Study Plans

Everyone has their own way of studying at LingQ. On the other hand some people want to be shown the right way to use LingQ. I do not think there is one right way. But I did play around with a few “study plans”.

There are many more ways to study at LingQ. I would like to hear if you use anything similar to these approaches. Do you think that showing this list would be helpful or confusing to newcomers at LingQ?

Plan 1. Cautious (Tortoise)

(recommend for beginners and low intermediate learners)

Select first item in My Level shelf in Library
Listen once or twice without reading
Listen and read along once
Read again and save LingQs
Listen on iPod at least 5 times during the day
Read again and review saved LingQs from the lesson using Flash Cards
Review words of the day
Write 100 words
Join an online discussion
Review writing report and discussion report
Select next item in My Level shelf in Library and start again.

Plan 2. In a hurry (Rabbit)

(Recommend for people who have little time)

Select first item in My Level shelf or item of choice
Read once and save LingQs
Listen 2-3 times during the day
Review words of the day
Select another item

Plan 3. Methodical ( Horse)

(Recommended for serious students)

Select item of interest
Listen once without reading
Read and save LingQs
Listen 2-3 times on iPod
Review words of the day
Write and submit for correction
Read correct text out loud when you receive it
Join discussion with your tutor to discuss the writing.
Select another item

Plan 4. Power learner (Tiger)

(for people who want to improve in a language they already know fairly well)

Select 2 items of interest
Listen to all three on iPod without reading
Read first items and save LingQs
Listen and read along
Read second item and save LingQs
Listen and read along
Listen to both items 3 times during the day
Sign up for three discussions per week.
Write 500 words
Keep going

  1. Free spirit (Porpoise)

Just do what you want, plunge into the depths or soar above the waves, however you wish.

I think I’d probably fall into the second category. Although, no. 3 (horse) also sounds quite interesting.
Usually, I’ll pick a collection or group of content items from the library.
Then, one by one, I’ll…

  • Read (once) and save LingQs
  • Listen and read at the same time (once)
  • Download audio and listen throughout the course of the next week or two (as a collection)
  • Go through words of the day (though not as often as I should)
    If I’m struggling with comprehension, I like to listen and read again. Then I’ll go back to listening to it on the MP3 player. I’ll keep listening to it until it gets boring (this might be 5 times or even more). Then, if I still feel that I’m not completely sick of the content, I’ll keep it on my MP3 player to listen to again at a later stage when I’m in need of something different. Once I get bored of the content the second time, I get rid of it.

I don’t think that showing this list to newcomers would be a bad idea. Although, they might look at what’s on the list and assume that speaking and writing are more important in the early stages than they actually are (for complete beginners, that is).

I also like the idea of these lists. I agree with peterlaunonen about speaking and writing in the early stages. That was my first thought, that it is assumed / expected that beginners would be writing and speaking from the beginning.

Here is basically how I study, which seems to be quite similar to peterlaunonen:

  • Take item from library
  • Read once and save lingqs
  • Listen and read once
  • Download audio and listen throughout the next week or two or three (until the item bores me)
  • Repeat steps above with 1-2 other items, depending on length of items (this means that I am listening to maybe 3 different items at once)
  • Review lingqs of the day when they come in
  • Reread items I am currently listening to once or twice more to make sure I am understanding correctly, and review flashcards from each item.
  • Once or twice a week, or when I have time, input lingqs from material I’ve reviewed that is not in lingq (books, audiobooks, movies, etc). This doesn’t get done as much because it’s more time-consuming.

I have only submitted two writing samples, so I’m trying to figure out how to integrate them into my study. Currently, my writing has nothing to do with the library items, although I will try to use words from them if they fit.

I also have not yet joined any discussions. I am not confident enough to do that yet.

These two replies might make good “testimonials” for beginners (need to have a prominent link on the newbies homepage?). By the way, it seems true that Tiggers can’t count: under 4 (Tiger) …select 2 items … listen to all three. I am a free-spirited cautious rabbit, my best friends are the horse and the tortoise.


You are very observant.

Peter and Aybee,

The reason I include writing and speaking for beginners is that many people who come to LingQ, especially beginners, just do not do much and quit. Making contact with a tutor, to speak with, or even through a little bit of writing can provide the help and guidance they need. The strong independent learners will figure things out and may not need the tutor in the beginning stages of a language.

