The main advantage of lingQ isn't teaching you via reading

This is going to be controversial but screw it.

I don’t really use lingQ to learn to read. In fact I could care less about reading. LingQ isn’t great for beginners either.

But it’s still awesome. Here’s why:

There are multiple phases (it seems to me) in language learning.

The first phase is the valley of despair. You need to brute force accumulate a shit ton of vocabulary before you can comprehend anything at all. Some folks use lingQ for this. I don’t. I don’t understand it for that.

The next phase is learning to understand the actual language instead of just individual words. LingQ is decent for this but it doesn’t help for listening because the touted main advantage is for reading. Which I don’t care about. At all.

So how do I use a reading app to get any kind of advantages for listening?

The problem to be solved is that you get diminishing returns after about the first 3,000 most common words in any given language. You essentially hardly ever hear them. Or read them.

So how will lingQ solve that? Easy. When you import new text it automagically identifies the words you don’t know. You can then plug them into your SRS tool which WILL give you enough exposure. Essentially lingQ’s key advantage is it automates a very tedious, complicated and time consuming task which is identifying words you don’t know. Freaking awesome. Steve you are a genius.

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But the opinion of experienced users is that they do not use any SRS tool in conjunction with LingQ. In your words, hypothetically speaking, they are just using LingQ for the sake of it(blindly) without any noticeable improvements in reading and listening. Is my understanding correct?


Nice comment and interesting idea.

However you can also find lists of words by frequency appearance for many languages outside Lingq. Example:

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I can’t speak for others only for myself.

Let me clarify:

I think that lingQ will primarily teach you to read the target language but not necessarily teach you listening comprehension by itself without outside help (e.g. youtube videos).

Caveat: Steve Kaufman says he uses the mini-stories which include mp3s so in theory it’s possible.
I personally didn’t/don’t use it for that.

^^^ that’s broad strokes and that is the controversial part, because I haven’t tried to learn a language using Steve’s method from the beginning by using only mini stories.

Regardless. Once you are already at basic comprehension (i.e. out of the valley of despair and capable of understanding either basic written text or basic spoken material) then lingQ helps with the massive problem of shortening the time required for the accumulation of low-frequency words (especially with the help of SRS). I can confirm that to be true because I have learned one language to intermediate with at least some input from linqQ and am in the process of learning another ← this is the piece that I think lingQ is awesome at.

Hope that clears things up?


You can, but it’s boring. And it won’t necessarily match with the material you are trying to learn.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you learn the 3,000 most common words from this list.

IMO good idea. And that’s what I try to do as well.

But there is a problem with the 3,001-10,000th words. Even if you spend time memorizing them, they may not match what you read in your target novel, article or youtube video. So you have spent the time memorizing them for nothing and you will still have to look up the individual words that you don’t know.

Conversely imagine this thought experiment:

When I was doing my six month French challenge I tried to watch “dix pour cent”, a low advanced netflix TV show. I couldn’t understand it without subtitles because they were using slang as well as unusual low frequency words. There was no match between the 3,000-6,000 french most common low frequency words I had already chosen.

If, however, I had imported the transcripts from the series into lingQ, I could have identified very quickly which words I was missing and just memorized those before watching the series. I bet that they consistently used mostly the same slang over and over. In the end I never did get to the stage where I could understand that show without English subtitles. I can understand a couple of high intermediate youtubers with just my 6,000 words of most common French and the 40 LingQ mini stories I did, however.

Hopefully that makes sense.


Thank you for the explanation!

Yes, it makes sense now.

" But there is a problem with the 3,001-10,000th words. Even if you spend time memorizing them, they may not match what you read in your target novel, article or youtube video. "

Reading this part I couldn’t understand it, because you still mentioned “a target novel”. So if you have a target text, then you’re still going to read something… whereas your initial post seemed to suggest that you were not interested in reading.

But it makes total sense for scripts of TV shows, I think that was a great idea. Still, it is another way of receiving massive input with context. Enjoy! And later tell us how it worked out for you with this method.

