Steve, it is a good idea to put the “comments on this lesson” at a place, where users are more aware of it! That’s fine.

Ana, I have two very good books with a lot of dialogues and really nice audio for beginners. I agree with you, that they try hard to make it interesting. I like my french learning books. They are not boring.

When I started with English again, one year ago, I had a great beginner book for English too. This book was also very interesting. They have a lot of different speakers and they try to create interesting content. Some dialogues are really natural and authentic in my opinion. And the grammar is very short. They are focused on dialogs, words and phrases. And there are 4 Cd’s with each book!

Yes, Vera, I’m really enjoying my beginner book either. Those newer books have plenty of dialogues and texts which are well spoken by competent actors. They try to use natural language, to create realistic contexts and to talk about interesting topics. In my case, each lesson has about 10 pages, and only 2 or 3 are about grammar or drills. But I don’t have the luck of having 4 cds, only one. Anyway, I have LingQ for this!

I’m lucky too as far as a beginner book, there’s a company out here that releases cheap language books that are mostly dialogue and word list with only a little bit of grammar explanation, the best part is the cd is actually a bunch of mp3s with the text so all I have to do is import them over and I can create links and also have the handbook for when I’m on the bus and want to read. I plan to buy this series for all the major languages.

I think beginner content is just a matter of us adding and writing stuff that’s interesting.


What is the name of this company. Maybe we can let our members know of good beginner content.

I also think that once we add the forum to the bottom of our content it will be easier for users to ask questions and for tutors and others to provide answers.

Meanwhile I think that well produced beginner texts are great resources so let us know the good ones.

Well they’re for Polish learners, so the word lists that come in the books are translated to Polish. The website is

They’d still be great as far as the Mp3s and dialogues but I don’t know if they’re available outside of Poland.

I did the same experience like Vera and Anapaula. Learning French and Spanish from scratch, I struggled with LingQ. The better solution was buying a beginner course with text and audio. After a recommendation from a other LingQ member I have decided to work with Assimil for the beginning. The method is a little bit like LingQ, listening, reading, only few grammar and after a time speaking. The textbook is small and fits good in my handbag, the audio I have on my iPod. The most of the text I import in LingQ and save LingQs, and in the holidays I could survive without computer, only listen to and reading.

One thing I think helps with beginner content…is content that builds on itself. Being able to build upon previously learned vocabulary helps greatly with retention.

Some recent observations on different programs:

Rosetta Stone— I still use it occasionally…but I find the writing drills to be next to useless, especially since very little time is devoted to the written language. My spoken and listening comprehension is improving at a dramatically faster pace, and unfortunately, any little mistake (forgetting to add the accent) breaks the pacing of the lesson and I don’t like it very much. For example, if you write “El” instead of “Él” you will be unable to continue the lesson until you pick the right accident. Then it moves on to the next spelling error, and the program kind of bottlenecks in this regard. I do find the need to read and write in the language to be important…I just dislike this function as it is presented in Rosetta Stone, and I will probably just start to skip it in the future.

Baron’s Mastering Spanish— All they did was repackage the Foreign Language Institute’s Spanish program…a program you can download for free on the internet (both text and audio)…don’t waste your time paying for something that is available for free.

Speak Spanish With Michel Thomas— I agree with Steve…listening to Thomas explain everything is really annoying, and the first time I listened to this guy…I turned it off almost immediately. Later, I listened again…and I do find that Thomas has many learning techniques that might come in handy, in terms of language retention. Unfortunately, Thomas butchers the language, and there are no native speakers on the MP3s (He has a couple of students on the CD learning at the same time that we are!) It might be interesting to listen to in your free time, but I can’t imagine actually learning how to speak the language through listening to this guy.

Pimsleur Spanish—Still listening, and in terms of the various audio programs I have listened to, I still like this program the best. I don’t mind the drills, I find it is kind of a fun mind game to play while I am driving, exercising, etc. The weakness of this program is that very little vocabulary is actually learned…and I think learning, for me anyway, is very slow. Other programs I have listened too just list vocabulary or “useful phrases” which I don’t find very interesting. The fact that Pimsleur tries to put the new vocabulary in the context of a conversation is very helpful in keeping it interesting, even though…I could probably learn more vocabulary, faster, by using other methods.

Livemocha— They now offer a premium service, with better lessons, MP3 downloads, and both individual and group tutoring. I was very active on the site for a while…I think until I maxed out my current knowledge of the language…but dislike being tied to the computer for my language learning.

