You CAN use LingQ as an absolute beginner

Hi all!

Week ago I started learning French. This method helped me accelerate my learning a lot (even though I didn’t use it in a full form the whole time and I could have improved a lot more):

  1. Start reading mini-stories, put 10 new words that you don’t know in Anki and then stop (maybe you don’t have to stop, but I will explain later)
  2. Review your Anki cards while walking, commuting or something else (I do it while listening to something fun - not forcing it, but doing it when I feel like it)
  3. Read something very easy as much as you can - it can be mini-stories too and don’t worry about a lot of unknown words (they will stick after a while and also you have Anki to help you remember the most important ones)
  4. Re-read mini-stories when you finish them all to see how much you improved; you can re-read other stuff to, but it is also important to continue reading new stuff

Additional notes:

  1. I’m not in love with Anki too, but it is very useful at the beginning and also you can do it as painless as you can (try my way of doing it or something else)
  2. You can put more words in Anki if you want - for me, 10 is sustainable I think
  3. Maybe you don’t have to read only easy stuff, but that’s debatable
  4. You can listen while reading, but I want to get high proficiency in reading and then develop my listening - I’m probably sacrificing my pronunciation, but this is the most fun way for me and it is sustainable; do what you want and like
  5. I think it’s better to extract words for Anki from something that you read, instead of using some random list
  6. Maybe memorizing words instead of sentences seems wrong to you, but I think since you are reading a lot, you should be able to some across those words in a context a lot and they will not seem artificial (like they are in an Anki deck); also, when trying to memorize word that is in a sentence, a lot of time you are going to recognize the sentence and automatically know the word that is connected to that sentence

Thanks for reading and good luck! :slight_smile:


I don’t use Anki; still feel like Lingq is helping me with French as a beginner. I tend to listen to Assimil lessons over and over and then read the Journal en fracais facile, which would be very hard for me to do at this level without Lingq. I really like getting the news from another country!


Of course, you don’t need to use Anki. Just read something easy and words will stick.

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“I want to get high proficiency in reading and then develop my listening”
This can work in languages such as German or Spanish where the difference between reading and listening is rather small. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in languages such as French or Portuguese where the difference between the written and oral dimension is very large.

My favorite mini example in French to illustrate this point is:
“I don’t know” = “Je ne sais pas” (written) = “sch (weak e) pa” (in everyday language).

Therefore, I consider “developing a high proficiency in reading first and then trying to develop one’s listening comprehension months or years later” a bad (language learning) practice.

BTW, I myself followed this bad practice as a teenager (being a straight A student in French at school): before graduating from high school (the “Abitur” at a German Gymnasium), I had read ca. 400 hours in 2 years, but I hadn’t listened or spoken much - except for classes at school.

Then the first time I went to France with my sister and little nephew and tried to talk to French people, I collapsed within “minutes”: I was completely shocked how fast they spoke and that they contracted the word groups like crazy.

OK, that was a long time ago, but I’ve learned my lesson since then (and I apply it to “every” second language): “(ultra) reading while listening” is a best practice, reading alone (without any listening) isn’t".

“do what you want and like”
The position of “indifference” is also a “bad” practice in many areas of practical skills acquisition beyond language learning.
Or to put it differently, there’s a reason why we talk of “best” (and “bad”) practices in sports, programming, math, language learning, etc. :slight_smile:


What do you think about using Lingq for reading only but still listening to a lot of content in the target language outside of Lingq? Because importing audio to Lingq can be difficult and having a separate audio player while reading on Lingq is not that practical.

“I want to get high proficiency in reading and then develop my listening”

Yes, you collapsed within minutes, but your mistake was expecting that you are going to speak French. My expectations are that I’m not going to understand spoken French or speak it, but that I’m going to able to read it and then translate my reading abilities into listening abilities by listening a lot. That’s what is my experience with learning English and also Matt’s from the channel ‘Matt vs Japan’. He thinks of that method as most efficient one. (source: Listening vs. Reading: How to Balance Them When Learning a Language - YouTube)

“do what you want and like”

Do what you like in limits of what’s good for your learning - that’s what I meant.


Once you get past a certain point, I agree, importing audio into LingQ is not particularly easy…at least as it relates to ebooks or anything that will get divided up, so I imagine most are listening outside of LingQ (I am). Although for German the auto generated is not too bad so I’m quite ok with using that for relatively short articles (less than a LingQ lesson).

