Some thoughts on getting obsessed with the word count

We have had a bit of discussion here about the word count, what it means and what it relates with and so on, so some thoughts here are something other members pointed out before me, some of this is also just my experience, which may not be how others will experience using LingQ. I am also low on the autism spectrum and I am sure that played into how I did things.

I started using LingQ at the end of last November, mostly with improving my French as a goal. It was mostly just seeing videos of Steve talking about how he like to read a lot to learn languages that got me into it. I had learned my other languages by immersion and speaking and was very curious to see whether this method of reading would work. I was already able to read simple books in French at that point and was fluent in 5 different Germanic languages. I had a lot of free time, even before the virus hit and often learned for hours a day.

From the get-go I really got into goal pursuit type studying aka the “gaming” part of it and there the word count is the most tangible measure. I´d set goals for known words, reach them and set new goals. Finding other people´s profiles who had high known word counts always seemed to “inspire” or “make me obsess”, depending on how you look at it, to also reach high word counts, not just in French, but also in other languages I did along with it.

Even after telling myself a few times how I was going to ignore the word count and focus on listening (at 33K, 44K and 50K) and although I did a fair bit of just that, I always seemed to slip back into trying to reach high known words goals.

So basically I´d say it´s good to have goals that are measurable and drive you on, but there can be downsides. I think the known words count really did help me put a tremendous effort into learning on LingQ and it made me improve enormously as a reader of French and Dutch. The bad thing is I probably was quite a bit too tunnel visioned and neglected other things to a degree, like exercise and family time, and my study was imbalanced, as I did much less listening and no writing or speaking.

All in all, done is done and I think there is a lot of good in this. I do think by reading a great amount of text, even if it doesn´t make you a fluent speaker/listener by any means, it essentially makes you “have the language in your head” so to say. The words are there, the comprehension is there, you just need to learn to puzzle the words together into sentences and learn to catch the words as you listen. I am sure I´ll become all around fluent in French (and maybe Dutch) somewhere down the line, even though my written French will probably always be somewhat ugly.

Now I want to touch on some things with using LingQ to read and again, the word count and what it means.

For me, I did not really review LingQs at all for the longest time. I don´t think you have to if you go through massive input. You´ll get the common words again and again, which is all the review/repetition you need. It is also more powerful seeing the words you are learning in context, than in isolation on “flip cards” etc. I only started reviewing LingQs, in my vocabulary section, when I had about 50K known words already. Then I´d mark interesting or what felt like more useful words as 2 or 3 and then just review the level 2 words, often moving them up to 3 if I got them right, then review only level 3 words, often moving them to 4 if I got them right. This was still just a very small minority of the words I learned.

As far as how known words relate to your actual ability in the language, there is a correlation of course, but you can´t really compare two people based on it. It doesn´t tell you that much about speaking, listening or writing and people mark differently. For example, I mark real nouns (names of people and places) as known, others ignore them.

As for myself, I think I´ve finally appeased this obsession with the word count, at least for a while I hope. I´m gonna focus on listening (not necessarily in LingQ) and maybe reading from physical books a bit, finish my part of getting Icelandic into LingQ (Icelandic LingQ 60 Mini Stories - Google Drive) and mostly just work on things unrelated to languages for a while.


I´d also note how when you get past a certain point, 40K+ but then especially when you get close to 60K, a higher and higher proportion of new words will just be names of people and places. Approaching 60K they seemed to be more than half of the new words, if you kept reading varied content at least.

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Great sharing, thanks. :slight_smile:

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Nice work. Lots of effort you put in! Have you imported any content that contains both text and audio? That may help you listen more. Check out YouTube channels with French closed captions, there’s a lot out there.


That is a very good suggestion. I have not tried it yet and I really should. I think reading and listening to text helps you greatly in “catching” the spoken words and connecting them to the written words you know. I´d sometimes do this, either read first and as a result understand much more of the read text when I listened or listen first and then fill in the gaps of what I didn´t get by reading the text afterwards. The former method is probably more productive though.

I think that´s a very good idea, especially since I´ve gotten a bit tired of the French content on LingQ, reading so many classical stories from the 1800s and news mostly. Would be good to get a bit of something different. I did find some interesting modern content on LingQ here and there, that video series on history and some podcasts, which I might try to find again too.

You should look at this site: Language Player | Master any language by comprehensible input. You’ll find French YouTube videos with closed captioning.

Also, please check out this: LingQ Language Resources - Google Sheets


I´d like to point out one thing which did help me a lot and partially make up for my lack of listening. I´d often have headphones on as I read and would click on words here and there as I read along, in order to hear how they were said. I´m sure that did help me get better at recognizing the words audibly.

Will do!

I haven’t listened much at all on LingQ in my Russian learning. I came in as a low-intermediate reader, perhaps, and the majority of the material I’ve used on LingQ is stuff that I’ve imported with no audio available. I’ve done a lot of listening outside of LingQ, which has helped my listening comprehension immensely. But the only reason that I understand what I hear is because of the vocabulary that I’ve built up by just reading here. I have no apologies for how I’ve used LingQ. That supply of “known” words does mean something.
Everyone on this site surely is familiar with a new language sounding totally incomprehensible. I’m there now, still, with German and used to be with Russian. With exposure and exposure and more exposure you start to hear the individual words and their inflections. But that’s only half the battle – you have to stop mentally translating what you hear. Reading really does help with that. Listening is necessary to build listening comprehension, but if you can read “der rote Vogel” and see the red bird without seeing “the red bird”, then you’re also likely to see the untranslated red bird when you hear “der rote Vogel”.

I agree with reading helping you to catch more words when you listen. Listening also helps you imagine the correct sounds for the words when you read them. I don´t think my mind ever really translates foreign languages into languages I know when I read or listen. It translates the words into the actual objects or concepts automatically. Maybe that´s part of the reason I don´t get so stuck in structures I know and just learn the new structures. I´ve noticed a lot of other people seem to fall into that trap, but it doesn´t happen to me that much.

These are really good resources, thank you Eric!