My experience with using Lingq for learning unsupported language (Thai)

So, as many other users I was frustrated with Lingq not having some less popular language on the app. In my case I wanted to learn Thai.

I’ve heard before that some people used to “hack” Lingq to make it work with unsupported languages. So I’ve tried to replicate it myself. I’ve selected some language I’m sure I would never wish to learn and decided to use its place for Thai.

Next challenge was to split text into words. That’s how the Lingq method works, but to make things harder Thai doesn’t put spaces between words. For that I had to use an external splitter on the web. I’ve also had to put some line breaks, because Thai doesn’t use dots to end a sentence.

Then, I’ve imported the result into Lingq creating a lesson. I’ve found that the auto translation sometimes detected the language wrong, so I’ve just created a translation myself using Google Translate and added it to the lesson.

Next problem I’ve encountered was TTS, which just was not working. I’ve used a tool named edge-tts, which utilite the Microsoft Edge engine to generate high-quality speech. Then I’ve added the mp3 to the lesson. But I still had to adjust time separately for each sentence. It was probably the most daunting part of work, but I hope I wouldn’t need the speech sync later, when I’ll be good enough with Thai to follow the whole text myself.

The last problem was TTS not working on clicking individual words. The only way I’ve found to circumvent it is by using the system TTS on word select. In Mac I have to right click each word and select “Start speaking”. The default voices were too bad, so I had to go to the system settings and download high-quality ones.

Unfortunately the Lingq app on IOS doesn’t show the system speech menu on select, but you can select “Look up” to show the system dictionary (it’s not installed by default, you need to do it from the system settings as well) and from the dictionary page you can finally select a word and use TTS.

So, in the end I was able to almost replicate the Lingq experience for supported languages. Translation on click or select mostly works, flashcards work, adding words works.

I could probably go even further, using Google Translate to convert mini-stories in my target language and then trying to study them. I think it could generate some rarer words compared to the texts curated by humans, but will still be acceptable in the start.

So, was it worth it?
Probably. It still easier than manually comment and highlight text in some word editor and you have the main “killer” feature of tracking the known words.
I think when I be better with the language, I will only need word mark and listening the whole lesson audio, so I will not be so dependent on other automation which could be not correct sometimes.

In the future I would really wish for Lingq to add some “other language” mode in which we could select manually the TTS and translation engine from all available on the web or local system. It would make the whole process even easier.

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Thanks for sharing, definitely other people that are using this method could add their own experience on what they do.

This could be interesting.

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It really sounds like a painful experience.

Have you tried any of the following Chrome extensions: Context Reverso (does it support Thai?), ImTranslator, Language Reactor? Perhaps you will find a better workflow, which is less tedious.

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Thanks for your suggestions.
From your options Language Reactor is probably the solution most similar to Lingq. However it’s also not ideal, giving the totally wrong transliterations and not allowing to translate custom selection.

I also liked ImTranslator, it includes a slightly better dictionary and lets to translate any phrase on selection but it doesn’t track your words like Lingq or LR.
thai2english.com is also a nice option, has a word splitter and finally good transliterations, except it needs navigating to their website each time.

It’s possible to combine the tools above, starting with thai2english to get the sentence basics, using ImTranslator for sounding the words aloud, and then navigating to LR for tracking your words database.

In all these cases I miss the option of adding my own notes to the words as I use to do in Lingq. It can be very helpful with Thai on early stages. For example, I add tonal marks for syllables there.
Maybe I’ll code my own solution one day.

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Someone made a few Thai stories.
If you want to add them, it might be nice. Easy Thai Stories with Audio for Beginners and Intermediate Students with English translations | AutoLingual – Learn A Foreign Language By Yourself

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Wow, so much work. In case you are interested, languagecrush offers Thai. I was using them for Hindi while LingQ didn’t have it. It’s not as good as LingQ but it can save you from all that headache.

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Thank you, that seems to be a nice suggestion.

I’ve especially liked that you can split and join words easily (although, unfortunately each edit to the source text resets it, which greatly reduces its usefulness). I wish we had the same solution in Lingq for Mandarin, where word splitting is so often wrong.
I also like that it can do fast search in well-regarded Thai online dictionaries. Another useful features are TTS on click and word list export (Lingq can do it for SUPPORTED languages too).
I miss for syncing TTS speech with text lines and flashcard exercises which Lingq has though. Also Lingq is just so much better on mobile than their web app.

I still feel that with a dedication I can “prepare” a study text better on Lingq, but your solution as well as thai2english are much more sustainable when you are ready for extensive reading. I wish we could also have some browser plugin parser for Thai, because automatic word splitters can often make mistakes. Such solutions like Rikaichan have been existing for Japanese for decades, and helped greatly to ease the starting curve for reading.

I played with Irish here.
I opted for using Google sheets to paste in text from Olly’s Richard’s book. You can get the audio too. I used macros to capture my know word list.
This is most of what I’d want LingQ to do.
Yes, it’s a pity they don’t support smaller languages. The requirement to have ministories is not helpful. I’ve tried to overcome that hurdle.

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