My LingQ German Experiment with pure Comprehensible Input

I just wanted to share that I’m playing around with German on the side of my Spanish where I’m going to use pure comprehensible Input for around 1K hours or more.

My plan is not to look up or even look at written words for this time.

What I’m playing with is using the ministories and the other beginner dialogues as one of the main onramps into understanding German.
I’m reading the translations of the stories and dialogues and then listening to the stories over and over again. So I know what happens or what is spoken about.

Then I’m watching Comprehensible Input youtube videos where there are two great CI channels on youtube for this.

I’m also watching the Extra show in German. As I’ve watched the Spanish version over and over again in the past and used lingQ with them in my earlier Spanish journey. So I know the story and context and what will happen.

Since I’m super committed to my Spanish, this is just a fun experiment to see what happens when I take in the language without having to worry about words at all but use the CI principles in the more ALG pure fashion.

I totally know the limits of this method, as very specific domain words and phrases can be almost impossible to acquire just by context. So maybe in the future when I’m reading German I’ll look up words.

I also have a background in German where I floundered through two college semesters of German, over ten years ago and concluded that “I’m language deficient.”

In conclusion, I like this idea that you can use the ministories in this manner if you know them already.


I notice that these mini stories get mentioned a lot. In a language with as much content as German or Spanish I don’t see the point wasting time on slow spoken nonsense content.

In terms of learning about culture and how natives actually speak those CI channels that you mentioned do seem very helpful.

The more I delve into language learning I’ve almost concluded to just suffer through comprehending the fast spoken native content with all of their equivalent ‘ums’ ‘ahs’, mumbles, inaccuracies and changes of thought direction.

I did all the Lingq Mini stories for Finnish and I would almost call it a waste of time and a trap for newbies.

Publicly announcing that you are committing 1000 hours to German is very brave, godsend.


Well, I’m playing around, not so committed as I am to my Spanish. So I’ll see if I keep going or not.
I’m viewing the ministories as an alternative to something like Anki. It get’s you started to immerse. Not to teach the language. I agree that the real spoken language is much more helpful than slow and emotionless and contextless stuff.
But it’s a way to pick up words and phrases.

I’m also very aware that using text to accumulate words is much more efficient than pure CI. I’m just fascinated by the idea that the language can be structured auditorily like when we acquired our native tongue.


Comprehensible input doesn’t exclude text… you can use methods like Lingq to make it comprehensible.

as for mini stories IMO it’s hard to start learning from native content at a total beginner level . You wont understand anything so it will be a waste of time. assimil/ mini stories, beginner podcasts can help you get a footing to progress to native content.

But if you go to native content at first, I’d like to know what you do and how you do it!


I agree. Mini stories, assimil, etc. have their place imo. At least for those who are just getting used to the ideas of comprehensible input or LingQ. I believe it’s a little easier to acquire the language is you’re not working through text that has every word or every other word blue or yellow. They stories may not be realistic language, but they do provide the most common vocabulary and basic grammar constructs.

I know of one LingQ user whom I think started with native level books when he learned Spanish. He had used LingQ to learn three other languages though. So first timers may have difficulty going with this plan unless they are really motivated.


@roosterburton your comments on the ministories are interesting. one of the curiosities of language pedagogy wars is that everyone figured out the method that works for them*, and then becomes evangelical about it, often rather arrogantly lacking interest, let alone understanding, of what worked because it tapped into their own idiosyncrasy vs universal prinicples. clearly the ministories work for steve, an im sure theyve helped others as well. they seem to be logical supplement to the lingq approach generally particularly for european languages, where you need to see the various tenses and grammar heavy features at least spelled out to assist in navigating the CI. its a sort of middle way concession rather than a grammar book. but its also certainly true that as far as return on time they help more with getting off to the races reading than speaking. but they are boring and ive had a suspicion you are right. maybe its just a something for the person who really wants to be able to use lingq alone (the rare user) to be able to cover all the grammar in context sooner rather than later in an easily digestable format, and an obvious boon if you use the platform to learn multiple languages.


In the end, I think it comes down to our individual goals. If you want to be speaking like a native with deep comprehension in a timely manner then… it would appear the mini stories are a false sense of security.
If you have the next 10 years to learn the language, or are just curious, but non committal, or are the kind of person that needs a foothold larger than your foot to avoid falling off then it seems like a good idea.
We all have our current methods and they adapt over time, but if I was to start a new language today. It would be straight to native content with transcriptions, learn the entire transcript with proper notes for each word and then listen to it while reading the text a few times everyday until its done.
I know it sounds very painful and it is and would be especially in a new language, but if you love the grind and painful life choices like me it could be the move.