Thanks for the comments.


Having thought about it I really like your idea. We should have a beginners lounge area where members can talk about how they use LingQ. Peter and Aybee’s descriptions of what they do would be really helpful. That is better than a study plan from LingQ.

Anyone else willing to share how they use LingQ?

Well, I suppose I would be a porpoise and can’t make sensible comments about study plans as I am most unlikely to ever stick to them :wink:

I do think that newbies need:
a) to be encouraged to make contact with a tutor as soon as possible, because a lot of the newbies I talk to are seeking reassurance about their ability to learn.

b) to have realistic expectations of the amount of time and effort they will have to put in to reach their goals. I so often talk to people who say “I put almost no effort into learning a language, and didn’t have much success, what did I do wrong?”

After a lot of scribbling on the back of envelopes it seems to me that you need roughly 300 hours for basic conversational competence (beginner 2) and 900 hours for general coping skills (intermediate 1). How many hours you can expect to work to get to intermediate 2 or advanced 1 I haven’t figured out yet. No doubt someone has already worked this out and published a proper framework for study times somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.

c) To have it reinforced that, even when you get frustrated, tired, bored you MUSTN’T GIVE UP. In fact the only thing that will cause you to fail is giving up on your goals.

Sorry if that’s wandered a bit off topic Steve! I like the idea of encouraging newbies to figure out their learning style and to see how they can use LingQ “their way”. I think a link on the newbie start page to a quick learning style test would be a great idea. Then encourage them to talk to a tutor and figure out their goals.

This is very useful! You should include these methods in the FAQ or make a video about them since most new users might not read the discussions right away.

Ah … I see. Early contact with a tutor would definitely be helpful and encouraging. I came back to Lingq after a break, and submitted a couple writings to a tutor (Berta). She was very helpful and encouraging, and was great additional motivation for me to continue. :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t recommend writing and speaking at an early stage. People maybe felt to be under pressure, and they are not feeling confident enough to master these activities. Or you should create the option of tutors with the same mother tongue as the learner as a tutor. I know that there were some ideas about that before but it was not possible to see which tutor has another native language.

How do I study?
I always listen to an item before I read it. I think reading is a lot easier. Listening before reading offers me to prove my listening abilities which are important in conversation. I think this is a good preparation for conversations.

My daily routine as an intermediate learner (English) is:
I practice listening to Podcasts while driving to work. Most of the time I’m listening to Podcasts without transcript.
I review words of the day (email).
I select an item in Library.
I listen once or twice without reading.
I listen and read along in one step and save LingQs

On a more or less weekly base:
I write 100 to 500 words.
I review the writing report.

Once or twice a week:
I join an online discussion.
I review the discussion report.

My routine as a beginner (French) is:
I select an audio course that I’ve bought.
I’m listening to the audio course while driving to work (2, 3, 5 times belonging on the difficulty)
I type the text (which is in a book that come with the audio course).
I import text and the audio into LingQ.
I listen once without reading on LingQ.
I listen and read along in one step and save LingQs.
I review words of the day (email).
I’m listening again while driving to work as often as I like it and not getting bored.

On a more or less weekly base:
I write 50 to 100 words.
I review the writing report

If I feel more comfortable I will choose items from the library and work with them in the same way. Then I don’t have to type the text and to import it. By the way I think it is great and helpful to type a text in a foreign language. It helps me to memorize French, and I’m aware of the different conjugations, word forms etc. especially for a language like French which isn’t easy to write (with all these different endings, apostrophes etc.).

Also, is there another possible way to interact with the tutors, other than through writing and speaking? I think that if I were a true beginner, and have only been through a couple lessons, and have under 100 known words, I would not feel confident enough to write or speak. (Wow, was that a convoluted sentence.) Or maybe other people are more confident, and I am the only one that would have that problem.

