You can master reading and listening on LingQ, but how do you overcome conversational language?

I’ve gotten to the point here on LingQ in French where I can read just about anything, even Jules Verne, with a couple unknown words per page, and I can listen sort of well. It’s obviously still hard and I need the script often but I can tell I’m making process (some things like “science étonnant” are easier now than they were months ago) but I’ve realized something.

LingQ doesn’t help much with conversation. Like I was trying to think in French yesterday and I couldn’t even figure out how to say “I remembered” (which I now know to be “je me suis souvenu.” I can read news, history videos, even recipes, and sort of listen to them, but I don’t know how to say basic things like that.

I have a couple propositions as to what could be the problem.

1.) All my vocabulary is passive and my active vocabulary is very VERY slim.
2.) I need to find a tv show and listen to conversations because I’m only learning how to speak with a script, so to speak.
3.) I need to talk to people.

Is it one of these, all 3, or something else that will fix this problem? Has anyone else experienced it too?


Yes, it’s a very common occurrence. The three propositions you present are correct, and the solution is what they suggest, in particular the two latter:
a) If your vocabulary is so high, go listen to madeh-for-native audio. For example, find YT videos in French about topics you’re interested in. Begin with context-rich and conversational content. I like to watch tutorials about physical activities that I’m interestedin and that I already know a bit about: sports, dance, home improvement, music playing, … Tutorials are among the most similar content to actual conversation that you can find, short of actually engaging in conversation.
Once you make sure that you can follow that kind of unscripted material, start talking to natives. If you want to make it more gradual, start chatting, which gives you more time to come up with something to say. You can do that immediately if you want to.
Whatever you do to prepare yourself, at the end of the day you’ll learn to speak by speaking, there’s no way around it.

Bon courage!

P.S. Another great possibility, if you have the opportunity, is an immersion experience in a French-speaking country.

I guess its all about writing.


By no means do I speak well yet either, but some things that I try to do are to think about how I would say certain things. Often times I find myself talking to myself in my head…try figuring out how you would say those things in the target language. In your normal conversations, think later how you might say those things in your target language. If you don’t know, look them up.

Another thing I’ve started doing is some writing. Write a journal. Write creatively. Find a German message board and write on that? Or find other social media that you enjoy (if you do) and write comments or posts there. Even if it’s just to write the post or message for yourself.

Both of these are things that you can do without needing to find someone to talk to. Granted that would be best of all.


Being an introvert personally, I feel most of my active vocabulary in my native language has come mostly through writing. Hence I’ve come to the same conclusion as you that it would be a great way to increase active vocabulary. Now, I just need more spare time!


I would recommend writing and parroting as you read and listen to audio. It will take you about 3 months (1 hour per day) of listening, reading, and parroting to become comfortable with speaking.

I have also found a lot of language partners. Some partners I help them with their English others (women) we just gossip about guys and dating LOL. I focus on activities that I am involved with. Then I will have a similar conversation with multiple partners.

I do visit Mexico frequently. I can’t say that the immersion helps because everyone wants to practice English but I have found some great friends along the way. My new language partner is a security point officer. I treasure each experience and I am always planning for the next trip.


To be honest I still tend to believe Stephen krashen when he says you can’t learn a language by output. My goal is to get to advanced 2 here at LingQ with Spanish and German. After that I’m going to go to unassisted reading and actually read some novels and just read for fun. Also listen to some podcasts and watch movies and sitcoms In TL.


I have a tutor I meet with once a week and she’s noticed how much I’ve been improving since I started to read a lot here and watch TV shows. I understand her a lot more often, and even when I don’t get everything, it’s often just one word that I don’t get. This is a HUGE improvement since November of last year when I started and I understood nothing she said–even when she repeated my own sentences back to me with the grammar corrected!

My speaking is better, too, because I can often come up with what I want to say, if it’s a short sentence and not too fancy (like trying to describe what’s wrong with my car or how I repaired my culvert, lol). And even when I can’t get the word right, I can usually hit close to it, because I remember seeing/hearing it from my reading, I’m just not practiced at forming the word. A lot of times I’ll get the beginning and ending right and be a bit blurry on the middle, or I’ll have the first two syllables and lose the last. But my tutor can often figure out what I’m trying to say from that much.

So, I think it doesn’t take long at all to transfer your passive vocabulary to active; you just need to start practicing. (Listening, though, seems to run on an entirely different dictionary in your brain. I often know words perfectly well on paper and don’t recognize them at all when they’re spoken. I think that’s because I’m so visual. When I’m speaking and trying to find a word, I visualize what it looks like on paper, not what it sounds like. Which is why reading and speaking more or less use the same translation dictionary in my head but listening doesn’t.)

It sounds like you need to switch your focus from reading a lot to listening and speaking more. I started back in February, I think it was, watching cartoons on Netflix in Polish. I would watch once in just Polish, then watch it again with the English subtitles turned on. At first, I could understand nothing, other than what I could figure out by just watching. All I heard was spshsphsphsphsphspsh. I watched 1 episode (1 hour total) every day.

Then, one day about a month later, I realized I could hear individual words being spoken. I only rarely understood one, but at least I could hear distinct words instead of nothing but dishwasher noises. As I got interested in the story, I started watching 2-3 hours per day. Slowly (very slowly) I have started to catch more words. Now, I recognize 2 or 3 words per sentence (and can actually understand 1-2) and on rare occasions I catch an important enough word that I can figure out what the rest of the sentence must be. I feel like I’m really close to a listening breakthrough. One day, I think I will just suddenly realize I understand what they’re saying most of the time.