Learn Spanish for Dummies— It was dumb! Seriously though…just listing useful phrases and vocab is not interesting, I find it better to put something in context (see Pimsleur). I didn’t spend much time with it…It just didn’t grab my interest.

Learn in your Car Spanish— Another program that just seems to list vocabulary…at least they do it to some relaxing music…I might find this helpful for a vocabulary building exercise… but not for learning grammar.

Hi Shon,

Thanks for the great rundown on learning software!

Where is the critique of LingQ? I notice you hardly use the site at all. Tell us why? We can take it. :slight_smile: …We think what we offer, especially since you are no longer a beginner, is far more effective than any of the options you mention.

Often my stats are not a reflection of my usage of LingQ. In French, for example, I am just listening to a lot of the great Radio Canada podcasts that are put out daily. I feel like I am using LingQ though because I am following the philosophy of LingQ, I am active in the community, and I know that when I get some time I will get back to actually making more LingQs.

As for criticisms, the number one I feel is the need for a LingQ firefox add on to quickly import text or short phrases from the web. The recent dictionary renovation has somewhat solved my problem of the lack of a link to a good collocations dictionary. I also think, as I am pretty sure you are already aware, that Korean would be a fabulous user-end addition.


Hi Shon,

Thanks for the great rundown on learning software!

Where is the critique of LingQ? I notice you hardly use the site at all. Tell us why? We can take it. :slight_smile: …We think what we offer, especially since you are no longer a beginner, is far more effective than any of the options you mention. [/quote]


I agree with Dooo’s post above. I’ve also discussed in the past how…as an absolute beginner (no prior knowledge of language being studied), I found the lack of grammatical explanations a little too daunting. I probably could have muddled through, but I have other reasons for not using LingQ as much, and like one might say to his lover, “It’s not you…it’s me.” LOL.

To be fair to LingQ…I haven’t had the time to devote to language learning that I would like. I have been studying for some professional exams that I need to pass, and then I can refocus my efforts on language. As such…I’m just not able to give the time required to really take advantage of all the resources that LingQ has to offer. Looking up definitions, creating and studying flashcards…downloading various mp3s, is something that is needed, just not something I am really able to devote time to right now. I have had to start and stop my language study, as other things have come up…and it isn’t the most conducive situation for language learning to take place.

I agree that LingQ is a great resource for people that truly want to learn a language. Right now though, …I’m just a casual learner. I don’t think LingQ is geared towards casual learners, nor should it be!

A few years ago I started teaching myself how to write in Chinese. I started with some Character readers…and it took me a year to work through the beginner, intermediate, and advanced readers. After all that time…I still only knew roughly 600 characters (which in my opinion is still pretty useless). I studied for hours every day…using flashcards, and practicing my writing. Eventually…I was able to move on to books and content that I found interesting (I was so excited when I found my favorite book, “Ender’s Game” in Chinese) and that is where my language skills really started to take off. I loved being able to look things up on the computer, discover new vocabulary…and make flashcards based upon the material I was reading. I loved being able to look at a Chinese sign…and for the first time, actually figure out what they were advertising!

Unfortunately…I am currently unable to devote the time it takes to really learn a language right, much less take advantage of all the tools that LingQ offers.

As of right now…I do most of my language learning when I am in the car…folding laundry…doing dishes…exercising…etc. Language systems like Pimsleur, offer packaged content…but also offer packaged explanations. I don’t need to look up definitions, or grammar, or write flashcards, because the explanations are all there. Learning takes place at a much slower pace…but for now…audio systems are all I really have time for. I’m not fooling myself into believing that I will actually learn the language this way… I kind of see myself as being in a holding pattern until I am really able to devote the time to it that I need. Once that happens… I will come back to LingQ in full force. Eventually…I will have time to once again…to really take on the Spanish Language. When that happens…I will have a good basic understanding of some vocabulary, and grammar…and that will be for my benefit when it comes to trying to use LingQ effectively.

My use of Rosetta Stone has also been sparing… but like Pimsleur it doesn’t require research…it is just intuitive learning. Am I really gong to learn the language that way? NO. but it is fun way to play with the language while I am biding my time, and the information I obtain from both systems does come in handy, and hopfully It helps me retain vocabulary I’ve already learned.