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This guy did a reasonably rigorous experiment of ~1,000 hours of input only, no look-ups.

If the goal is to learn the language, I personally wouldn’t opt for such a method. Even the author of the above experiment said elsewhere that he only did it in the name of science, essentially. As a learning method, he wouldn’t recommend it as one’s sole means of study.

But if you are going just it for the lols, have fun.


Re: Comprehensible Input YouTube channels

This looks like a good list. I’ve only checked the “French in Action” series and I’m intrigued. Thanks for the suggestion!

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@ roosterburton I know Steve Kaufmann, when starting a new language, uses the Mini-Stories extensively.

I got so bored I didn’t have the motivation to keep at the Mini-Stories. Which may be my loss.

I’ve been working with Harry Potter (in French) and some of the LingQ podcasts. I enjoy these and I can sense my progress.

I drill down with the LingQ app and spend three or four minutes with each sentence, which may sound painful, but works for me.

So mission accomplished – I am active daily with French and that’s Steve’s overall point. As I need to add new pieces to my strategy I will.

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You’re so right about that, how people become evangelical about what worked for them.
I’ve went over and over many styles of immersion and study aids to immersion. I take a more experimental approach. I’ve had great success with the more “Refold/MIA” approach of study with massive immersion but I hear anecdotes of people learning solely through watching and listening or comprehensible input.
There’s no ultimate way but many styles of the same path that works for different goals and circumstances

I would add Nico’s Weg (produced by DW) to your list. It starts from the ground up, is entertaining, and has real native voices. You can watch just on youtube (there is an A1, A2, and B1 video). If you want scene by scene you can go to DW, but since you’re trying to avoid lookups I’d just suggest the youtube videos. Someone has also imported the courses into LingQ, if again, you want a lesson by lesson/scene by scene (plus usage of LingQ).


“If you want to be speaking like a native with deep comprehension in a timely manner then… it would appear the mini stories are a false sense of security.”

Not quite sure where the sense of security comes from. From my own experience of the Mini Stories, being my first foray into Italian, I didn’t feel a drop of any sense of security whatsoever.

It all comes down to, do you think that you should, over time and experience, increase the difficulty of content? In other words, would you recommend Shakespeare to a complete A0 beginner of English? Many people think this would be a pretty bad idea, from the LingQ staff (this is why LingQ has levels for their content) to many LingQ users (who have expressed their comments on the forum) to Stephen Krashen (i.e. i+1) to Paul Nation (his recommendation of extensive reading @ 95% known word families).

If you think that a progression of difficulty of content is a good idea, then what’s wrong with baby talk (with a transcript) as a complete beginner? I.e. the Mini Stories.


You are not supposed to stay with the mini Stories forever (or Assimil, which is better IMO because dialogues are slightly less boring and there are different voices in the dialogues)… just a couple of months, or even less, depending on the language’s difference from your own. But learner podcasts might serve the same function. Neither are native content and both adjust both speed and vocabulary to make it easier for the learner.

Eventually there is a transition point to native content. Having automatic transcripts and almost automatic translation of audio with Lingq makes it much easier though the transition isn’t 100% seamless. I had to basically jump to native content right away in Hebrew 10 years ago without either of these things (and not many intermediate learner materials) and it was frustrating: a lot of time spent looking up words.


@miriaml5 Yeah, I dunno what mad one would stay with the Mini Stories forever. Honestly, I don’t know why Steve goes back to “review” the Mini Stories every now and again. To me, this doesn’t really make much sense. But to each their own.

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I’m all for your experiment and let us know how it goes.

I do see 1000 and 10,000 hours mentioned in these topics. I’d like to offer the simple arithmetic:

1000 hours = 6 months of a 40-hour/week job
10,000 hours = 5 years of a 40-hour/week job

That’s a lot of time.

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@jt23: it is a lot of time, however, we should also remember that the 10,000 anecdotal hours is a number referring to maximum excellence, if I’m not wrong. Something like 1 in a million. You could consider that goal for one person learning only one language but wanted to become a very high excellent translator or interpreter. It wouldn’t be far from thinking about a 10 years minimum commitment living for many years in the target country. Probably, he would go much above 10k.