Starting a language from scratch in LingQ -some thoughts

I have heard people say or seen them write that LingQ is not good for starting a language from scratch. Early on I also thought the same thing. I figured it would be too hard to use a reading based method to learn when you knew very little.

My own start with LingQ was all about learning French and I could already read fairly simple books with a fairly good understanding before I started. I had also used Rosetta Stone quite a lot for French and read some beginner level French lesson books. My idea was I´d be better off using Rosetta Stone if I later started a new language from scratch, since I´d be able to build a vocabulary in a more visual way and reading in a completely new language would be too hard. Despite being fluent in German, English and 3 Nordic languages, I even thought I´d be better off using Rosetta Stone to learn Dutch.

When I looked at Dutch in LingQ, I quickly realized this was nonsense, as I found I understood most words the first time I saw them, through their similarity to words from other languages I knew and context. I eventually binge-learned Dutch on LingQ and among other things, went about 3 weeks straight where I added about a thousand known words a day.

But learning a language which is extremely similar to ones you already know hardly counts as learning a language from scratch. So what if I would try to learn one further away from anything I know?

I have not yet tried learning anything very exotic, but I have started to look at Spanish a little bit. Having a fairly good knowledge and being fluently literate in French does help a lot, but I´d still count it as fairly foreign to me. I can confidently say that using LingQ absolutely work for me here. I just work on simple stuff. The mini-stories are very simple and repetitive and it helps that I know their content already. I read them and other simple lessons and listen to them and just re-read and re-listen quite a bit. I don´t find it difficult in any way and I feel using Rosetta Stone instead of LingQ would slow down my learning progress quite a bit.

I´d welcome other people to share their thoughts on how it worked for them if they have started a language they did not know to any real degree here on LingQ.


I realize I´m not a typical example of anyone trying to learn a new language on LingQ, since I´m already used to LingQ and have spent quite a bit of time on it, in addition to already being a polyglot of course. But I do feel the claim how LingQ is not good to learn a language from scratch is exaggerated.

1 Like

I think it does help quite a bit to be familiar at the very least of using reading and listening to learn a language, and to be familiar with the LingQ layout. Because you’ve used the approach before, you’re confident that it will (likely) work, even for a language you don’t know. You also have an idea right where to jump into on LingQ.

I think that’s where others could potentially fall short and I feel like many come to the site not quite sure of where to go first and thereafter. They may also feel that progress is “slower” initially because they haven’t learned a bunch of phrases to say and ask basic things (depending on what they read first).
If they don’t have a background on learning by reading and listening they might also be confused. (i.e. they heard LingQ is a great language learning site, so they come expecting exercise, SRS, games, etc., but then they are confused with a “Lesson Feed” of articles not knowing the basis and methodology)


That may be the biggest part of the problem indeed. One of the most important things in learning a language is just discipline and grit. I think a lot of people will just give up if the language learning program doesn´t offer them some sort of a graphically neat gaming experience. LingQ is a fairly raw and basic platform, but it completely works if you put the hours into it.


I started Czechcompletely from scratch here on Lingq, but I was also familiar with the system. Czech is similar to Polish, however turned out to have unexpected difficulties. For the first around one mln words read I used merely Lingq plus podcastcs and around 1-2 h of conversations per week. So first thing I could say is that Lingq is a great tool but one needs to speak a lot as well. Merely reading and listening will not be that effective IMO. Also, I have made a couple of mistakes.
Firstly as there is rather poor Czech content here, I ended up learning content way above my level too quickly. Reading news while having A2 level was not very effective. Of course I could do that due to the language similarity, but now I know it’s much better to be more humble and stay with lower level content for more time. But again, for some languages finding enough materials is a challenge.
Secondly, I have never used any grammar book and that was a mistake. Spending several hours per day with the language made me intuitively learn many rules, but not all. We are simply not children. Sometimes it was just ridiculous that after studying for hundreds of hours I was not aware of a certain simple rule in the Czech language. So I would say just reading one grammar book would really not hurt. At least for me it seems that it takes too long to notice everything, while I can quickly read a rule and understand it.
As for writing, now I am actually using Czech at work (proud of it:)), and even though I have never practiced writing, I learned that rather quickly due to lots of reading. So for me writing is not that crucial.
Now I am basically repeating that process with German, unfortunately less intensively. What I already see is that once there is much more content for German, it makes it so much easier to stay even longer with Lingq and use its full potential.