A typical porpoise study plan might run as follows:

Fall in love with Keanu Reeves.
Buy all his best films on DVD with dual-language subtitles.
Watch them over and over again, with and then without subtitles, until your family complain.
Find the scripts on the internet (they’ll be there somewhere!).
Create LingQ lessons from the scripts and import them for private study.
Go through your lessons, create LingQs, learn LingQs. This will be easy because you know those films practically off by heart now.
Find the novelisations of the films and read them. If you can get them in ebook form, you can import them as lessons too.
Find a tutor who is happy to talk about Keanu Reeves with you for an hour a week. Find other Keanu fans via the LingQ forum and get your tutor to set up group discussions for you.
Write essays on why Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is better than Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Submit them to your tutor for correction.
Watch in amazement as your LingQ activity scores soar.
Decide that Keanu Reeves is overrated.
Discover Superman comics/Gothic horror stories/Sex and the City.

I just have a link to the DVD movie subtitles in various languages handy:

Cool! Thanks Ilya!

Helen wrote:

"b) to have realistic expectations of the amount of time and effort they will have to put in to reach their goals…

…it seems to me that you need roughly 300 hours for basic conversational competence (beginner 2) and 900 hours for general coping skills (intermediate 1). How many hours you can expect to work to get to intermediate 2 or advanced 1 I haven’t figured out yet. No doubt someone has already worked this out and published a proper framework for study times somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet."

Though may be indeed off topic but interesting. “No doubt someone has already worked it out”. May be no one. I once suggested a very vague estimate like " a thousand of hours, by the order of magnitude, to master a new language. Steve published a detailed table on his blog which suggested, as far as I remember, somewhat smaller hours then Helen does. Steve, you must have documented, at least approximately, you time spent on Russian. I bet it is already more than 1000 hours. At least if we include “the listening while doing other chore”.

I didn’t look for it, but I have never indeed met a documented estimate of how much it had taken somebody to learn a language ( or to improve by a well defined level). The real figure might frighten “an impulsive customer”, I am afraid.

Steve, how many hours have you already spent on Russian, approximately?

In the ‘LinguaLinks’ Library (CD-ROM I bought from they give Progress charts based on FSI data (Foreign Service Institute). Progress depends on language difficulty, the aptitude of the learner and the time the learner puts in per week. To put it in short:

If you have already reached level 1 proficiency, you can project how long it will take to reach other levels based on how long it took you to reach level 1. [=Beginner 1, see LingQ description]…
Inspection of the progress charts shows that for high and average aptitude learners, the time to reach a given level of proficiency can be roughly estimated from the time to reach level 1 as follows:
• Level 1+ takes 1.5 times as long as level 1 [Beginner 2]
• Level 2 takes 2 times as long as level 1 [Intermediate 1]
• Level 2+ takes 3 times as long as level 1 [Intermediate 2]
• Level 3 takes 4 times as long as level 1 [Advanced 1]
• Level 3+ takes 6 times as long as level 1 [Advanced 2]
• Level 4 takes 8 times as long as level 1 [near-native]

Multiply the number of months to reach level 1 by the factors listed above to project how many months it will probably take to reach each of the higher levels.
For low aptitude learners, the learning rate appears to be a bit slower. If you think you are a low aptitude learner, add another 25 percent to the estimates.


Q: It has already taken me six months to reach level 1 proficiency. How long will it take me to get to level 3?
A: It takes about four times as long to reach level 3, thus you can expect it to take about two years (or another 18 months) if you keep the same pace. If your aptitude for language learning is low, it will take even longer, perhaps 2.5 years.

I hope this won’t discourage anyone. The charts given indicate learning time in 30-hour weeks… If you study less, you will reach your goals more slowly, but I’d say if you keep studying and keep your learning experience interesting, time is no problem :slight_smile:

Since I am a college student and don’t have much time available for concentrated study, I more or less follow a “porpoise plan” for studying Portuguese right now (and I would say I’m at the high beginner, low intermediate level):

