UPDATE: Through a little experimentation and the power of positive thinking, I found workarounds to both Chinese problems listed below. The solutions are at the bottom of this post.
tl,dr: I used to use LingQ with Chinese but fizzled out because I was a beginner. Now that I’m intermediate, I’ve discovered it’s still one of the best learning tools available to me. LingQ IS amazing, I’ve had premium for 2 years, and plan on keeping it forever, but there’s still some really painful issues with it, some general, and some specific to Chinese. So, I thought I’d make a master list for the sake of development and improving the product.
First, a little back story. I’ve been learning Chinese for about 3.5 years, have gotten myself solidly to an intermediate level, and have just come around to using LingQ again. I started using it in 2019, and absolutely loved the idea behind it, having been a fan of Steve’s, Stephen Krashen, and CI. I was still a little too much of a beginner, so my use of it fizzled out, instead opting for learning vocabulary with Anki and Pleco.
I recently started an HSK 4 course, and found myself frustrated with the tools I’d been using to learn. Too much memorization, not enough reading/content. Long story short, I’ve been importing my HSK 4 lesson texts into LingQ. It’s been great, with the exception of some really significant issues. So without further ado, here’s the list:
Specific to Chinese:
- Character grouping into words is broken. If possible, please just copy Pleco :-).
Chinese works like legos – you put a common block (character) with a more specific block, and you make a word. The problem with lingq is that their text importer combines words in a way that very frequently contains errors. And I mean “happens every 1-2 sentences” frequently. Very, very, very frequently. This pretty fundamentally breaks one of the core functions of lingq: tagging words, tracking how well you know them, and using that to improve your reading. Pleco can do this very well, not perfectly, but very well. For those who know Chinese and get how complements and particles work (到，好，过，着，了，etc.), this is a really really serious issue.
I imported the following (the spaces didn’t exist in the original, but I’ll add spaces to show where the word divisions would normally be)
取 得 成功 的 人 往往 都 经历过 许多 失败 (People who attain success often experience many failures)
When I imported the text, it came out like this,
取得成功 的 人 往往 都 经历 过许 多 失败
Now, 过许 is not a word in Chinese (although you can add 过 to all kinds of stuff). It doesn’t show up in any of my dictionaries. Nevertheless, you can click on it, and there are user added definitions for this non-word. So in this case this bug creates two problems, it could misinform a learner who doesn’t know where the proper division is, and it breaks up the correct word 许多, preventing a learner from correctly tagging their target word. There is no possible way to override the incorrect grouping. When I’m reading a new text, probably 40% of my tagging blue items is simply ignoring incorrectly grouped words that don’t exist.
I get that dev work is hard, and you have to make tools that somehow work for every single language, but a way to override groupings, or have this be something that’s decided by a human being, rather than automated, would be huge. I honestly want to make a bounty on fixing this problem, because this one is massive for any Chinese learner. If there’s no plan to fix this, but it’s theoretically fixable, devs pm me about a bounty.
- Spaces and paragraphs. When I import text that is correctly formatted, I lose two things. I lose paragraphs/line breaks, and I lose spaces after punctuation. I get how you can fix paragraphs with the sentence end markers, but it’s tedious. The space after punctuation thing I still don’t know how to fix, and makes text look cramped. (This could have to do with how Chinese typing handles punctuation. It adds spaces after punctuation automatically. I’ve tested some and gotten inconsistent results.)
General (not specific to Chinese):
- On the desktop browser version, the right half of the screen (picking definitions and such) takes up a totally massive amount of space. There’s still no “full screen” experience available on the desktop version.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Fix this stuff, lingq is an unbeatable tool for learning Chinese. I know devs are pushing the 5.0 update and probably busy with other stuff, but I still want to document that these are significant issues for learning Chinese. And last, I still love lingq and think it’s a great product.
To fix character spacing issues, edit the lesson text. When you import Chinese text (which will have zero spaces by default), lingq will group characters into words, and separate each grouped word with a space. If characters are grouped incorrectly, just delete or add spaces.
For paragraphs, this is also a text importing issue. When I imported the text, there were spaces and the punctuation was entered as if with a non-Chinese keyboard. Delete the bad punctuation and re-enter it with a Chinese keyboard.