I joined lingQ in 2011, having German, English, minimal high school French and some Latin.

I learned Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese, in that order, from scratch to various levels of comfortable fluency, by way of lingQ only.

When I tried to start Arabic, the beginner and overall material on here was too bad and minimal, so I settled on Assimil, which I found to be the best beginner book. If lingQ doesn’t cut it for a language, I’d go to Assimil anytime now.

With Chinese, I have to note that an essential supplement was a pop up browser dictionary, since the internal lingQ functionaliy was unusable then and remains limited. Though many people seem to feel that you somehow have to disjointedly learn some amount of characters before starting lingQ, I simply started reading and listening Chinese from scratch on lingQ, and it works fine even for that.

Other than light supplementation by silly beginner yt videos, LingQ was the only platform and learning product I used.
No beginner books, no betrayal with the inadequate online competition.


I think Lingq can work very well for learning a language from scratch. There are two points that I think make some people doubt that this is the case:
a) There are many options for starting out in a new language that work well. Depending on your particular preferences you may like one more than the others. In this respect, Lingq does’t particularly stand out, although it’s not bad at all. There are way fewer possibilities for moving on to intermediate and advanced, that’s where Lingq shines.
b) Even if you use Lingq as your main tool for getting started in the language, I think it makes sense to add a few others, not because Lingq is not useful but because it is very helpful to tackle the language from several angles.
Nowadays I use Lingq from the beginning when I’m learning a new language. Sometimes as the main resource, sometimes as a close second. My main alternative is Assimil.

Mucha suerte con el español

You are probably right about everything you just said there. I have not been using any other language learning program for helping me learn languages since starting LingQ, but I do use other resources, mainly just movies and series that I watch and occasionally book I read. I think switching it up with resources can also be good just in order not to get bored. We all need some variety in what we do to some degree after all.

I think it´s good to start looking at grammar after you´ve acquired a fair amount of vocabulary and a fairly good understanding of the language. It will help you sharpen what you already have.

Everyone learns in their own way and has their own preferences, but I will share my personal experience with this. I began studying my first non-Romance language (Greek) last fall and tried to use LingQ from absolute scratch.

It went okay but not great. The two biggest issues for me were the (mostly) different alphabet and the poor quality of materials here. What I found lacking was a clear, unambiguous START HERE sequence of materials. I managed as best I could but it felt (looking back) woefully inefficient.

After perhaps 20-30 hours of study, I demoted LingQ to the back burner and began watching a bunch of YT videos aimed at absolute beginners, along with some other online resources, like GreekPod101. Now I’m back primarily using LingQ for my daily study.

If I had it to do over again, I would spend the first 20-30 hours with outside resources in order to get a bit of a foundation and then move to LingQ.

Final note: After spending so much time on LingQ in Portuguese and Spanish, it was a shock to see fewer and lower quality resources in Greek. The grammar guide and Beginner 1 materials have a ton of mistakes (grammar, spelling, and formatting) in them.


Regarding the Greek, that´s not good at all. I know “smaller” languages tend to have a lot less material on LingQ, but it´s not good if they contain errors. I guess there isn´t much that can be done to prevent that though, since a lot of the material is uploaded by users.

1 Like

LingQ is fine for learning a language from scratch, but clearly the experience is better if it’s a supported language. Steve rails on about using the mini-stories as a key piece of baptizing yourself into the language, which I’ve also seen as useful, and largely LingQ achieves this with anyone who is patient and stays the course. However, some supported languages’ mini-stories are done far better than others, and by definition are non-existent for beta languages.

That said, I wouldn’t immediately hop into a beta language with the expectation that it becomes supported – if LingQ is good at anything it’s basically letting languages stew in beta land indefinitely. I’ve never seen any kind of professional response on creative solutions to overcome their inability to graduate beta languages to supported languages, just a trickle of non-committal apologies.

To mirror what others have said, I would supplement any language with other tools, mediums, etc. If it’s a major language that is well supported, you’ll likely get more mileage out of LingQ. If it’s a language that is in beta, you’d do well to heavily weight searching out other solutions, and if it’s economical for you to keep LingQ on the backburner, great (personally I think LingQ is hefty on cost for the lack of execution on any kind of roadmap regarding the platform, language instantiation (none->beta->supported), etc).