As for reading in LingQ while listening to audio outside of LingQ…it’s quite easy imo. Now, personally, if I read while listen, I’m going to generally read and listen all the way through with minimal pausing and rewinding and save my initial read using sentence mode and the tts audio where I can look up new words and get an idea of what is going on in the lesson. When doing these activities in separate applications it’s far easier if you are doing one on one device and the other in another device…i.e. LingQ on the desktop while playing Audible (or some other audio app) on your phone.


Hi, kolego!

I always listen “a lot” outside of LingQ in any of my L2s. That is, I constantly switch between Audible, streaming services, Youtube, podcasts, MP3 player, you name it.

“having a separate audio player while reading on Lingq”
Importing podcasts and Youtube vids (if they’re less than ca. 50 min) into LingQ works pretty well.

Usually, I prefer the combo “long ebooks + Audible”. That is, I import the ebooks into my favorite audio reader SW (ReadLang / LingQ) and then listen to the audio concurrently. And that’s it!

This works well for mebecause the audio reader and Audible software remember where I stopped “reading while listening”. So I can highly recommend this practice!

However, I’m leaning more and more towards only listening to Audible and not using e-books. The e-book part is only necessary when I want to “harvest” vocabulary and I’m not on an advanced language level in my L2…

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“then translate my reading abilities into listening abilities by listening a lot.”
That might work when the written and oral dimensions aren’t too different.
However, that’s not the case with French and Portuguese because
you’ve got to learn “two” languages (a written and an oral one) in these cases. And the main advantage of “reading → while ← listening” is that you can relate both dimensions right from the start!

“He thinks of that method as most efficient one”.
I doubt that “reading alone (for months on end) and then later listening to the L2” is both “more effective” and “more time-efficient” than “(ultra-)reading while listening” because the latter is daily high-volume reading-while-listening (ca. 8-10k words read and listened to a day) that is based on

  • habits
  • timeboxing (2 Pomodoro blocks à 25 min a day)
  • content flexible audio reader software (LingQ, ReadLang, etc.)
  • a combo like “audio book + e-book imported into the audio reader” (or “podcast + transcript”, etc.)
  • where the audio speed (> 1.0x - 1.5x) is a kind of “pacemaker” for the reading speed.
    Besides, with “(ultra-)reading while listening” you not only read more and faster, but your “focused attention” is also better than with reading alone!

However, this approach isn´t suitable for the beginning stages (A1-A2), but it´s designed for the intermediate level B1 to achieve an advanced level (B2-C1 / C1) in listening and reading comprehension in the most (time-)efficient way.
In short: It´s a kind of accelerated mass immersion technique.

That said, I would couple “(ultra-)reading while listening” with a few other approaches such as “grammar light” (à la Michel Thomas), artificial SRSes (esp. for thousands of collocations) and speaking early à la Will Hart (see Michilini’s post from a few weeks ago) based on Neflix / podcasts, Migaku and Anki.

In short, “reading alone and then listening to L2 stuff months or years later” is definitely not the most time-efficient strategy there is, esp. not for L2s with highly complicated writing systems such as Japanese!

BTW, if I remember correctly Matt didn’t even use audio reader software when he was reading in Japanese, so just forget about “time-efficiency” using print or online dictionaries :slight_smile:

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“that you are going to speak French”
No, I collapsed “completely” in listening “and” speaking!

In other words, the problem wasn’t speaking per se (in the classroom setting I could talk about academic topics without any problems for 5-10 min). The problem was the “fast pace” and “high degree of contraction” of native speakers of French in everyday communication situations.

In short, even “just listening to them” was completely overwhelming for me :slight_smile:

The problem I see with reading and listening at the same time is that you are multitasking and we know that our brains are not good at it. That’s why it seems that reading a lot and then listening a lot is more efficient, since you are 100% concentrated on each task.


Yes, I agree. Multitasking often leads to a decrease in cognitive performance and should usually be avoided. We’ve discussed this extensively on LingQ a few months ago (topics: there’s “no passive” listening and the whole distinction “active-passive” is useless in the SLA context).

However, when it comes to “ultra”-reading while listening (UWL), audio is the “pacemaker” and you read along with a very high degree of “focused attention”. In short, it’s impossible to practice this when you’re not highly focused-

From my experience with various languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese), the risk of getting distracted is much higher when you try to read alone - and that’s independent of the language level, i.e., beginner, intermediate or advanced.
If I’m not completely mistaken here, LingQ power users such as Toby (noxialisrex), Davide, and others who follow UWL have come to a similar conclusion!

