When to Mark a word/lingQ as known

Hi fellow students.

When do you consider a word known. (in the lingQ system)

  1. Is it when you recognize it, understand and can read on without problems.
  2. or is it when you feel you could produce that word yourself (although hard to test - when you just saw it)

I have been marking my words ‘known’ under the first condition. And was just wondering if that is relatively standard? i.e. just focus on comprehension.

I consider a word known when I recognize it and know what it means when I read.

How you do this may change as you progress. In the beginning my approach may have been more of (2), and that might have been useful. Now, however, I’m most often reading books or news articles for the content, and I won’t slow down to evaluate and rate every blue word if I easily understand it in context – I’m just eager to turn the page to continue reading. That turns the blue words to known, making my approach more like (1). This may inflate my count of “known” words somewhat, but I’ll demote words if I encounter them later and have any difficulty with them.

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I agree with benscheelings and khardy. In general, I find a lot of users a bit reluctant to call words known. Don’t be. You can always change them back to yellow if you come across them later and don’t remember them. Knowing a word and being able to actively use it are two different things. Even in your native language this difference exists.


Well put. People often forget how vastly different their passive and active vocabularies are in their native langue.

I agree. I don’t hesotate any more to mark words known if I can call up some semblance of their meaning right away when I see or hear them. But I’ve learned not to be too hasty to mark words as “5” instead of “4” because they never come up for review and I still forget some of them entirely.

@cheska99 Until i read your comment about marking them 4 instead of 5 I thought that what @npiv was indicating as “known” was 5, and I was going to say I only mark them as 5 when I can generate them in my own head without prompting. As in, when I am talking in the target language and am I using these words? Then yes, those words for me are 5. If I have trouble recalling them without prompts I leave them as 4.

When, why and how I make a word “known” depends on its priority for me. This necessarily changes over time. I started LingQ doing B2 level lessons and prioritized the words that I felt were essential for me to have in my active vocabulary at that moment. For these words and phrases I constructed my own sentences that contained content that was true and meaningful for me when I was writing them. (That is, they were not abstract exercises. Instead, I was constructing new, meaningful contexts for the new vocabulary which greatly helped to reinforce the meaning of a word or phrase.)

As a result, selected new vocabulary did in fact become actively known words and I consciously tried to incorporate them in my Skype sessions. I left non-priority words (e.g., watermelon, peanuts). Some words were not initially high priority but I nevertheless wanted to know them much later. When I specifically want to move a word from passive to active knowledge, I generally do something extra to fix it in my brain. Yet, whether I change the word setting in LingQ is irrelevant. I have thousands of words that I now know actively but I am not going to spend time going through the LingQs to change their setting. If they come up in later lessons, and I know them, I will make them known as I scroll forward in the lesson, not because I am interested in adding to my word count, but because I want to have a relatively clean page when I review a lesson. I know I can switch to just listening (without reading) when I have few if any highlighted words in a given lesson.

I think it’s important to note that there is not only a distinction between passive and active vocabulary, but also what I recognize when I read something, and what I recognize when I hear it spoken in natural speech. Without a doubt I can understand and figure out the meaning of new vocabulary far better when I read it than when I hear it. This is because I visually recognize the “roots” contained in new Russian words when I see how they are written and of course can slow down my reading to figure out a new word or phrase. In speech, the sounds go by too quickly and pronunciation is linked from word to word (e.g., prepositions are pronounced in connection with the following word) which makes it much harder to understand. In addition, long sentences can be particularly challenging because the word order in Russian is much more fluid than in English. Even if I know the words, I may struggle to understand their order in long sentences that are spoken.

Thus, what I “know” has several meanings. What precise number reflects the differences in what I “know” when reading, listening, speaking or writing is not that important, frankly. More important to me is how comfortable and accurate I can talk about different topics, how well I understand authentic material and how much I understand in a Russian movie, TV show, or in a live conversation. I know I am improving and experience that from month to month. The number of words known or made as lingqs doesn’t tell me that but I know it all the same. The number of Lingqs made and the number of words “known” don’t necessarily correlate with how well one is able to function in the language. Personally, I would focus on one’s competence, rather than numbers of individual words.

A few days after I started playing around with Lingq I decided I would let the words choose their status by themselves, no decision-making on my part.
While reading, for every word:

  • If I understand it, I move it up one step
  • If I don’t, I move it down one step
    But I have never used number 5, for me number 4 works as ‘known… at the moment’

I find this way more dynamic and entertaining, it is a bit like reviewing flashcards with real content really fast (thanks to he keyboard shortcuts).

Yes, that is largely at the core of LingQ. Most of your reviewing is actually done in context while reading or re-reading lessons. Many users don’t want to create too many LingQs otherwise they feel overwhelmed by the Review activities they feel they have to do. We say make as many LingQs as you can. The words that matter will reappear more frequently, will be reviewed more and will be learned. Words that don’t matter, won’t reappear and you don’t need to learn right now anyway. Of course, you can do the review activities but they are very much a secondary tool to be used to focus on specific vocabulary, to help you get a toehold as a beginner or just to vary your activity from time to time.

I like using status 5 just to get rid of all underlines and have a clean page. If I ever don’t remember a word I’ve marked as known, I just click on it and make it yellow again. But, of course, to each his own. Whatever works for you!

I agree what’s been stated here, a la Master Steve, who marks it as “known”/includes in word count if he can recognize the word when reading in a context.

I, like many, was reluctant to do this. At first I only marked words I could “actively” know/use (whatever that means). that was too hard to test anyway. I quickly changed to only counting it as “known” when I could recognize it with several meanings (if applicable) even outside of context.

When I start a new language, I will do it 100% the Steve way, especially since I know the words can be made yellow again.

I agree. In addition, if I later forget it then I just mark it as unknown again.