If you took the time it took you to write that post to study some content on LIngq you’d probably already have a larger vocabulary than Pimsleur offers…

I think, writing English does not take much time, even for learners, not to speak of natives :slight_smile:

I think that serious language learners are always looking for resources that will help them. I recommend buying starter courses and accessing other materials that help. LingQ does not pretend to be the exclusive and only place to learn. We do think that we bring together a lot of the elements needed for continued success leading to fluency.

We will also be looking to make our beginning material better and organized in a more helpful way.

If you took the time it took you to write that post to study some content on LIngq you’d probably already have a larger vocabulary than Pimsleur offers…

It isn’t the size of the vocabulary that matters, it’s how you use it, LOL.

But seriously… LingQ is a great program, and I look forward to using it more as time permits.


Please allow me to disagree. It is the size of your vocabulary that matter. It matters for understanding, and it gives you the potential to develop the ability to express yourself using more and more of the words in your vocabulary.

My post was meant as a joke… see the "LOL"and "but seriously"above.

I do think, that when attempting to communicate in a new language, we sometimes search for higher vocabulary that we may have not developed yet. Sometimes it can be helpful to stop and think about how to simplify a statement. for example…it might be easier to break down a compound sentence into two basic sentences.

I don’t think this view is necessarily contradictory, because certainly size of vocabulary does increase understanding, and the ability to express ideas using more words. The above cited technique isn’t an excuse for not learning vocabulary, but rather a technique to use, when you are not quite there.

There has been several research papers published for example (Nation, I. S. P. (1990) Teaching and learning vocabulary, Boston: Heinle and Heinle.) that suggest there is only a core vocabulary of about 4000-5000 words make up 95% of a written text, and 1000 most frequent words make up 85% of speech.

Now, Nation’s research was not necessarily saying that we should only learn 1000 words, but rather suggests that in basic vocabulary building, focusing on core vocabulary as part of the course sylibus is a good place to start. People like Michel Thomas, and Dr. Paul Pimsleur seem to embrace this approach.

Just one other comment…I have a friend with photographic memory that has a knack for languages. We were both studying Cantonese in Hong Kong, and my friend, in less than a year of study, was writing in cursive Chinese caligraphy, and knew many complex Chinese Characters that were not in common usage, and weren’t even readily recognized by locals. He could easily converse with a physics professor (something he was interested in) but such conversation would be over the heads of the general population. Similarly speaking…I met several Chinese people in Hong Kong that used complex words and vocabulary in normal conversations, that would normally be reserved for scholarly works. Even though I adapted to their means of conversation, I won’t deny that this was a bit off putting.

I also recognized from my own Chinese study, that there were words and phrases that I learned, that similarly were concepts unfamiliar to locals. words like “prophet”, and “atonement”, while understood by Christians, aren’t exactly common place in non-Christian countries. As such…complex communication often required breaking down vocabulary into more simple terms.

In my travels, I have had conversations with simple uneducated farmers, and Phds at top universities, and having the ability to break down more complex vocabulary is an important skill, as is developing the kind of vocabulary that allows for such varied conversation.

Love this and your other posts, Shon!

I often fall into the trap of biting off more than I can chew when speaking a foreign language. By that I mean I misuse a 100 dollar word or phrase because I am so proud that I know it when a 2 dollar word would more effective because it forms part of the actual usage.

Edvard (dooo) wrote:

“the number one I feel is the need for a LingQ firefox add on to quickly import text or short phrases from the web.”

What is it? Steve has also mentioned s-thing alike in a Skype conversation. But why Firefox? Isn’t it supposed to work with any browser? I am very interested and looking forward to enjoying it.

I once made such an add on (if only I understand correctly what’s it all about) to my Babylon 6, installed locally on my Windows computer. I could click ANY word on the screen, the Babylon would instantly translate the word causing, in the background, the add to save the translated word (the word only, not a phrase) into a new line of a text file. I could review the text file.

A new version of the Firefox has broken the proper functioning of localy installed Babylons, and my home-made add-on altogether, but I can attempt to fix it. What kind of a firefox add-on is LingQ after?

Correction: …causing the add-on to save the translated word…

Ilya, I don’t know what LingQ will do. I was just saying what I wish they would have.

I say FF add on because I use FF exclusively. Does IE have add ons too?

My idea for an add on would be similar to the one you described: highlight text, right click it and then left-click a drop-down menu option such as “import as vocabulary” with a window opening up so you can write in or modify the hint and phrase. Ideally there would be a “import as content” menu option as well with the import window opening up and the content already entered, but this would be secondary.