LingQ for beginners

I often hear the argument that LingQ is difficult for beginners, or even not suitable for beginners. I am sure that many learners feel this way. I can only say that I do not find this to be the case. It may be because I am a more motivated or more experienced language learner than most.

I started Czech at LingQ. I feel that I have made more progress in the last 6 weeks than I made in 3 months when I tried to learn Portuguese using Teach Yourself, and Living Language starter books, way back when LingQ was The Linguist and only offered English. This despite the fact that Portuguese is much closer to Spanish than Czech is to Russian, and despite the fact that I know Spanish much better than I know Russian.

After lots of listening to all the beginner dialogues at TY and disconnected phrases at Living Language, when I visited Portugal for two weeks (my first visit some years ago), I could not understand and could not communicate. This despite the fact that Portuguese and Spanish are almost the same language. Portuguese still felt strange. It was only later, after working on Portuguese at LingQ that on my second visit to Portugual, I started to feel comfortable.

Why? Because at LingQ I am able to tackle interesting content early, and I think that is key. I am able to read newspapers and listen to Radio Praha. I went through the beginner content created by our members as quickly as possible, not worrying about the strangeness of the language. I do go back and study any additional beginner lessons as soon as they are created, but mostly I read and listen to things of interest to me. My vocabulary and familiarity with the language are growing in leaps and bounds.

I can stream, listen and read at the same time, on the computer and in iLingQ. I save the words I need on the first read. Then I review the flash cards for the lesson, or read through checking my yellow words. Then I stream, listening while reading. Then I am ready to listen on my MP3 player away from the computer, and the brain is getting used to the language more and more.

People say they want structure. What kind of structure? I do not mind mixing tenses in beginner texts, difficult words in beginner texts. I do not mind not understanding. I have a small starter book with explanations if I need them. I can check declensions and conjugations in the book or on the Internet. I can ask for explanations on our Forum and get pretty quick response.

Some people like the comfort of going from lesson 1 to lesson 2 etc. I do not find that learning a language is that kind of a linear process. I do not find that lesson 1 contains the building blocks for lesson 2 etc. I find that the whole language is absorbed as an amorphous whole, a liquid jelly, that gradually starts accumulate in ways that we cannot account for.

Having said that, we appreciate any content providers that create notes for lessons. We are very soon going to enable learners to reward content providers who do these kinds of things.

We are also actively seeking to tie up with providers of more traditional learning systems to integrate with LingQ. If you have any suggestions about publishers of language courses that we might approach please let me know.

Let’s assume somebody wants to learn Russian with LingQ, and she/he is an absolute beginner.

She/He searches LingQ’s library for a lesson to start.

What does this person without knowledge see?
Let’s see…

  1. LingQ 101, Getting Started – An introductory collection for new LingQers.

  2. Alphabet (Алфавит), Words (Слова) – Example words of different letters - Примеры слов с разными буквами.

  3. История Нины, 1. Приветствия – Николай и Нина встречаются и знакомятся.

  4. RussianLingQ - Greetings and Goodbyes – A simple dialogue introducing some of the common Russian greetings …

  5. Conversation with a tutor: Useful Phrases, Полезные фразы – “How can I say bla-bla-bla in Russian?”, “Could you speak not so fast, please?” etc.

  6. RussianLingQ - Eating Out – Двое людей встретились и наслаждаются непринужденной беседой за обедом.

  7. RussianLingQ - Who is She? - Простая история для начинающих изучать русский язык. A simple story …

  8. Simple dialogues (Простые диалоги), What did you do? (Что ты делал?) – Два друга разговаривают о том, как они провели время.

… and so on …

What is the best lesson for this person to start with?

Let’s assume the person already knows that Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

She/He wants to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. So she/he takes collection (2).
The first lesson only shows the letters. Is this helpful?
The second lesson shows some words, but one is unable to LingQ these words (Only some letters are blue!). Why are these example words so exotic and seldom used like хомяк or финик?
What about some city names or things derived from other languages like галстук (tie, German: Halstuch) or портфель (briefcase, portfolio, French: portefeuille)?

