When is a word known?

I’m pretty new to Lingq and I love it! I wish I had started with Lingq because I would have saved myself a lot of money, time and frustration. But I’m here now!

My question is how do you determine if a word is “known”? There are a lot of words I know now from seeing them repeatedly, but if I had to recall them away from a story out in the big, wide world, I couldn’t do it. I was trying to think of a newly learned word today that I was thrilled to know. But I couldn’t remember it, until I saw it again. So do I mark words as known if I know them when I’m reading them or only if I can pull them out of my hat on demand? I don’t want to limit my exposure and learning by marking words too soon. Hope that makes sense!

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Congrats on finding LingQ. In my opinion/experience, the genius of the platform is its defiance of the active/passive knowledge fallacy. You learn a language by putting in practice time understanding it, and only then when you ‘know’ it as in recognize it should you bother worrying about churning the passive into active knowledge. Therefore, I put a word at known when I don’t need to stop the movement of my eyes in the text when I encounter it. If it has a secondary meaning I’m less confident about, or if it is basically a cognate but with a slightly different shade, I’ll give it a 4

You can mark it known on the side. Click on it and there should be a side bar on the right hand side where you can click something like a horizontal bar with numbers from 1,2,3,4 to 5. If you click on “5” it should change to a check mark and you have marked that word as known. That’s how I do it anyway.
I also believe that when you click the lesson complete, there is some algorithm in the back that figures out how many times you’ve seen a word and could mark it as known automatically.

I would recommend not stressing about when you mark a word as known.

In the beginning I would move words up a level if I correctly understood them twice in a row (these high frequency words appeared often enough that I would know roughly how often that happened). But then I would move it down a level if I needed to check the definition.

Now I mark a word as known if I “feel” I understood it in context without checking a definition. It is always possible for me to change the status if I see it later and do not understand it. If the word is a compound word, and I knew part of the word, then it is a 2. If it is a compound word and I understood the “important” part of the word, but missed some nuance, then it is a 3.

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I usually mover a word to known when I am reading it and I think, “Why is this still yellow? I know this word already.”


I’ll add a few thoughts to the plenty of good ideas already posted here:

  • You say you’re worried that you will “limit [your] exposure and learning by marking words too soon.” That would only happen if you rely primarily on LingQ’s SRS flashcard system for your exposure and learning. But this is far from the most useful part of LingQ. The best way to get exposure and learning is from reading and listening. You will get exposure to words regardless of whether they are marked as known. So when deciding whether to mark a word as known, “limiting exposure” should not be on your list of things to worry about.
  • If you “make a mistake” by moving a word to known too early, it is trivially easy to mark it unknown again. In fact, it’s so easy that I wouldn’t even say that you “made a mistake” by marking it known in the first place. I’d suggest devoting almost zero brain power to making the decision of whether to mark a word known or not. Instead, devote your entire brain to making sense of the text you are reading.
  • It’s okay to ignore levels 2-4, and only use 1 and 5 (for unknown and known). This is what I usually do, and the simplicity of this system helps me stay immersed in content. (That said, I don’t care to use LingQ’s SRS system, which is perhaps why I can afford to do this.)
  • Don’t worry if the process you use changes over time. Always try to optimize it so that it lets you enjoy and read more content, which I believe is the key factor for staying engaged and making progress with your language.
  • But to answer your question in a more straightforward question: myself, I usually mark a word known when I don’t think I’ll have to look it up again. I don’t ask myself this question explicitly; it’s just a feeling. Often I’m wrong, which is okay.

Thank you everyone!

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Bienvenida a LingQ, senorita! Your entire language learning world is about to change dramatically.

Take it from someone who has been there, (tried to have) done that. Moving a word to “known” or determining it as such from the get go only when you can actively use it off the top of your head is most assuredly NOT the way to do it. :slight_smile:

I tried to this and failed miserably, so instead I changed to doing so when I was reasonably sure I could someday see myself using it (whatever that means). And I came up with all this subtle criteria for everything stage of knowing it in between., when to move from 1,2,to3, etc. I didn’t radically change much because I wanted to keep it fairly consistent and I did loose up a little bit, but numbers wise I’m pretty conservative. For example, of the 61,000+ LingQs I’ve made, I’ve “only” learned 11,000 of them.

Master Steve said years ago, if he sees a word, and can uderstand it in context and know what it means, he moves it to known. Going forward, with my next langauge project, I’m probaly going to do that. At the very least, it’ll be something like this: if I see the word and I know what it means (and why/how it’s like that eg conjugation, etc) I"ll make it known. If I’m not sure, have no idea, it has other meanings, or I’m not too confident, I’ll LingQ it. I think the standard said below about being able to quickly see it and know without stopping to think about it.

There’s a lot of good advice here, and in the many other threads in the past on this topic. I say, don’t be afaird to make known. You can also change it back to a lingq.

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I’ve found that I prefer to just mark every word I encounter as known. I have the auto mark all blue words to known when paging function turned on. Having to rate words on how well I know them just seems like wasted effort I could spend reading more content.

I mark it known once I understand the word in the context I’m currently reading. If I’m in the ballpark…but not quite right then I move it to #2. Also, if I don’t understand a previously known word in the context I’m reading at a given moment I move it back to #2. I’ve stopped using 3, 4.

dgbeecher made a good point regarding your concern about marking words too soon. If you are READING (and you mostly should be reading IMO over using SRS) you will see these words over and over again. Once you get into the intermediate and advanced levels you will see some of these “advanced” words less frequently since they are used less frequently, but the advice is still the same.

Like the others here, I don’t concern myself on whether I can use the word or not. Your active vocabulary (what you can output) will always be much much smaller than your passive vocabulary (what you can read and listen). Since LingQ is mostly focusing on this input side I think it makes it way too difficult and burdensome if you try to belabor over whether you can use the word or not yourself.

My approach has changed over time. When I first came to LingQ several years ago, I used the fill-in the blank review function since I only learned words in context (ie., I don’t try to learn any lists of words or
memorize conjugations). That was good for my B1 level of Russian initially but it was slow since I had to read and understand the phrase in each exercise to determine what word fit in. Later, I started doing multiple choice exercises since I could practice more vocabulary in a short amount of time but I don’t think that really tested me. since I could correctly guess which words were NOT correct. When I started using LingQ for Spanish (which I already knew at an advanced intermediate level), I used the dictation review function and that was – and still is --the most diagnostically useful tool for me.

If I can hear a word (and even a phrase) and am able to correctly write it, then I am confident I “know” it. This is especially helpful when I make lingqs of short phrases since understanding oral short phrases, solidifies grammatical patterns.

At first, this was very efficient in Spanish which has many more cognates with English and which I already
knew well so it was easy to learn new words in grammatical patterns that I already knew. It took me another year before I switched to doing the dictation exercises with short phrases in Russian inasmuch as the latter’s grammar is much more complex than that of Spanish and often I can tell how something is spelled only when I also understand the grammatical construction of the phrase. (This is still my most accurate and reliable test of whether I"know" a word or phrase – by only listening to it. BTW, this greatly increased my listening comprehension since I am unlikely to understand how a word sounds in a given phrase ONLY by seeing the written word in a text. This is especially true in Russian where there aren’t the pronunciation rules of Spanish as to where the stress falls in a word so it is essential to hear someone pronounce every new word. Moreover, Russian pronunciation changes, depending on what precedes or follows a word so without getting used to hearing a word in several different sound contexts, it will be hard to understand spoken Russian. Yet even in Spanish, native speakers can speak quickly and collapse some syllables so adding listening practice to a review exercise is really effective in learning new vocabulary AND solidifying grammatical patterns simultaneously.