Online English courses are flourishing in Japan. Some of them appear to be more convenient than the Speak section of LingQ. For example, on one famous site, the name of which escapes me at the moment, you can talk 8 times via Skype with teachers in the Philippines by paying 4,200 yen a month. Each lesson or conversation lasts 25 minutes. That is, 21 yen per minute. Many of you would find this rate very reasonable. In addition, it is said that the teachers whom the company employs have an aptitude for teaching English as a second language. They are competent and sincere. They are selected from a lot of applicants and get training on how to teach.
I wonder what should be done if we want our LingQ to survive among other online courses. Does it have to choose a different direction from others? Or, join the fierce competition for getting learners of English? I think that we should try to find LingQ’s strong points—the ones it already has. Where do we find them?
One thing that occurs to me is the uniqueness of “Submit for Correction” on the forum page. If the number of my Progress Snapshot is accurate, I have written 67,905 words already. If this function should be lost, I would be at a loss. I do not know whether there are similar sites on the Internet.
I personally think the core strength of LingQ is its aided reading system. There are many language exchange sites based on Skype-ing with a tutor. There’s also plenty of sites based on correcting written entries. And there will always be new ones trying to break into the mold by undercutting the competition - because it’s the obvious thing to do. The net result is you can get language tutors pretty much anywhere.
But the the reading system is something else entirely. I’m not saying it’s unique, I know there are clones. But from what I’ve read LingQ was first and still is the best.
What most people seem to miss is, reading is the most efficient way of acquiring a language. Just try this for fun: Read a book for 2 hours, mark exactly how much text you’ve read. Then watch a two hour movie. Take a subtitle file for the movie. Remove the timing information so only the actual dialogues remain. Now compare this to what you’ve been able to read in 2 hours. You’ll see exactly how much more text you’ve exposed yourself to while reading, compared to watching a movie or having a conversation. Not to mention the vocabulary is much richer.
I’ve been reading books in English since middle school, and by the time I was 18 I could more or less pass for a native English speaker online. That’s without ever setting foot in an English speaking country, or having an actual conversation in English. Sure, I’ve taken English classes, and watched a lot of movies in English, but so did my classmates and they didn’t reach anywhere near my level. I attribute most of my success to reading.
But getting to a level where you can read in a new language is tough. Really tough. This is where LingQ comes in. It eases you into it, gives you support, manages your vocabulary better than an SRS like Anki ever could. It basically removes the obstacles to reading as much as possible. The reading system is what lead to my major breakthrough in Japanese - transforming a block of text that seemed nigh impenetrable, into something I can actually read - with difficulties, but ever improving.
So in my opinion this is what LingQ should focus on:
Make sure the reading system is the best it can be. Fix all the glitches, add the functionality that’s sorely missing. I’ve read on this very forum that LingQ is losing members because they can’t delete their imported courses without first manually deleting every single lesson. Not to mention importing a book into LingQ is SUCH A HASSLE, that if I didn’t have the skills to create a tool that does it for me, I would have left the site long ago. I found the LingQ Android app so lacking in functionality, it was next to useless. The LingQ developer API is incomplete, preventing the community from creating better tooling. Adapting the reading system to include a “Kanji mode” - one where the Chinese characters themselves would be LingQs, and the review process would include writing, displaying the character in detail with stroke orders - would give LingQ a competitive edge with regards to Japanese and Chinese.
These are the areas where I’d focus the efforts of the dev team.
Market the aided reading system better. I’ve gone on and on about how effective reading is, and how important it is to get to a level where you can read, but this is not something people typically grasp on their own. They need to be told. They need to be convinced. The marketing efforts should be focused on how important it is to read, and how awesome reading with LingQ is. I realize a lot of people just don’t like to read, but it’s important to take a stab at convincing those as well. The tutors, the community exchange, you can get that pretty much anywhere. I wouldn’t push marketing those that much. I realize tutors might be where the site makes most of its money, but still, you need to market your best and most distinguishing feature. Once you’ve reeled people in with your awesome reader, you can bash them over the head with the tutors.
I am using a Kindle Paperwhite as an “aided reading system.” It is more friendly to my old eyes. In the case of the LingQ reading system, I cannot concentrate on the text on the screen. There are a lot of things that prevent me from enjoying reading through the text. A picture of a red rose, a meaningless scale, colored words, a picture of the Eiffel Tower, etc., etc.
I’ve very recently moved my reading from the LingQ app to the Kindle Paperwhite too. Primarily because I love how easy it is to take and save notes on the Kindle, but also because I’m tired of the LingQ app crashing, losing my playlists, and making me enter my user name and password over and over.
I don’t own a Kindle (I own a PocketBook) so I’m not aware of its capabilities and how well it can substitute LingQ. But from a purely technological standpoint, there’s nothing that would prevent a LingQ app for Kindle from being made. You’d need 2 things: being able to develop apps for Kindle (and apparently with Kindle Fire you can do this) and the LingQ developer API needs to work properly.
Importing the entire book into one lesson is quite impractical. I tried to import my first book by chapters, but even that would overload my browser when I tried to load the lesson. So I made a script that chopped my book into many files (named “Chapter 1 Part 1”, “Chapter 1 Part 2” etc). Some of my books I’ve split into 300+ files. Then I made a script that takes these files and uploads them, one by one, into a course. So instead of one giant lesson I have a course that has many smaller lessons, which is much more manageable. You can find the script here:
As far as audio is concerned, I don’t read and listen simultaneously, but if I did, I think I’d just listen to the audio on a separate media player. Trying to match the many lessons with bits of audio would be too much pain.