Such a start into a language is frustrating, in my opinion. It’s only an example. If there is not some GUIDANCE and QUALITY in the beginner lessons, learners will not stay with LingQ.

If you are not a beginner, LingQ is a great place to enhance your knowledge in a language. But beginners…

And don’t forget that not every learner has Steve’s talent for languages.

I think Hape is right. That is why I created the blog
There is a guide in
with suggestions how to start learning German with LingQ.

And Marianne provides inspired by me the same informations for French. You can find a link on her profile.

I’ve added a link to my profile and sometimes I write on peoples wall to let them know about this information. But this is not really effective because I’ve no tool to find the new German learners. And it is quite time consuming to do this ‘by hand’. I admit in the last weeks I was too tired to do this. And I guess, an email with a link to this information from LingQ would be more effective.

What I’ve recognized is that the number of German learners increases. Slowly, but it increases. It is far from the interest in English, but I guess that my and Irene’s continuing efforts leeds to this. In German you can find lessons on ALL levels: from absolute Beginners, Beginner 1, Beginner 2, Intermediate 1 and so forth. And I provide the information how to start and continue. I guess this is part of the success.

Vera is right. German content at lingq is excellent. In my view, at first people need guidance and then they will get used to the new kind of learning. In this case, evolution is much more effective than revolution.

@Makacenko: Thank you. How did you figure out how to start German? Which road do you take?

Unfortunately we, at LingQ, cannot create the actual lessons for all of our languages. Some of our beginner lessons are better than others. Rome was not built in a day. The quality of our beginner lessons is improving thanks to the contributions of some of our members. We feedback from learners these can only get better.

I believe there was some talk of offering Assimil lessons for sale at LingQ, wasn’t there?

Has there been any progress on that front?

I am starting Russian from scratch myself. I first started Pimsleur and fortunately I discovered this site soon after. I admit that initially, the number of lessons available was overwhelming to me. So I taught myself how to read and then I looked at various game plans.
One thing is that, instead of just worrying about where to go or what to do, is that…you should just do it. Just go for it. Ask a couple of people where you should start and then…just go. Should I really be worried about whether or not a word is a common one or not? Probably not. Should I hoard a bunch of LingQs and then review? Or just plow through the lessons? Why not do both? Maybe people (not anyone here necessarily) just get too worried and don’t let themselves just…go.

Just my experience so far…

I agree with Cloud. Just go and do it. You will find a way. You just have to forget about thinking about what is right and wrong. What is there to prove? And to whom?

I learned the basics of Arabic, including the alphabet, by just listening to short dialogs over and over and learning to associate sounds with words. Then, with minimal guidance, learning to break the words down into letters. I learned a few dozen Chinese Hanzi the same way with Greetings and Goodbyes, Eating out, and some of Who is She.

Jay we have contacted a number including Assimil. I think Assimil will not happen. Stay tuned.

Cloud and dooo, I am with you.

As a new member of 2 days now, I have to say that it is the constant doubt in my mind that I’m doing the wrong thing that is most troubling. I understand there are a lot of ‘right’ ways to learn using LingQ and the only wrong way is to be lazy, but for beginners starting from absolutely scratch, like me, learning French for the very first time, this is the main hurdle to overcome.

Initially, you are constantly craving structure and the whole “Lesson 1”, “Lesson 2” approach because it’s all you know and because it’s a more obvious way to track your improvement i.e. if there are 15 beginner lessons and you’re almost finished lesson 12, you’ve almost covered all the beginner bases and can look at moving up. I know nothing about language education and realise this is a very outdated approach, but for most people, learning a new language for the first time, this is the only method they know.

Personally, I am going to persevere with this because I have read about so much success on the forums and by reviewing profiles and I want to believe this is possible. I think if there were an initial “Beginner’s User Guide to Success” kind of manual with instructions on a good approach to start studying, it would help a lot in LingQ’s retention rate and individual confidence.

The main point I want to make is that, in order to completely trust the LingQ system (which is wholly framed on self-directed study), be persistent and believe that our brain will simply piece the learning together over time, we need to place a great deal of trust in ourselves that we CAN actually self-direct our learning in language. Something most people have never had to do in a society based on moving through compulsory system after compulsory system. For a complete beginner, this is a huge obstacle to overcome. I think a much bigger emphasis needs to be placed on alleviating the common anxieties of beginners by providing some sort of guide collating all of the questions and concerns of beginners been and gone and providing loose study plans that have worked in the past for beginners to follow for the first few months.

