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.