  • I have several podcasts, audio files and songs on my ipod. I usually like to listen to something that involves music (either Brazilian music or the Café Brasil podcasts that mix in popular songs with an interesting announcer voice). I listen to it as much as possible, when I’m walking, studying other subjects, doing chores, sometimes even when I’m sleeping or in class (on low volumes…it actually helps me fall asleep at night and keeps me from falling asleep in class ironically).
    I have trouble keeping track of how much I listen but I’d say probably on average 5 hours a day, mostly inactively but I am starting to memorize some of the podcasts so something must be working. I have listened to my music playlist around 50 times and some of the Cafe Brasil 25 minute podcasts around 10 times. I generally listen until my roommate gets annoyed.
  • When I have time, I write something or try to talk to my teacher in the Portuguese class I am taking. Usually I find the class to be boring and I quickly learn the grammar before I go back to doing something else.
  • Every now and then I print texts of the LingQ conversations and read through them, underlining the words I don’t know. Then it’s easier to read them again later.
  • I have set a goal for myself to “know” 10,000 words on LingQ by the end of the year, which requires me to add about 40-50 words to my known words each day, so I try to read something small every day on LingQ and when I have time read something longer such as a Café Brasil podcast that I have already listened to 10 times and am quite familiar with by now.
  • In addition to listening to the stuff I get on LingQ, I find songs online to download and I like to watch comedy TV series on youtube and try to understand them.

I can see how that study plan would not make much sense to any beginner or someone not familiar with LingQ. It’s just something that’s evolved over time based on my time constraints and my interests. When I first started using LingQ a few months ago I used a plan more like Peter’s, that is reading through each lesson and LingQing it, and then adding collections to my Ipod to listen to over and over again. I also still try to review my flashcards of the day but I don’t always have the time and/or patience for that anymore. I know I am learning because I am able to understand more and more of what I hear and watch, and that’s motivating on its own.

One more note…proof that the LingQ system works is I am currently taking an Intensive Portuguese class at my university (UC Berkeley). It’s an advanced portuguese course for people who know other romance languages but are beginners at portuguese, so it moves fast and is known for being difficult. Many students are struggling in the course, but because I learned so much Portuguese on my own over the summer learning LingQ, I have been acing the exams while putting little to no time into the pointless assignments and exercises they want us to do. Just familiarizing myself with the language so much by reading and listening has given me an almost natural intuition for what “feels” right in the language, so I can do well in such a class without even studying! It’s a good arrangement for me and my GPA right now, but in general, I think this proves that classes are unnecessary! Sorry for going off topic, I just wanted to add this side note.

@ Ilya L and alleray

This is an excerpt from an article called ‘Learning Languages Like Children’ from Blog - ALG World Automatic Language Growth

Learning usually depends on the varying levels of intelligence, motivation, and hard work of the students, and the usual way to measure this learning is to test each student. But natural language acquisition depends only on exposure; so it’s a lot easier (and a lot more accurate) to just measure the amount of exposure (actually the amount of understanding). With babies we measure their progress by their age. If someone says her little boy is 21 months old, that tells us more about how much language he knows than any test could. For children and adults, though, the rate of input is far less constant than it is with babies, and we have to find a way to count or estimate the number of hours of talk they have understood. (This is the subject of the next section.)
As a result of years of study and more than 40 years of observing the progress and abilities of literally thousands of students of second languages from over 50 different countries and cultures, we have found the following equation to be remarkably accurate. (Please note that as you read through this section and follow the development of it, you may be tempted to discount our conclusions based on your own experience or that of someone you know. If you save your exceptions until later and follow our reasoning however, you will probably see that we account for such factors as our thoughts develop.)
where y is how much language they know (1 = native).

        x is how many hours they have understood.

        k is the acquisition constant: .0018

        e is the natural logarithm base:  2.718 

If a student accumulates 1000 hours of understanding Thai, for example, his acquisition of Thai will be 83%.
Or if we want to know how long it would take a student to get to 90% (this is a degree of fluency that structural students hardly ever attain), the equation tells us 1300 hours of understanding.
We usually think of complete immersion as the ultimate in exposure, but let’s look at a typical example. Suppose you’re exposed to speaking situations for 8 hours a day (meals, chatting, games, etc.). This isn’t non-stop talking, though, and it may come to only 4 hours of actual talk. And if half of this talk is your own, that’s only 2 hours of listening. An if you’re understanding 50%, that’s only 1 hour of understanding a day. It would take you almost 4 years to accumulate the 1400 hours needed to become ‘fluent’. (We use ‘fluent’ to mean ‘speaking correctly and without hesitation about everyday matters’ : roughly, y = 88%).
More often, foreigners live with their own families, and their exposure consists only of managing their daily affairs in the new language. This may seem like a lot of exposure, but when you add up the few seconds here and few seconds there and multiply this by your percentage of understanding, it rarely exceeds 10 minutes a day. At this rate, fluency would take 23 years.
Hours of understanding isn’t always clear in terms of months and years: normal life is so irregularly packed with talk, and talk is so irregularly understood. But ALG classes consist of non-stop talking and offer a much higher percentage of understanding than real life does.

