Why LingQ works. Please read this and give me your input

I have been trying to relate my experience, my reading on brain and what we do at LingQ to come up with a rationale for why this system works.

  1. Emotion.
    By letting people choose content they like, the emotions are engaged. Our interest, our curiosity, our desire to enjoy content, leads us to listen and read. Emotions are powerful ingredients in learning and memory.

  2. Meaning
    Adults are better at learning meaning, words and phrases, according to brain research. After the age of 12 we are less able to pick up new sounds, new patterns or language structures. Our brains are kind of set in their ways, at least more so than young children. We are better at learning words, and use both sides of the brain to do this. By avoiding grammar explanations, drills, including pronunciation drills, LingQ focuses on the strengths of the adolescent and adult learner.

  3. Implicit learning
    The brains at least as much implicitly, on its own, as it does deliberately. Suddenly we find certain things familiar and we have learned them with out knowing how we learned them. The intensive listening and reading at LingQ helps us learn implicitly, as we enjoy our meaningful content.

  4. Repetition
    Flash Cards can help with short term memory. I now believe it is more important to repeat the words and captured phrases on the flash cards at least 5 times, rather than trying to remember the meaning. Brain research tells us that reading out loud and silently activates the same neurons. Repeating activates the neurons which are used in speaking.
    I find that there are some things that I just cannot remember, and it is not useful to keep trying. It is better to repeat, and start noticing these words and phrases in our texts (aided by the yellow highlight) and eventually more and more of them stick.

  5. Inhibitions
    Yound children are great imitators, but as we grow older our brains start to limit or inhibit our imitating for a variety of useful reasons. Adults are more inhbited. At LingQ we can read, listen, repeat, or do what we want withuot being confronted by a tutor until we are ready. We can overcome our inhibitions and relearn how to imitate.

  6. Reward
    Our points system is a form of reward the effort expended.

  7. Community
    In the end we are social beings. We want to communicate. We want to belong to social groups. We want company in our learning journey. LingQ provides this.

Let me know what you think, what I have left out, and where you disagree.

  1. should have read “the brain learns at least as much implicitly”.

In 4) I should clarify that I meant that we should repeat the captured phrases 5 times or so as we review the flach cards. We can also repeat the captured phrase when it comes up as part of the yellow saved LingQ, while reading. In other words I think that repeating these phrases at least 5 times, silently or out loud, may a very powerful activity. I have started doing this more and will report on my progress.

Now I am off to see the Bom de Jesus monastery which affords a great view of Braga and the whole region.

Hi Steve!
I agree with all of your points. In my experience in LingQ since 2007, I would like to add the following points.

A lot of Authentic Contents
Real conversation and interviews by native speakers make us fun! Especially I’ve been hooked on EnglishLingQ podcast talk shows.

Language Learning Tutors
Most of the tutors here in LingQ are language learners. LingQ tutors know how hard the language learning and how fun the language learning.

Personal Progress Snapshot
First 1 year and 10 months (Sep.2007 - June 2009), I didn’t care about my personal progress snapshot. I rarely did LingQing and reviewing words. I just enjoyed listening to the items. After I realized the excellent function of progress snapshot three or four months ago, it gives me a great motivation to learning my target language. Everyday, I come to LingQ, it’s my pleasure to see my progress snapshot and reading words number of last 3 months, listening hours of last 3 months. Now I’m a LingQing addict.

Many Successful Language Learners here!
I’m always impressed by Steve and other LingQ members who have achived of several languages. Successful learners are our models here in LingQ.

Hey Steve,

Great post! I agree with your points about why the lingq system works. I’ve been an ESL teacher for a year and have been studying Korean for the past 6 months, and I must admit after searching everywhere and trying different things, like others, I have found lingq to be the best tool to aid in language acquisition.

I agree with point 1 the most, as I think this is what makes lingq so unique. Being able to choose your own content/ import your own content is a huge advantage over any other language learning system out there. It puts the choice in the learner’s hands.

Also, I must agree with Nobuo’s previous post, the Personal Progress Snapshot is where I get a lot of motivation. I like seeing my statistics and comparing them with other users studying with lingq. It drives me to do better, as well as keeps track of my learning (I light up when I see I have passed the goals, or on the other hand, know when I’ve been slacking and need to pick up the pace more) At the end of the day, I know lingq works because I can see my progress through the word count and linq count going up.