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Yup! That clears it up. I do not know how you go through a lesson here. My approach is very different. I listen to audio in German while follow along in English translation. I listen to it this way like three times. Then I listen to audio in German while following along in German text. By this point, the whole text becomes comprehensible for me. Then, I listen to the audio without using text. My biggest motivation for joining LingQ is that I can look up words quickly and see them highlighted in a different context so that it alarms my subconscious mind to pay special attention to them. Steve got this thing right in my book.

Conversely, LingQ has not allowed me to absorb grammar by osmosis, and when it comes to being a fluent reader in German I am not there yet. However, people say that 2 million words are a small number but who knows by 5 million words read I will be a fluent reader. Maybe LingQ is a good tool for reading? This is a work in progress for me.

I have started SRS not because of what you said in your above post, I started it because I wanted to do “intensive reading/develop grammar knowledge” through “sentence mining”. If I retain certain words this way that’s a plus point but yeah “what is the actual usefulness of LingQ”?
To be honest, I have no comments. I am still in the process of experiencing it?

It is not my only tool. I am combining it with some other language approaches in parallel.


Yeah I’m all over the place thinking out loud in the reply: I’m trying to speculate for other people who might be interested in reading even though I’m not.

I agree with your opinions in this answer.

SRS is useful to me because I stuck with it and saw gains with it. But it’s very narrow. If you don’t use it right it won’t work. Plus it’s super boring so you need immense patience.

How do I do my lessons by incorporating lingQ
Entertainment, essentially, in the beginning stage. Just to keep from getting bored with memorizing single words by itself.
I basically click through the text one word at a time, listening to the sound of it with the built in lingQ TTS tool, seeing what it means, then I click through the co-locations/sub-phrases to see what they mean.

If there are any single words or super-useful co-locations, I make an mp3 of that word or sound, dump it into anki and then click “learned” in lingQ. That way I can synchronize the number of words lingQ thinks I know with what I have in anki,

I also listen to the entire phrase with the TTS lingQ tool as well as listen to the story mp3.

And yes, lingQ also helps with grammar by osmosis, which is super useful in the advanced stages. Plus you need active grammar if you want to speak. For example I understand russian way better than I speak it even though I don’t understand how the endings are formed. Since I recognize the roots I get more or less what they are talking about even if it’s not exact. But if I tried to speak it would be pigeon-russian or maybe gibberish. I don’t know. but yeah as you say it is great for grammar.

In Russian, for example, I have learned the basic idea of the past tenses and future tenses just by being exposed to them by clicking through.

So my method in a nutshell is anki words for vocabulary plus youtube for listening plus lingQ for grammar/identifying words quickly that I want to learn.

The only thing that could be optimized further is if it was possible to spit out an mp3 of the word I’m clicking on instead of having to manually record it and create my own mp3.


My armchair estimate is a fluent (C1) German reading is somewhere around 4-5 million words read in LingQ. This will vary quite widely by the types of content you are reading, how and what you repeat, how similar your native language is to German, etc.

I can say with confidence that my overall awareness and mastery of German grammar has dramatically improved. It is challenging to be sure, but I continue to notice and understand new things. Today I read “dem Wege” and immediately noticed something I had been trying to pay attention to: Dativ forms of nouns. I really think we pick-up grammar from osmosis without realizing it, but that it depends on an ability to notice, ask questions, seek answers, and reinforce.

I think SRS is useful for the words that people see less than 1 per million, or for words you are unlikely to see when not naturally immersed in the language (e.g. Animals, Food).


You have four basic claims:

  1. lingq isn’t for beginners
  2. you have to accumulate many words before being able to comprehend anything at all
  3. lingq is decent for reading and understanding the language but doesn’t help with listening
  4. lingq is great because of the SRS which identifies words we don’t know

my response to the claims:

  1. “lingq isn’t for beginners”

i think this is wrong. i started arabic on lingq without even knowing the alphabet and i was able to get off of the ground. ive learned quite a bit in other languages using lingq and was confident that i could learn arabic as well. it’s hard sometimes to give other people advice because we all learn differently and have different goals, but when starting a language it’s good to focus on building a solid foundation. this is absolutely the most important thing. i like to think of building a foundation as chewing a piece of steak. if you bite off too much and think you’re going to brute force your way through it then you’re just wasting time and energy (it’s better to take small pieces that you can easily handle). yes, you’ll make slow progress, but you’d be missing the main point of learning a language through reading (to understand what the sentence says and to get a feel for the word). if what you’re trying to read is too complicated then you should read simpler material and then re-read lessons a few times until you can start learning the yellow words. also, i think some languages on lingq have enough content for beginners and some do not. for example, french has a ton of beginner material which has audio. arabic on the other hand has almost no beginner material so i’m forced to re-read a lot stuff that is above my level. this is annoying but re-reading is helping me build a strong foundation in what i am reading. the work around is to find material on the internet and upload it to lingq. i did this for arabic as well but these lessons had accent marks which lingq (for some annoying reason) would count them as different words than unaccented so i didn’t both to upload them.

  1. “you have to accumulate many words before being able to comprehend anything at all”

i understand where youre coming from but i disagree with this statement in some ways. you only need to understand most of the words that are in a certain sentence/paragraph/lesson. by that i mean you can always go back over a sentence or lesson multiple times to understand it. reading the same lesson 10 times and reading 10 different lessons one time each are two completely different approaches, and ive used both approaches for different reasons. if youre looking to read a lesson only once then you will have to know lots of words in order to always get a decent idea of the sentence (i think this is what youre referring to when you say that you have to accumulate many words before being able to understand reading). the point youre missing is this: “it all depends on what you are reading”. if you create a rule for yourself that states “only read material that has less than 20% unknown words (yellow) after finishing marking all of the words in a paragraph/lesson” then you will START to understand the power of reading. at the beginner level this is pretty much impossible on the first time reading a lesson, but after reading (and listening) to the lesson sentence by sentence and then paragraph by paragraph several times over a few days you will remember these words. this is now a lesson that you understand except for maybe a handful of words (from a small lesson of 1-4 pages). building a foundation can be done sentence by sentence. ill state the main point again: if something is too difficult then reduce it in complexity and length. if it’s still too difficult then reduce it again. if you do this enough times then you will find a level that is not too complex anymore. this is the level that you should be at.

  1. “lingq is decent for reading and understanding the language but doesn’t help with listening”

like i said earlier, it depends on the language (at the beginner level). if a language has a lot of audio then lingq is great for listening comprehension. what makes it great for listening comprehension is the ability to read and listen at the same time (and then listen to audio only while youre not reading). i didn’t realize how important this was until i saw it recommended by another experienced user (t_harangi) several times. it really helps with listening if you can read and listen at full speed without having to pause too much. on a side note, i really don’t like the playlist on the phone app. they should at least allow us to create multiple playlists and be able to repeat lessons continuously instead of having to play them through the lesson itself (maybe there is a work around but it’s not obvious).

  1. “lingq is great because of the SRS which identifies words we don’t know”

id say that the SRS is the thing on lingq that is most worthless to me. i only ever go through a few pages of the most common unknown words to mark ones which i already know, and i only do that maybe once every 6 months. it’s just not important to me. i also lost respect for flashcards over the years.

additional points:

  1. if you read material that has too many unknown words and youre not getting a good feel for the sentence, then youre missing the point of learning through reading. if this is what youre going for, then why even use lingq? just use flashcards.

  2. your language progress should be measured in words read, not known words. solid words read goals: 500k to reach B1, 2-4 million to reach C1 (language dependent).

  3. be able to identify when youre taking on too much difficulty and be able to scale back (ego isn’t that important). work smarter, not harder.

  4. don’t learn too many new languages at the same time

  5. language acquisition is a skill, not knowledge. there is a huge difference here that you have to understand. even if you “know” the words (knowledge), you have to be able to recognize the meaning quickly (skill) whether it’s reading or listening. being a good reader and a good listener are both skills that need practice. the goal on lingq is to practice (while learning), not to try and memorize or “learn”.


You’re agreeing with me more than you think even if not completely.

Good post. Thanks.

EDIT PS: You may be misinterpeting what I’m saying in the parts where you are disagreeing.

In summary: lingQ has a major advantage if you want to learn listening comprehension only, even though its primary teaching method is via reading.