Our first equation assumed that the student was doing everything right. This always works for children, but only occasionally for adults. For even though adults can do it right, they usually don’t. So the measure of how correctly an adult does it (we’ll call it C, for ceiling) becomes a crucial addition to our equation. It will be convenient to express C as a percentage, so y will also be a percentage; and 100 instead of 1, will be the measure of a native speaker.

Now to figure out how much a student knows (y), we’ve got to know how many hours (h) the student has experienced, how much he has understood (u), and how he has been processing those experiences. (C).

h is simply the student’s attendance.

u can be estimated from the student’s ‘responses’ during each hour. (We all tend to monitor a person’s understanding in normal communication though we are normally unconscious of doing this.)

C can be estimated from how much or little the student tries to repeat what he hears, the sort of questions asked, etc.

Periodically, the guides enter grades for the students based on their own perceptions. Once entered into the computer, we are able to monitor student progress. The average understanding grade for students is around 80%. Ceilings vary much more, but for a typical, adult student who begins with ALG the ceiling average is around 95%.

The first 13 students to show signs of natural speaking in our ALG classes were Chinese and Southeast Asians – even though the majority of our students were Westerners. It was only after we expanded our course to more than 1000 hours that other students started to reach this level. We soon saw that any level that required 1000 for Westerners and Japanese could be reached in about 800 hours by Chinese and about 600 hours by Southeast Asians. This suggested a ‘language ease’ factor (L) for our equation. For the Chinese learning Thai, L = .8; and for most Southeast Asians, L = .6.

y = C(1-e-kx/L)
The language ease has come to be called the Native Language Factor but there is more and more evidence that culture rather than language is the bigger influence.
So far, we have had little experience with the native language factor from English to French, German, and Spanish; but if Malaysian-Thai is .6 without the help of cognate vocabulary (the languages aren’t related and the only similarities are in culture and type of grammar), we would expect something more like .4 for these European languages. These and other guesses are shown below. Readers with better information can sharpen up these guesses. The hours and weeks refer to the amount of time required to reach a fluency of 88%. For the calculations below, the understanding factor is set to .8 and the ceiling factor is set to .95.
L Factor Examples Hours

  1.0 English-Thai 1800

  1.0 Japanese-Thai 1800 

  .8 Chinese-Thai 1450

  .6 Malay-Thai 1100

  .4 English-French 720

  .4 English-German 720

  .4 English-Spanish 720

  .2 Portuguese-Spanish 370

  .1 Thai-Laotian 180

  .1 Norwegian-Swedish 180

  .06 Norwegian-Danish 110

I think that with beginner students it’s crucial that they understand the importance of listening (and, of course, reading) because even an intelligent hard-working language student is likely to believe that speaking is how people learn other languages. I was surprised to find out that, despite being very motivated and reasonably hard-working, I didn’t really know how to learn another language effectively before I started using LingQ (and I have been speaking a second language at home my whole life!).

If the beginner can become comfortable with listening, it will help so much. I knew LingQ was good when I started using it, but I still didn’t believe it could be used to learn from scratch. Now, after starting Spanish from scratch, I realise that there is no need for any classes or books or anything else to get started - just content (I recommend starting with Eating Out and Who Is She?).

All of Steve’s YouTube videos and blog posts act as tools that I use to mould my understanding of what it is actually is going to take to become fluent (not just practical ideas, but language learning philosophy). Being comfortable with uncertainty, putting in the time that is required, becoming familiar with the sounds and rhythm of the language, not becoming frustrated, listening at or around your level (not too easy, not too hard), keeping it interesting, not expecting perfection, enjoying it, being lazy, etc. All useful tips.

Does anything think that an arbitrary figure or ratio could be created in relation to how many hours of listening one should do before practicing speaking in that language (in the earlier stages). If a beginner were to do 1 hour of speaking for every 5 hours of listening, it would be a bit of a waste, don’t you think? Perhaps 1 hour of speaking for every 25 or 50 hours of listening. Does anyone think this would scare people off?