This is a similar issue gyms have. People join gyms, follow the instructor’s workout plan for the first 2 months and then quit when the plan ends and they have to take the reigns and re-design their program. People do not trust themselves to do the right thing in areas they have no experience in. They would rather not try at all, then put in the mountain of effort required and fail, a blow to the ego and the wallet. Personally, and I would say this is the case with most people who are serious about learning a language, we will find the money, the time, the commitment and patience to invest into a program, if we have a fairly good idea that the process will work and we can do it ourselves.

Sorry if I repeated myself a lot in this, I’m not sure I said anything constructive, but rather just laid out my mind’s self-conscious worries. I do have a couple of Q’s I would like to ask in these early stages if anyone can help?

A. Starting out, I have been trying to make exact associations between English and French words, associating “Je” with “I” exclusively for instance. I have since realised that this doesn’t work most of the time, and, as with English, some words have multiple similar meanings and context dictates much of what you should use. I have just started Who Is She? and noticed that “Que” can mean how or what, while “Comment” also means how. Is this something to worry about figuring out straight away? How and where these words should be used? Going through and following the English translation of a sentence using my LingQs, does not make complete sense to someone speaking English. Is this something not to worry about and this will fall into place as time goes by and I actually start interacting with tutors?

B. I would be interested to know when most people were ready to start sending writing in for correction and how the Writing component works. I noticed a Topic List in this section, written in French, which I do not understand. When I can decipher the topic list enough to select a topic, is this the right time to send in writing? I obviously don’t want to preempt myself in a rush to improve or waste a tutor’s time unnecessarily if I’m not ready. Is there any timeframe associated with this process?

C. I have just started listening to audio on my iPod of the Getting Started lesson, I am unable to translate in my head what is being said as it is being said. I will pause the audio to recall my flashcards for each word sentence by sentence. Should we only move on to a new lesson when we can follow the audio as it is being said without having to pause constantly and think? Vera mentioned a post Marianne had about a beginner’s guide to learning French with LingQ so I’m going to take a look at that and it may allay some of my concerns.

I just got an email from LingQ Support with some FAQ’s including an answer to the Q: how do I learn using LingQ?

How to learn a language on LingQ

Here is how to learn a language on LingQ.
Choose lessons you’re interested in from the Library.
Read the lesson, looking up new vocabulary and saving it for review.
Download and listen to the lesson on your iPod.
Listen → Read → Review Vocabulary.
Listen → Read → Review Vocabulary some more.
Do this a few more times and you’re ready for another lesson.

That’s it. It’s that simple.
When you are ready to practice your new language:

Make friends on the community
Friends can be other members learning the same language
Or, friends can tutor you in your new language.
Have your friends correct your writing
Schedule conversations with your friends using Skype
You’ll be speaking a new language in no time!

I have to say, even this is extremely helpful to remind a beginner to keep going! Explaining that the process is as simple as that is important. Anyway, I’m going to go back to listening to my tracks and practice some flashcards. Sorry if this is very draining to read!

Wow Sean, I can sense the enthusiasm for learning French. That is the best guarantee of success.

Thanks for the long thoughtful post. Some comments from me, and then I hope others will also comment.

Even if you covered Chapters 1 to 12 in a book, there is no guarantee that you will remember what was in the early chapters upon completing the book. There is no guarantee that you will be able to speak at the end of the book. Nevertheless, I think that most LingQers starting in a language should buy or borrow a beginner book, like Teach Yourself or Colloquial. It is comforting to have a book in one’s hand. It provides explanation when LingQ does not. It is a good companion to LingQ.

The only rule at LingQ is to enjoy the process. Study what you want, when you want. If you feel like reading, read. If you feel like doing flash cards, do them. If you feel like moving on to a new lesson, do so. As long as you are putting in the time with the language, and enjoying the process, you will improve. You many not always improve as much as you would like, or you may not think you have improved as much as you would like, but you will improve. You should learn to be happy with that improvement. Suddenly you will look back and realize how much you have achieved. And besides, if you enjoyed the process, you will not begrudge the time spent.