1 Like

I think you are right that it would not be the easiest thing to learn a LingQ beta language from scratch. If you know the language fairly well it´s a different matter, since you can just import a bunch of material then.

LingQ does list some requirements for a language becoming a supported language right here: New Languages on LingQ - but it does not specifically promise they will change anything related to learning the language when these requirements are met.

Come to think of it, what does it mean for a language to be supported instead of being a Beta language? I have not seen any difference except for there obviously being more material and translations in the supported languages. What actually gets added/improved?

I also just haven´t tried other language learning programs aside from LingQ and Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone did work well for me back when I used it and it might not be bad to mix it in a little bit with using LingQ. One thing I found to be really good with Rosetta Stone is that you can use it and learn from it even when you are really tired and mentally exhausted. When you are exhausted like that, reading stories or articles doesn´t really work, cause you just zone out, but you can still hear/read simple texts and pair them to pictures, like you do in Rosetta Stone.

What you are telling me also reminds me to try to get as many people as I can to help me get as much material in Icelandic on LingQ here when it finally gets added (they have the 60 mini-stories already but have to get version 5.0 out before any new languages are added). It would be really disappointing if, when it finally gets added, people would give up on Icelandic because of a lack of material.


I think you may like doing a bit of “ladderning” @rokkvi. I do it all the time and I find it helps a lot.
In your case, you could get the Assimil Spanish course in the French version. That way you can study French and Spanish at the same time and you get to compare them directly.
Assimil is also much closer in spirit to Lingq in that it is input based but it provides a clear progression path and adds grammatical explanations after you have been exposed to particular examples through dialogues

I came to learn German here, which I was ‘acing’ on Duolingo at the time to the point I got bored. I still felt overwhelmed by any real spoken/written German, including the first mini-stories. Long story short, it worked fine with me. The next language was Italian, which I started on LingQ from scratch, knowing Czech, English, Russian, and some German at the time. I felt like it was going fine and with a little bit more effort I would have run through it. I only quit because I was doing too many languages at the time. The last one was Chinese, which I tried from scratch here and after about a month quit. I felt that one was a little too overwhelming as the only thing that didn’t overwhelm me that much was this simple course (introducing yourself etc.) Anything else available was just too big a jump for me. It is not necessarily the fault of the input method itself, but rather the jump in difficulty. There was simply nothing easy enough for me in the lingQ database. Then I got this Chinese learning app teaching tones, as well as characters and it seemed like it could have helped me had I decided to give Chinese one more shot. Since I never had enough motivation to learn Chinese or Italian in the first place, there isn’t much to regret.
If I were to learn Ukrainian, for instance, from LingQ, I would just bull-rush through it in no time without any Duolingo/Rosetta Stone intro as I know Russian.

1 Like

One thing is that those who like doing the 90-day challenges will have a much easier time doing so for a supported language versus a beta language. The challenges rely on collecting coins from reading, listening, lingqing and upgrading words. In supported languages a word can be worth between one and four coins per level. For beta languages every word is only one coin per level, making completing a challenge considerably more time-consuming for many users.

Its a fairly minor issue and really not important if you don’t find value in the challenges. The bigger issue is the relevant dearth of content for a beta language when compared to a supported language. But even that isn’t so bad once you’ve figured out where you can import your material from.

I think instead of this binary paradigm Lingq follows, they should treat all of their languages as supported, but give some indication on the amount of shared material each language has available. They should also somehow include a list of sources of importable material for a specific language front and center in the lessons tab so that users can easily seek out new lessons. Not everyone will visit the forums and open the google doc of various links, which itself is already pretty sparse.


I think you’ve done more than enough already, but if you’re looking for general suggestions for Icelandic content, authentic conversational material would really be wonderful (think SwedishLingQ, SpanishLingQ etc. podcasts). Hopefully they’d be less effort to produce beyond the transcribing and topic selection, but it would be a real boon. Either way, I look forward to getting started with it once 5.0 rolls around.

There’s lots of material on I’ve been downloading their audio and pairing it with their texts for my own use. If it is allowed to be shared I’d be happy to put that up once the language is available.

Also, there is a sister website to that for Faroese:
However that site is much more limited in content.