a while to figure out how and where…I see that I am not going to be able to start tickling my Chinese fancy tonight…Another thing I found out after searching the forum was that the pronunciation (I suppose that’s pinyin?) is included in the lingq after I save it. Well, that sounded hopeful.

The next session I did some more listening and then decided to lingq one word that was showing up frequently - “good”. Oh, and “thank you” because its sound was distinctive enough to stand out to me. So now I am at the point where I open content looking for those little yellow "good"s and "thank you"s. If I don’t see any yellow, I close the file. If I do, I listen carefully, trying to find my “friends”.

I don’t know if any of this is useful, but it at least shows how lost an English-speaking person can be when trying to start a language like Chinese. I could do with just a bit of hand-holding here!

I can’t imagine that I will be ready to have any kind of conversation in Chinese with a tutor very soon (I’m shy). But I might like to talk to someone in English about my Chinese questions.

Here is a first stab at a Chinese intro. Comments are welcome.

Chinese can seem quite exotic when we first start out. No phonetic script. Everything is written in characters. Tones, wow! Can I really learn to sound like that? Let me assure you that Chinese is not only quite accessible, it has many features that make it easy to learn.

But first let’s look at the difficulties. Yes it is all written in characters. I recommend that you use the romanized or phonetic script, pinyin, to help you get started. Lessons at LingQ are all in characters, but you can find pinyin converters on the Internet. Move your LingQ text to Print mode, where you can copy and convert them to pinyin.

If you are serious about Chinese, you should take the plunge and learn the characters. We do not have a specific character learning program at LingQ but there are many such systems available on the web. What LingQ offers is content and a way to get used to the language through a lot of listening, reading and word learning.

Tones, ah yes. It is difficult to remember the tone for each individual word. You just have to get used to the music and rhythm of the phrases. Like so much in language learning, focus on your listening first. Do not try to produce the tones until you have had a lot of exposure. Remember, though, that most languages, including English, have tones. It is just that in English, tones are used for emphasis in a sentence. In Chinese they are used to differentiate the meaning of words. You can do it.

Because of the tones, and the absence of a phonetic script, it can be a little difficult to get the hang of spoken Chinese, when you first listen to it. All the more reason to do a lot listening. Listen while reading pinyin on the screen. Then listen while reading characters. Then go away and listen, over and over to the same content. And don’t worry about what you don’t understand. If you have a favourite text or two, where you like the voice and the speaker and the subject matter, listen to them over and over again. The brain will gradually get the hang of it

When you start speaking, be confident that you will get better. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes with the tones. You will gradually improve and never be perfect.

Now that the tough stuff is out of the way, let’s get to reasons why Chinese is easy.

No masculine, no feminine, no plural forms. Nothing changes.

Verbs don’t change. “I go today”. “He tomorrow go” . With the addition of a word in front of your verb, you can easily indicate intention, or the future, or a range of tenses and moods that are so complicated in other languages. A little “le” behind the verb and it is the past tense. That’s it. Verbs looked after.

Chinese is the original lego language. Words consist of two and sometimes three or more characters. Once you learn the characters, you can put them together to form compound words, in a great variety of combinations. Often you can take a stab at the meaning of new words, and they are quite easy to remember. There may not be any common vocabulary with languages that you know, but you can quickly build new vocabulary with your character “lego blocks”.

Negatives are pretty straight forward. Usually the word “bu” or “not” is used. “I go”, " I not go", “tall”, “not tall”, “yes”, “not yes”. You just have to remember that with things that happened in the past, you have to say “have not” as the negative. “I yesterday have not go”. Negatives looked after.

When asking questions in Chinese, it is more like a multiple choice test with two options. “You go, not go?” “you eaten, have not?”. It seems a bit clumsy at first, but you quickly get used to it and wonder why other languages don’t do this.