Re your questions on French.

A. “Comment” means how. “Que” is a little more complicated since it can mean “what” or “that” or “which”. It comes in more complex expressions like “qu’est-ce que c’est”.

I have found in many languages that there are certain very basic phrases, like “how old are you” “what is your name” “what is that”, which seem to be structured very strangely. I tend to not try to connect them word for word to English. Rather I accept that this phrase corresponds to some phrase in English. I wait until the strangeness wears off. This can take months, believe me, many months. One day you will just accept these phrases, understand them, use them, and wonder what the problem was.

B. I went a year in Russian just reading and listening, without talking or writing. For French, which shares more than 50% of its vocabulary with English and uses the same writing system, I think anywhere from 3-6 months is an appropriate silent period. This is very individual, however, and people who want to write or speak earlier should do so, and would undoubtedly benefit from doing so, as long as they are not discouraged by the many mistakes they will make.

C. Listen as often as you want. Some voices or lessons are more pleasing to you than others. Listen to what you like to listen to. I often move away from content that I don’t like to listen to, even if I don’t understand it, and listen over and over to content I like.There is so much content, redundant content, that you need not stick with content you don’t like. A rule of thumb threshold is 70-75% comprehension. Once you reach that level you should move on or the brain will get bored and stop absorbing anything. You need to vary the repetition with the novelty factor to maximize learning.

Absolutely read Marianne’s notes and explanations.

Good luck and remember the community is here to help you.

Here is the link to Marianne’s profile: Login - LingQ
Here is the link to Marianne’s beginner help page:
Initially I’ve created this document in English for German learners. Than I’ve got translations into German and Portuguese. Marianne that had a look for recommandable French lessons. I’m not sure if she has updated it with the newest lessons that were added to the library in the last year, but you can get an idea, how it works. The German list is up to date.

Steve said: “The only rule at LingQ is to enjoy the process”

Yes, enjoyment is the golden key to language learning.

(BTW This tends to support my point about learning by watching fun, low-brow stuff on foreign TV…doesn’t it?)

@Jay: To say “enjoy” only would not help 99 percent of the beginners. Especially at the beginning they are looking for a helping hand.


I think you’re not really understanding my point.

Not every learner is a “beginner”. There are lots of people at intermediate or advanced levels too, who also want to continue learning and improving.

@Jay: Look at the title of this thread. Steve was asking for advice how to deal with beginners.



(But I’m not referring to beginners, I’m referring to my own experience.)

Thanks Steve and Vera for your responses. I’m going to try not to get too hung up on trying to perfectly relate French phrases/words to English and just focus on understanding the meaning of the phrase it has been included in. I think this might be more of a grammatical issue to explore once I have a stronger grasp of the language and can identify precisely what I’m trying to find out.

I’m going to set my first goal to submit a piece of writing by mid-late December, and from then, once a week. I think it will take me considerably longer to build up the courage and knowledge to start speaking but perhaps a good training for this would be to practice speaking the corrected writing I have been returned, seeing as the tutor should have it back grammatically correct. For now though, I think Who Is She? should soak up a couple months.

I can’t wait for my first realisation that I’ve cemented a little bit of French in my head.

I can agree with Hape that beginners lessons should have some kind of step-by-step guidance and quality. No matter how talented you are, I believe any learner appreciates some kind of gradually increasing difficulty (whether this manifests in “grammar”, vocabulary, sentence length etc.). It’s quite a step from “Who is she?” and “Eating out” to Chechov (almost the case here a couple of years ago), and trying to decipher sentences the length of a paragraph can be frustrating no matter how good your dictionary is.

This being said, how to actually USE the various tools isn’t anything I’ve found difficult to understand, not at all. I’m surprised that even native speakers of English have found the site difficult to follow.

Even if the learners’ level of English is decent enough for them to be able to follow the instructions, it might be a cultural thing. Some enjoy free discussions in the classroom while others are more used to authoritative teaching. Those learners will find it diffult to use the LingQ material on their own.