I agree with the point made by Green Airplane - “the core strength of LingQ is its aided reading system”. Yutaka, if you are mainly interested in finding good tutors for a reasonable rate, why not try italki? There are quite a few seemingly well qualified english tutors there for $5 or $6/hr. Of course, I’ve never tried the thousands of English tutors, but I’ve had good luck with Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Spanish and French tutors. I’m in no way affiliated with italki, just passing on information.
Although I also believe lingQ should mainly focus on cleaning up their reading system, history has shown me that this probably isn’t going to happen. There have always been problems with it, it’s always been buggy, and when they do make changes old bugginess gets replaced by new bugginess. It’s down more than any other site I use too.
So with all the competing sites out there now, why do I keep using lingQ? I have to admit the main reason is my own laziness. I’m used to lingQ, and it has 4 of the 5 languages I’m studying on it. The second reason is that I like the word highlighting. If there’s a site that keeps track of which words I claim to know and which words I’ve looked up in the past, I haven’t found it. Do you know of any? Does Kindle Paperwhite do this?
I just copy paste the whole thing and lingq automatically splits it up for me. With a book it might take a few seconds, but then i’m ready to start reading. Or of course the lingq chrome extension so one click brings the whole page to lingq, split up in pieces for you. They of course dont exactly split it up by chapter, but to me thats not that important
Yes, there’s an automatic split function in LingQ that splits larger imports into parts. I tend to forget about it, because I primarily use LingQ for Japanese, and this function doesn’t work for Japanese. Even if it did, I’d still prefer my script, because it lets me control how large my lessons will be and how they’ll be named. I’ve heard others complain that when large texts are split into parts, those parts are still too long. I guess this is a matter of personal preference.
The Kindle keeps track of the words ones looks up in the dictionaries and lets one review them, either all at once or grouped by the book they originated from, with a fairly simplistic flashcard feature. You can see how many words you are learning and how many you’ve mastered. That’s it. However, the dictionary used is in the same language as the book that you’re reading, so there are no translations on these flashcards. All my French flashcards have French definitions when I turn them over. So, it’s not for the faint of heart. The biggest drawback, I find, is that there is no sound. I miss being able to hear the words spoken.
It keeps track, but doesn’t highlight, right? Sounds about the same as a good quality mouse-over dictionary. I’m still not a great reader of Chinese or Japanese, so the monolingual dictionary would be tough on me in those languages. Do you know if it works for Thai?
I agree completely with you, Green Airplane. I have been distressed by recent changes that are fiddling around with the interface. These changes have made the lessons more cluttered looking and have added a little chaos to the learning experience. LingQ needs to be cleaned up and its reading system made rock solid. Thank you for being so articulate about this.
We appreciate all the feedback and the desire to help make LingQ better. Green Airplane is accurate in describing our strength as a listening/reading and vocabulary acquisition tool. Revenue from the Exchange (writing correction and conversations) is negligible. We know there are issues with the site and the apps in terms of reliability and performance. There are also issues with usability, in particular for those who are new and don’t understand our learning methodology. None of these issues are simple issues and some will require major structural changes to resolve. All I can tell you is that we are committed to making those changes and to keep LingQ evolving. Regarding a Kindle app, we have no plans in that direction but we will be improving our API so that may make more things possible.
Thank you for your information.
I just made an account on italki. I will try to find out the difference between LingQ and italki. http://www.italki.com/entry/601435
I think there are a lot of “professional” teachers at italki. There are also “Community Teachers” there. The business is flourishing.
“Writing Correction” by members is free, but the service of “Private Request” and “Response” to it on the website appears to be nonexistent.
Another problem may be that I will find no topics about which to write! Many of my posts at LingQ relate to the malfunction of the site; at the moment italki seems to be stable.
I took two “Instant Tutorings” at italki. The first tutor introduced a site that had an advatisement column(or section) related to AMAZON.COM. The second one wanted to know my e-mail address to contact me directly for scheduling lessons. I felt strange. I think I should consider well before I decide to take their regular lessons.
“Revenue from the Exchange (writing correction and conversations) is negligible.”
I am a Premium Plus member and get 3,000 points every month without paying extra money. If I were a Free member, I would have to pay 60 dollars to get the same amount of points instead of paying 39 dollars as a Premium Plus member. You say that revenue from the Exchange is “negligible”, but I am sure that some of us are not very keen on “LingQing” and may remain paying members to get the 3,000 points and to buy extra points at a “discount” rate. Could you please read the following thread?
The 2 things I use italki for are tutors and essay correction. It’s not a very good place to meet free language partners for some reason, even though there are tens of thousands of members. There are places to report problems with the site, but it’s a pretty stable site. I don’t know about other services; there are probably some which I’m unaware of.
I think lingQ should consider doing what italki does - maintain and sell their core product very well, and add lots of free tools to build the community and recruit customers. LingQ can’t compete with italki in the field of tutors or essay correction, just like italki can’t compete with lingQ in the field of reading tools. The difference is italki doesn’t waste their time, money or patience of it’s members trying.
I paid $120 for lingQ last year, and italki’s commission was about $450 from me in the same period of time. I don’t think I ever felt like strangling anyone at italki.