Some thoughts on which words should count towards "Known words"

I´ve seen quite a few ideas on this. I would say LingQ counts “word forms” rather than words since “man, man’s, men” = 3 words, “I, me, mine” = 3 words, “I, have, I´ve” = 3 words and so on. It will also count foreign words and names of people and places if you don´t mark them with the “x” (ignore) key.

Many people say you should not count all of these, but I´m going to make an argument that you should count all or almost all of these forms.

  1. Different forms of the same word, like conjugations and declensions. A person could easily know a word like “I” but not “me” and “mine” when they are just starting to learn. Likewise it matters to know that “threw” is the past of “throw” where you might expect it to be “threw-ed” if you are new to English. It thus means something to know all these forms.

  2. Compound words. Sure, it doesn´t really mean much for example to know that “Fischsuppe” (DE) means fish soup if you already know the meaning of “Fisch” and “Suppe”, but sometimes compound words mean something different than the combination of the words they are made from. “Ohrwurm” (DE) does not mean an ear-worm, for example, any more than “hot dog” means a dog with a high temperature. I guess one could mark the compound words where the meaning is the sum of the words as “ignore”, but generally you want to get through lessons fast and not worry too much about marking.

  3. Spliced together words. These would be like “I´ve, they´ve, don’t, (EN) l’hopital, d’homme, (FR) zeig’s (DE)” these sort of bump up known words and mostly you could say that they are redundant, but it´s at least important to know how they are composed.

  4. Names of people. You could argue that they are redundant but it is actually of some value to recognise that a certain word is the name of a person and whether it´s a personal name or a family name or whether it´s tied to one gender. This is somewhat less true of names in other languages than the one you are learning. It´s somewhat more far fetched to mark “Patrick” as a known word in French than in English, but then again this is changing fast and the lines are getting blurred. With people moving between countries and just giving their children names in whichever language they feel like, names aren´t so bound to nationalities or languages anymore.

  5. Names of places. Now most of the time they might be redundant but not nearly always. Again, knowing that certain words are names of places has value, especially if it´s a place named in the language you are learning. Many languages also name places differently. The city of Chicago is probably not going to be very different across languages but many others are. Look at the names of Scotland, New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland, The Netherlands, Germany etc. across different languages and they are vastly different.

  6. Foreign words. Now when a whole phrase from another language appears in your text, you should ignore all the words for sure. In a sentence like: “Harold, speaking German so the kid´s wouldn´t understand said ‘Bitte nicht so was über meine Mutter sagen wenn die Kinder zuhören’ and left the room” there really is no point in marking the German words as known words in English. But if they are “slang” then there is a thin line. Words migrate between languages and eventually start counting as a part of that language. It´s also important to know which borrowed words are generally used and understood in a language. I mostly mark foreign words as “ignore” when I have a keyboard, but often I don´t.

These are my thoughts on it. Not really a subject that matters so much, since our goal should be learning, as opposed to having a high word count, but still a fairly interesting topic in some ways.


I agree with pretty much everything you say here. I think once people start using LingQ judiciously they probably realize that counting all the forms as separate words really does make the most sense. Many of the spellings of different forms of the verb are vastly different than the root form…if you know any of these forms it’s a step of progress and that is really what “known” words is counting…progress.

I do count all forms of the words. I don’t tend to do proper Nounds like names and places. I sometimes might make an exception for something…like maybe a certain landmark…I might add a LingQ and provide something about the landmark…a city or a little of something about it. Or perhaps an orgnization, particularly one that might be denoted with an acronym. Likely I’ll come across it again, particularly in news, and it’s nice to have a quick reference to what that entity might be. I may or may not count it…often I’ll still set it to ignore afterwards, or just leave it yellow, or known.

Borrowed words I tend to count if I think it’s something the native speaker would use typically, otherwise I’ll ignore.


What you say it makes sense.

I just don’t count names in general that I think they are not relevant for some reason. And I don’t count foreign words even if they are used in the language I’m learning and they have the same translation and pronunciation. If there is some difference I count them. All the rest is important as it could be part of grammar or orthography and not only meaning.

I agree with most of everything, except the names. I usually say to ignore names, unless of course they’re words with a legitimate meaning in the language, such as some family names like “Wood” or “Church” and some first names such as “Scout” etc. But Steven and Stephane etc. I’d just ignore.

With geographical names, I’d only count them if the version of it in the language is significantly different from the “international version.” London would get an “ignore” in most every language, but in French “Londres” is the legitimate unique French word for the city, so I would mark that as known. There are a lot of examples like this in various languages. But Copehnagen vs. Copenhaga vs. Copehagua – versions like that, I’d just ignore since they’re not different enough to warrant a “known word.”

I usually count names (of people, places etc) that have meaning beyond the name itself. This is particularly relevant to me when it comes to names of mythological or historical people/characters/places as I hardly want to brush those off. In other words, if just reading the name does not explain its significance in the text, I add it as a LingQ (with a brief description) and thus eventually as a known word.

As for those not fitting the criteria above, I delete generic names of people, but add names of places as knowing where those places are is actually relevant to my language learning. I dont think it really matters how much the names in the language you are learning resemble the names of a different language because ultimately my goal is to know these languages independently of eachother.

I pretty much agree with the rest, but I sometimes delete “spliced together words” if the embedded words are self-evident and I already know the words.

I agree, especially about names and places. If I want to be fluent in a language like Norwegian, I should recognize basic Norwegian names and places. Hence I count those words as vital.

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I approach the issue of marking words known EXACTLY like you do.
I think a lot of people (myself included) tend to overthink this when they first start using Lingq, because we are so used to traditional language learning methods, where we have to compartmentalize every word.
I am at a point where this kind of meta-thinking about words becomes more of a nuisance rather than help, so my philosophy right now is: if I know the word, I mark it as known. If I don’t know the word I look for a translation and make it yellow (kinda like how Steve Kaufmann does).