There are few other wrinkles that are best left for you to discover on your own, but none are difficult to remember, once we get used to them. Often there is a work around. One example is the way Chinese uses counters. Just like we say a sheet of paper, or a flock of geese, Chinese have specific counters for many things. But there is also a general counter “ge” and it will usually fill in if you don’t know the counter that is normally used. I found that it is difficult to make a grammatical mistake in Chinese. You can almost say things however you want.

The key to learning Chinese is to learn phrases. Perhaps more so than with most other languages, be wary of the complicated grammar explanation. Focus on phrases and patterns. Save lots of phrases at LingQ and watch them appear over and over. When you first start with Chinese it can appear more difficult than certain other languages. Once you are over the hump, it is a delight to have entered this fascinating culture, one that appears so distant, and yet can become quite familiar and certainly enjoyable.

And here is a revised version of the Japanese intro.

Japanese is a flexible language. It seems that there are always a few ways of saying things, and each way conveys a slightly different tone. But you cannot really offend anyone if you stay with the simplest forms at first. As you become more familiar with the language, and have enough vocabulary, you can start exploring the world of polite language. Then as you start striking the right mood with your Japanese language, you start to feel as if you have arrived in this unique and rich culture. But to start with you just need to learn to understand.

Things may seem tough at first. Take the word for “I” for example, pronounced “watakushi”. This really is quite mouthful for a beginner. Furthermore it is only one of several possible ways to say “I”, each with its own mood or flavour. On top of that, the personal pronoun is often left out. But do not worry, all these initial difficulties just fade away with enough exposure.

Japanese has relatively few sounds and therefore is quite easy to pronounce. However, this means that a lot of words may sound alike at the beginning. Again these are just initial difficulties and it is important not to let them bog you down.

Looking on the bright side, nouns do not have gender, no masculine or feminine. What is more there are no plurals really. You just kind of tell the number from the context. It all works fine, and we find that we do not miss the plurals. You just need to expose yourself to a lot of content. Do not worry if things seem a little unclear at first.

You will soon realize the importance of the little words that come after every noun or pronoun. They help to direct traffic. Watakushi (I) can take a “wa” of “ga” if it is the subject of the phrase But if it is the object of the phrase, it takes a “ni” and so on. I recommend you LingQ these little words to see how they work. That way they will always be highlighted in yellow on your screen.

It is a good idea to learn to read the kana or Japanese phonetic writing system fairly early. Each symbol represents a syllable. There are two parallel systems, hiragana and katakana. The hiragana is more useful. The katakana is for foreign words or words that represent sounds. I would also start learning characters, which is a whole job of itself. There are lots of helpful website on learning Japanese Kanji.

The approach to verbs in Japanese is unlike European languages. First of all the verbs come at the end of sentences. Once you are aware of this, the language will be easier to understand. Not a bad system, you always have to wait till the end for the punch line, so to speak.

There are fewer tenses than English. Furthermore, the verb forms do not change for person and this simplifies the learning of verbs considerably. On the other hand there are various form of verbs reflecting levels of politeness. Don’t even try to remember the rules for what to use when, you will gradually get used to it with enough exposure. What is more the rules are really not hard and fast, and you will not offend anyone regardless of which form you choose.

Endings of verbs are extremely important. They determine the tense of verbs, the politeness level, and can convey meanings like “if” or “in order to” etc… Verb endings also determine whether a statement is positive or negative. Make sure you save the many forms of the verbs that you come across. You can tag them for later review in the LingQ vocabulary section. What is more you can search all of your saved LingQs by different endings. This will really help you get used to them.

One handy aspect of Japanese is that questions usually end in the little word “ka”. It is sort of like a verbal form of the question mark. Really quite convenient when you want to ask something.

Of course, there is a lot more to Japanese, but that should help to get you going. From time to time, it may be useful to refer to some of the Japanese language resources you can find on the web or a small ( I repeat small) grammar book. But do not try too hard to remember all the rules. You will get used to the language gradually. As with most languages, initially the obstacles seem insurmountable. Do not try to nail things down when you start. Just be confident that with enough listening, and by LingQing key words and phrases, the picture will start to become clearer. Good luck.