Nevertheless, there may be a (slight) decline in cognitive performance in UWL (e.g., when remembering details of a story) compared to reading alone. And we could resort to a psychological theory such as “cognitive load” to explain this.

But, overall, the advantages of UWL outweigh the “reading alone” strategy because:

  1. you read much more in a specific time frame (we’re talking of millions of words in a year, for example, here)
  2. you read much faster
  3. the degree of focused attention is elevated (that is, the mind is less distracted)
  4. you can relate the written and oral dimensions right from the start
  5. it’s very time-efficient because you don’t separate reading and listening activities
  6. You can further strengthen your listening comprehension and memory by listening to the L2 content you’ve already processed on your own.

So it comes down to your core belief that “reading alone” will improve your “listening (alone) comprehension” (a lot).

As I wrote before, esp. in languages like French and (Brazilian or European) Portuguese, that’s an illusion because if you don’t know how to pronounce the L2 sentences, there’s a very high probability that you won’t recognize them when they’re spoken by native speakers at a normal pace .

Listen, for example, to this short dialogue from “Français Facile Podcast”:

That’s what you’ll be confronted with in everyday life.

Do you really think that “reading alone” will be sufficient in such everyday communication situations where the pronunciation is sloppy, fast, and highly contracted while using verlan (“teuf” instead of “fête”) and argot?

In a nutshell, wrong approach when it comes to learning French as an L2.
But I guess you’ve got to experience that for yourself :slight_smile:

Please keep us posted on how your “reading only experiment” will have gone in, say, a year from now.


I didn’t say that my reading is going to affect my listening (some say - Olly Richards - that it will improve it, but I’m not 100% sure about that, so I will not say that). I’m saying that when you already have high reading proficiency, then you can go and listen a lot. When you come up a word that you don’t know, you are going to read a script of an audio recording, look at that word and see that you already know it. Now, additionally, you know how it sounds like. That’s what I mean by ‘reading being translated into listening’ and it should be pretty easy (again, Matt also, who has a lot of experiences in language learning, is saying that too).

As for reading while listening being good for your focus, I completely agree. But that only works if you know a lot of words already and you are not stopping to look things up (extensive reading). That can be done, but for later stages of your learning journey (as you already said yourself).

Totally agree, especially for people who can’t spend all day studying languages, the efficiency aspect becomes more important. Wasting time while not concentrated can halt any progress. My personal theory is that by “overloading” the brain we can make it (the brain) less likely to jump around (monkey mind). There are indeed only so many tasks the brain can execute in parallel, so if we choose to occupy the brain with “valuable” tasks, we can reduce the chance of the brain coming up with random, unrelated thoughts.
You can and should probably add audio to your reading, but you can go further - by adding speaking, it’s called shadowing here is a demonstration by its innovator / inventor Alexander Arguelles:

Also physicality is very important, motion helps to keep the mind on the job. Maybe try walking around, or something like this:

I personally like bilingual texts, those are less taxing. LingQ’s implementation called “show translation” isn’t great and not even available on mobile, also you would have to translate the text beforehand. What has worked for me, is to use the translation feature in sentence mode, since you, hopefully, don’t need to translate every sentence it works quite well. Every now and again you can give your comprehension a boost by looking at a translation.
Here is an example selection of bilingual texts:
The advantage of bilingual texts is that you don’t need a dictionary, you would just look over if you feel your comprehension is dipping.

I think a case can be made for reading and listening only, that is as separate activities. But it is probably best reserved for a more advanced level, for example if your comprehension, at the vocabulary level, is already sufficient, reading a podcast transcript doesn’t add much value over just listening to it. Reading and listening at the same time can also become a bit annoying, for example you may need multiple apps, matching book and audio combination, which can get more expensive, etc. Also at one point the reading speed overtakes the speaker’s pace, of course, one could edit out the silent parts and speed up the audio - but what about the beauty of a reading well done? I have here an excellent recording of Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” by André Dussollier, I’m not going to ruin its beauty by diddling with the audio :slight_smile:
And for reading, again, at the more advanced stages, when reading a work of literature one might want to engage more deeply with it and not treat it as a piece of language learning material. For example one might want to take notes, re-read passages, jump back and forth between secondary literature, the appendix, or chapters. After all native speakers don’t simultaneously read while they listen to an audiobook, do they? In summary, I would think, the closer your level gets to native, the more your behavior can match that of a native speaker.