I could go on more about why I like lingq, but I think you have covered the points very well Steve. Learning alongside other hard working tutors and learners, being able to see their’s and my progress/ activity has been very motivating!

I don’t have any sources or anything…but I read somewhere that the brain needs to see something or hear something at least 7 times for the material to stick in the brain…

Recently one of my instructors said 7-13 times…

I’d really like to get the hard facts on this…but I’m not sure where to look…

Hi Steve,

I fully agree with all said about the strong points of LingQ.

However, you might wish to elaborate more on this phrase:

“Adults are better at learning meaning, words and phrases, according to brain research.”

It is so interesting. It goes against my intuition. What kind of measurements in brain leads to such concrete conclusions? I am not fighting against but I am curious, OK, I even can’t suppress a week suspicion reflex. You know better than me that even nonsense about language is routinely accompanied with the wording " according to research" .

I could have understood if someone argued that adults just know more of concepts, about what different things are used for, that is, they already know more of the meanings . And thus the adults would be better in expressing those meanings, or learning their names, in another language.

“Adults are better at learning meaning, words and phrases, according to brain research.” Could this be interpreted as “…as they no longer have a pre-12 year-old child’s ability, adults find it easier to learn meaning words and phrases.”
Or simply put, that our way of learning changes when we get older?


My own experience is that some things, or words, we learn right away and others take a lot of exposure. I have no idea about this 7 to 13 times thing.

I find that the yellow highighting of words in LingQ is an effective visual reminder and helps me to learn. I find that my ability to read, that sense of many words suddenly being familiar, that implicit learning that I refer to in my point 3) above has accelerated since we brought in the yellow highlights.

I am now experimenting with reading the captured LingQ “phrases” to myself, quitely or aloud, 5 times or so each time I see them. Try it.

Ilya and Sanne,

This is based on measuring which parts of the brain are used by children and adults to do different tasks. See my recent blog post about t he book The Learning Brain by Blakemore and Frith.


The brain changes, especially during infancy, and then again during puberty. The childºs brain is open to new sounds and new patterns. It is not set in its ways.

Furthermore the child uses the left side of the brain to deal with words that imply grammar, (in, from, on top of, ) and both sides for meaning, or purely semantic words like cat, dog or house. As we get older we continue to be bilateral in processing semantic words, but our processing of grammar becomes more bilateral, which , according to tests on people, is less efficient. So adults brains are not only more constrained by their first language grammar having been more solidly anchored in their brains, i.e. options have been shut down, but their brains use a grammar learning strategy that is more bilateral and less efficient, says the research.

We continue to acquire new words at the same speed at any age, apparently.

On the other hand during puberty our brains learn to be more focused, task oriented, better planned, etc. This should help in learning new things deliberately, like words we want to know from content of interest.

And the more words we know in our own language, or in any language, the easier it is to acquire new words by inference. We also have more experience as Ilya says. So I conclude we are better and vocab learning as we get older, although we have lost the ability to easily accept new grammatical patterns, or sounds for that matter. This would explain my natural aversion to grammar explanations and drills, and my hunger for new words and phrases. I believe that internalzing phrases will teach me the grammar faster.

I do recognize, however, that the occasionally grammar review, and error correction does make me more alert and attentive and allows me to notice t hings in the language that have passed me by.

I gather that after 15 our brains continue to change and adapt to circumstances but the major changes of early childhood and puberty are behind us. We just get wiser…or do we?

You can add:

If your time available is very irregular, or only at 3-5am local time, that’s no problem for studying with LingQ. If the only materials you have to hand are the Chinese yak-herder’s gazette in audio and ebook form (or paper but you can use a scanner), that’s no problem either. If you want to learn English for accountants, or street Swedish for gang members, your tutor will do their level best to help.

Ability to assess your own level and progress.
Actually this could be improved a little to make it more easier to understand, but for the more number-obsessed amongst us LingQ gives us the data to calculate our own level and progress and not have to take a tutor’s word for it.