Learning Chinese with Lingq

I’ve been living in China for the past four years but, rather shamefully, have only recently started taking Chinese language learning seriously. I decided a few months ago that the prospect of reaching the five-year landmark without a fairly fluent level of Chinese was too terrible to bear and, from that point on, set about trying to reach that goal. Until I’ve built a solid foundation for the lifetime of learning that Chinese will require, I’m also tied to this place (Beijing) despite sometimes desperately wanting to return for a while so pretty much everything - my entire happiness and wellbeing - depends on this.

I already speak several other languages fluently (French, Portuguese and Spanish as well as my native language, English) and, after so much time here, I’m not a complete beginner in Chinese either. Despite little to no formal study, I’ve learnt a lot just from being in a Chinese environment and can function on a day-to-day basis, albeit haltingly and like a child, with little difficulty. For example, I’m very familiar with the tones, have amassed a vast vocabulary of spoken Chinese and I’m also familiar with the 100 most commonly-used radicals though my grammar is appalling.

I just paid for Premium membership and, I have to say, I’m very confused.

Here are my observations and questions so far. Feedback would be appreciated.

  1. Maybe I just don’t understand the system yet but it all seems a bit of a mess. The fact that random users can just import lessons means that there appears to be little to no quality control. The majority of the lessons I have seen, even the beginner ones, don’t even have an English translation so sometimes I’m completely stumped as to the meaning of a sentence - despite breaking down each one word-for-word. Google Translate is a very poor substitute.

Question #1: How do I ascertain the meaning of a phrase with no proper English translation counterpart?
Question #2: Am I supposed to make Lingqs and memorise almost all the characters in a given text?

  1. A character can have many meanings. When memorising flashcards and characters in general (for example, I’m trying at the moment to memorise the 1,000 most common character using Anki) should I learn EVERY SINGLE definition of that character? This seems a burdensome amount of information to memorise, but I don’t see any other way. If not, how do I decide which one is appropriate to memorise?

I can’t think of anything else right now but I’ll keep adding to this thread.

  1. There are no translations. You use the dictionaries to learn the words. At first things are not too clear and eventually you learn by staying in the language.
  2. You save the characters and words you don’t know.
  3. In my experience you need not try to learn all the meanings of a word, nor to understand the whole text you are reading or listening to. It is all exposure and gradually you will get used to the language.
  4. I would start with easy lessons, and just put in the time getting your brain used to the language without expecting things to clear up for a few weeks or even months. What matters is the result at the end of the journey. I didn’t start Chinese here at LingQ so others should also comment. Good luck.
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Thanks Steve. I appreciate the quick response. Would you even recommend deleting the superfluous meanings of a given character until I find the character used in that way?

Also, is learning an Anki deck of 1,000 most common characters completely out-of-context a good use of my time?

I have not used Anki so I cannot say, but I think it is a good idea for Kanji. I did something similar when I learned.

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I don’t know if I would delete them but what I do is just note the meanings that might be relevant to the text, and often I am not sure. That is why we call these meanings “hints”. They just start you on the journey of discovering the scope and meaning and usage of these words.

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I use Anki for learning Chinese as well as LingQ. I think it is a good thing to do. I don’t learn individual characters though. I always learn words, which are mostly 2 characters.


Yes, I really recommend learning words, rather than characters.

Do you possibly have (or know where I can get) the 1,500 most common word deck for Anki as opposed to characters? Thanks :slight_smile:

Dunno if it’s helpful, but I can see public decks on my Anki iPad app for HSK level WORDS as opposed to just characters. Level 1-4 combined will give you something like 1300 words. I might have a go at them myself now! In practice I’ve been putting my words from whatever source I happen to be using on simple paper flashcards, as my brain seems to learn them better than using lingq flashcards. The lower HSK levels seem quite similar to my textbook ones.

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Steve, you’ve said in several posts and Youtube videos that Chinese learners should get a text book. Is that absolutely necessary following the Lingq method, assuming the learner has, say, completed all three levels of Pimsleur, memorised radicals, has good understanding of tones, access to comprehensive grammar book, etc.? I always feel text books slow me down and bore me.

Edit: 1200ish for levels 1-3; 1300 for level 4

You have all the books you need. I must admit I am a sucker for books and when I see a book that I think might help me, I buy it. I am often disappointed however.

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@Edward,Btw, there’s a new Pimsleur 4 out now… I have a similar problem to you in being able to speak more than I can actually read (I did a semester of university Chinese) - though you speak way more Chinese than I!

Have you thought about importing a list of Pimsleur vocab (characters only) etc into LingQ? There are various transcripts out there, though I like to avoid the torrent ones (for my own principles). You can search for "My Companion Chinese 1 & 2 (he gives the Pimsleur transcript, mostly just in pinyin, but you’ll find the characters in the doc, too), for example, written by a lecturer purporting to be from California university. (I only have the 1st level doc)

I like to import lessons into LingQ from my lessons I’ve actually typed up into Word (though that can be slow/tiring/boring), or simply vocab lists from the lesson I’ve studied.

Regardless of what I study, it’s still pretty cool to see my known oral words get recorded into LingQ, and then marked as “known” once I learn to read them (mostly via paper flashcards)

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Welcome to work in China, I can help you if you need.我能提供帮助如果你需要的话。