A lot of people swear by listening to podcasts, but I do not personally do well with ambiguity, so I hate listening to something I don’t understand. At least with watching something like an action cartoon, I can tell what’s going on. (And watching with the subtitles later allows me to catch anything I missed the first time around so I don’t start the next episode already lost.) But my hope is that sometime between October (when I should complete Intermediate 1) and next July (when I will, hopefully, have read 1 million words) I will get to where I can listen to some learner podcasts in Polish and be able to understand enough that, like watching the cartoon, I can be satisfied by what I can understand and I can read the transcript afterwards to pick up anything I missed the first time around.

But it’s great you read so well. Like I said, I think you’ll be speaking and listening really well after just a few months of practice (if that much). I watched a lot of hours of cartoons in Polish with subtitles and got nowhere with it until I started reading on here. So having the vocabulary first is the key.


Conversational French is a bit hard to define, harder than say Italian. Years ago I moved to France and knowing conversational Italian pretty well it was not that hard to adapt and learn “enough” French (without previous study).

After a couple of months, even though I learned to get by, talk to people about pretty much anything without mixing in Italian, I felt there’s this threshold of eloquence that I just couldn’t achieve without reading a bunch of books and becoming more proficient. Afterwards I moved to my home country and started reading books. It was pretty hard and more importantly, it felt so different from conversational French I usually used and heard French people use. I wasn’t even reading classics, just random modern books I had picked up at a train station in France.

That being said, you don’t need a whole lot of experience to become comfortable with communicating in French, but experience you do need. I’d get a tutor and start from there. Once you cross that basic/intermediate conversational threshold, your passive vocabulary will help you immensely to become truly proficient.

Alternatively you could find a pen pal. Exchanging emails is nice since you don’t have the other person in front of you waiting for a response within 3 seconds and blocking is the worst.


There is passive and active vocabulary (you understand the passive, you can use the active while speaking). For a word to be part of your active vocabulary, it needs to be part of your passive vocabulary first, so you are already in a good position to improve your speaking, considering that you already have a lot of passive vocabulary. In my experience the best (and maybe the only) way to transition my passive vocabulary into active has been by speaking. Get a language exchange partner or hire a tutor. In less than a few months you will be able to speak fairly fluently. Also, you normally speak better in low pressure situations, so don’t be too harsh on yourself while speaking.


My best advice for you is to get a book in english and start translating into your target language. Also there is this really good book “1,000 Conversation Questions: Designed for Use in the ESL or EFL Classroom” which I am planning to use once I get good at korean. I have the book on my pc - here is a preview… 1,000 Conversation Questions: Designed for Use in the ESL or EFL Classroom - Album on Imgur

This book is meant to help a friend of mine with her english once she gets good enough. Here are some other books that can help you with the active part pdf start or -
Just check out the links with the “creating sentences” description. Btw I can download the books for free in my country, but not sure about yours.


“Being an introvert…” Yeah, I don’t speak that much in English.


i think talking to people is the key. Like you I can read well, but when i am in my russian class and need to converse it feels like all the words ran out of my head. For me, at least pushing myself to converse is the answer.


Your spoken skills depend only on you.
You can try to retell the gist of the story that you’ve just read or listened to.
Besides, you can start to speak with tutors or with native-speaker friends. At first it might be difficult but soon you’ll see that your spoken skills would be much better.
Good luck!


So true! In addition to going lessons group where we focus exclusively on conversation, i have a skype conversation with a native Russian speaker at least once a week. i help him with english in exchange for him helping me with Russian. no matter how much it feels too difficult I push myself to converse.

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You will speak more if you practice speaking with a partner more. I practice speaking spanish daily with 2 30 minute session using BeepBoop and I am gettting better every day. I have not been on Lingq for a few days because I have had to take on teaching two extra classes. One of our teachers is sick and will be out for a few weeks, so my plans for reading and studying have gone out the window.

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It sounds like you need to increase your listening exposure considerably. Try to aim for 2+ hours per day for a few months to see if that helps your speaking. Being able to read well and being able to listen well (and easily) are two completely different things. Reading is for learning words, but listening is where the real magic happens.


All 3 are the issue yes.

You need to talk to people this will make the biggest difference to you so you can activate that vocabulary and get used to listening in an actual conversation.

Start speaking, it’s more important than watching a show, though that will help a bit too.

Sounds like you can read French better than me, but I bet I can speak better than you (because I’ve spoken more).

oh yeah and speak out loud, describe what happened to you yesterday, what you’ll do to tomorrow etc. out loud every day.

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As it relates to #2:

For helping listening to conversations, for myself, the Easy German youtube channel has been nice. They do street interviews, so you get real unscripted conversations (other than the question at hand). The people that they talk to are speaking naturally, so you don’t always have clear enunciation, or proper well formed sentences (they might say part of a sentence, restart, go on a different thought, studders, stops, abbreviating words).

I see there is an “Easy French” channel as well:

So maybe that could be useful. I know with the Easy German channel if you support them through Patreon you can get the transcripts that you can import into lingq. I imagine the same for the French channel. You can import the videos and that imports the subtitles, but that just ends up being the autogenerated input with no punctuation or capitalization.

A lingq user* recommended the site in a different thread. Since I’m on holiday, I decided to try it and I’ve found that it works pretty well. I found a Russian speaker to talk with ivery little time and it’s being very helpful. I already had experience speaking the language but forcing myself to engage in conversation on a regular basis helps me sharpen my conversational skills. You may want to try it as well.

*The user is Mattma and this is the thread:

He says that it may take a while to find partners and it might be true for other language combinations but for Spanish-Russian it was almost immediate and I’ve had other offers that I had to turn down.
I’m also in contact with a Japanese speaker, although my Japanese level is probably still too low to start speaking. I also found him very fast.