“that’s an illusion because if you don’t know how to pronounce the L2 sentences, there’s a very high probability that you won’t recognize them when they’re spoken by native speakers at a normal pace .” (from a different post I couldn’t reply to)

Not just a high probability, it’s a certainty. If you haven’t developed the phonological system yet, you’re just not going to understand spoken language. Without hearing the language, you literally do not know how it sounds, and often can’t even perceive the sounds (eg, dessus and dessous, or but and bout, will be almost impossible for an an English speaker to differentiate if they’re brand new to the language, they haven’t developed the perception yet)… That’s in addition to your very valid points about how spoken and written language often are just very different.

“Therefore, I consider “developing a high proficiency in reading first and then trying to develop one’s listening comprehension months or years later” a bad (language learning) practice.”

Agreed, imo, learning to read without at least listening is just fundamentally backwards, especially if it’s a familiar script. We subvocalize when we read, so if you haven’t acquired the perception of the language sounds yet, or you’re not at least listening along, then most of us are going to invoke our native language sounds while reading. Maybe this is not a big deal, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Neurons that fire together wire together, so why spend months/years firing the wrong ones in the first place? Why not avoid bad habits if you can?

My experience with French is similar to yours, several years formal study, good grades, then couldn’t understand a thing when I got to France. It took a lot of listening to get good at understanding spoken French. Once you’re good at listening, sure you can learn new words from reading and understand when you hear them, there’s crossover there, but you have to have first developed your listening skills.


I have learned Spanish with just reading and although it is spelled phonetically we have to click to hear the word on lingq so one can do this with new words and sight read the words they already know. I would not say my Spanish pronunciation is bad because I basically didn’t listen for the first 2 years of my learning. As long as you are learning how to say words on a word by word basis then one should be fine. Reading and listening are different skills and will need to be developed separately. I also really like learning to read and understand most of something before I try to listen to it as well. One could say I like mattvjapan’s approach, but I don’t agree with everything he says as he is a bit extreme on some topics, but it is a do whatever you feel like type of thing. One doesn’t have to listen to know cough is said cof or other words like these. They are learned on a case by case basis anyways sort of like little mp3 files in ones brain etc.

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“how to say words on a word by word basis then one should be fine”
That may work with second languages like German and Spanish, but not with French or Br. / European Portuguese because their pronunciation and intonation patterns are “highly” sophisticated - compared to that both German and Spanish are rather “primitive”.

However, learners probably already need to understand a lot of French to get this point …

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Hi, jahufford!

“We subvocalize when we read,”
Excellent point.
I wanted to write about “subvocalization” myself, but I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing will convince the OP because it comes down to experience or, in this case, the lack thereof :slight_smile:

“you have to have first developed your listening skills.”
I think Will Hart’s “fluency first” approach comes in handy here (How This Medical Student Became Totally Fluent in Chinese Within One Year While Living in the UK (Podcast) – I'm Learning Mandarin).

If we generalize it beyond Mandarin using tools such as

  • Pimsleur / Memrise (the introductory language courses)
  • Netflix series, podcasts for beginners and intermediate learners, etc.
  • Migaku / Anki
  • early speaking
    we could then couple it with “reading while listening” with varying audio speeds
    (slower: 0.75x, regular speed: 1x, faster: 1.2 - 1.5x).

I agree that knowing the sounds of the words and then when reading it will be reinforced through sub-vocalization. It’s like free reps of a skill/ability that you will need. In my 3rd language where I have just dabbled I have noticed if I don’t know how to say a word I just don’t sub-vocalize I don’t know how odd this is. A complete separation of sounds from words is a bad idea. Before I mark a word known I should know it sounds but this is just me.

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“Before I mark a word known I should know it sounds”
Well, focusing on “single” words in language learning is in itself a “bad” practice because native speakers use mainly conventionalized word groups aka “collocations” (tens of thousands of them) to construct their sentences.

So if learners try to build their sentences from “individual building blocks”, they tend to create an L2 that may look (and sound) like their target language, but the usual reaction from native speakers is: “Nobody talks (or writes) like that!”

We already discussed this topic a few days ago so I won’t repeat it here.

In French, it’s even worse (than in other L2s) because of the melody of the sentences and the high degree of contractions.

In a nutshell, relying on single words not only for meaning, but also for sounds is simply a “bad” idea in French (or Portuguese). Having studied / worked in France and taught thousands of hours of French, I’m pretty sure of that.
Consequently, the result of my teenage and adult students who concatenated single words was usually the following: they just tended to “butcher” French in an awful way :slight_smile:

But as the OP has zero experience in French, it’s best to turn the “focus on single words / reading only approach” into a learning experiment, at least for a few months - and then draw the right conclusions.

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