I think I’m done with LingQ for now. The ideas behind it are wonderful. I enjoy Steve’s blog and podcasts. The main reason that I will be taking a break is that I find the system to be clunky. I know that the site is still under development, so I’m sure it will get better. Here are a few of the problems that I see:
At least for German, I think that the library is too limited. Interesting content is critical, and I haven’t found very much. I think the problem for me is that it doesn’t seem genuine. It still seems forced and pedagogical, despite an aim to the contrary. I’d like to see the types of things that I read in English, or like Germans read in German. Topics that are interesting regardless of the language.
I can think of a couple of remedies, neither of which strike me as being particularly simple. The first is establishing partnerships with news sources, getting permission to use their content and finding an easy way to navigate through it. It seems likely that LingQ would have to be responsible for most of the accompanying audio content, so it wouldn’t be practical to have audio for every article.
The second is having an interactive forum where you would be able to check or add words on the fly, without having to import the content to your library. This would allow for genuine, informal use of the language to connect with people, without taking the training wheels away.
What really tipped me over the edge was deleting my unused content so that I could downgrade. I had to delete each piece individually (without, for example, check-boxes), and with every one that I had clicked the “I’m all done!” button for, I had to use the drop-down menu to direct myself to the “completed” page. I did this over 30 times, which was indescribably frustrating.
I find similar quirks and frustrations throughout the site, and sometimes I don’t even realize how frustrated I get by the clunky design until I go to a more complete web site. It’s a difficult issue to put one’s finger on, but I can say that a more cohesive and intuitive design would make a huge difference to me.
For now, I’m using a Firefox extension that translates individual words. I find audio where I can. I use StumbleUpon to find German sites that interest me. Although this method provides a world of content, I think that a fully integrated system like LingQ is far preferable, if it manages to be orderly while maintaining diversity and ease of use. Easier said than done, I know.
I write this not to criticize and complain, but because I love the idea here. I want to see this venture succeed. But until it’s more user-friendly, I can’t see using it myself.