Honest & detailed review of the LingQ web-based learning system

Honest & detailed review of the LingQ web-based learning system

Benny

Update: LingQ is a paid system, and as I say in this review the only part I found to be truly unique was the reading interface, which is still $120/year for the basic version. Luckily there is now an open source and totally free alternative that fixes many problems I discuss in this post, especially the limitations of which language you can use it with.

Read this review if you are curious, but from now on I will simply recommend people go here instead: http://www.fluentin3months.com/learning-with-texts/

————-

Warning: Very long and detailed review!!

This month the majority of what I learn from German (other than in actual conversations) has and will be on various on-line and computer based input systems. (I usually focus on speaking more and learning from books). I believe I can improve my learning method using certain aspects of one or several of these systems, as many other people have been enjoying these tools to learn languages.

For the first week of the experiment I’ve been using the LingQ website and tools for several hours a day.

Before I start this review of LingQ I should point out two things.

Firstly, you can earn points for spending in LingQ from referrals to this system and I am choosing not to when I link to the page. This system has several paid aspects to it (I link to free alternatives where relevant), and I am not earning anything by referring new paid/unpaid users in all links except the example badge for illustrative purposes. I just want to share my opinion of the system and how it can be useful to people.

Secondly, the founder of this system, Steve Kaufmann, has sent a wave of negativity my way because he is uncomfortable with the advice I give on this blog. This means that I am not quite in the mood to do him any favours to be honest! Despite that I am recommending his site as a useful language learning tool, especially in its free form.

This review is an honest look at the 7 days (about 3 hours a day) that I have spent almost exclusively learning German through this system, and I’ll list all the pros (first part) and cons (second part) as I see them. I will be reviewing other systems in some detail too if I see they are worth discussing, to try to see how they may benefit people not previously familiar with them, and will choose aspects that I like from them to ultimately improve how I learn languages.

I thought I would do this for LiveMocha too for example, but can’t see it as useful except for some beginner-only courses, and will compare it along side other sites later specifically for the purposes of finding natives online to converse with, since I only see that aspect as useful to non-beginners. Since I may not be going into as much detail in other systems as I had hoped because of this beginner-focus, you can read a useful review of these systems on the ielanguages blog.

Overview: LingQ as a web-based learning system

LingQ is a collection of various different interfaces for learning a language, gathered on one site. It provides features for working on the 4 main means of communication in a language: reading, writing, speaking and listening and has an active community and a vast collection of material both for listening to and for reading. The site has both free and paid options. You pay for “points” to spend in the system, but you can also earn these points by contributing and helping other learners. However, some useful and practical aspects of the site remain exclusive to paid members.

In this review I’ll be focusing on the benefits of the free options, but mentioning the possibilities of the paid ones for those curious, while mentioning work-around to keep it free.

The system is currently available for learning English, Russian, Italian, Swedish, Chinese, Portuguese, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Other languages are occasionally added based on demand, but if you are studying a minority language it’s unlikely you’ll ever see it in the system. I was reviewing it for German of course, but the features work the same in other languages (which, as I say below is not always a good thing) [Edit: I've already been receiving comments saying that they can't use the system properly to learn non-European languages]. You can use it to learn as many of these languages as you like, even as a non-paying user.

The entire interface is very clean and user friendly, and generally pleasant to use.

My favourite feature: Reading interface

I have to admit – reading is not usually my focus. Although I have naturally improved my reading ability in languages through practice and enough to be recognised formally in several cases, my learning method could do with some improvement and LingQ’s reading interface is one way to do this. As I will be sitting an examination in just over 2 months I do need to make sure I am improving my reading ability in the best way possible, and I will likely continue to use LingQ to do this.

When you open a “lesson” you will be able to read the document through the interface. However, any words that you have never come across before in the system are highlighted in blue. In your first lesson all words are blue, but after several lessons (once you have confirmed that you know these words) you will see less and less and have a real feeling of progress. This is integrated with the “words I know feature”, a measurement system that I actually dislike, as mentioned below. However you will be reminded how much you are progressing and this is excellent encouragement.

The benefits of this clearly appear after using the system for longer. After a week, I’m still seeing some basic words appearing (as shown), but after a few more weeks I am sure more highlighted words will genuinely be ones I need to learn.

If you don’t know a word then hovering the mouse over the word will translate it for you (you can do this anyway in your browser on any website using plugins, but this is integrated into the system for adding hard words to your study list or known list). Several options may be given and if you click the one relevant to your context then you add what’s called a LingQ, which is basically a word or term that you need to refer to later to study. This allows you to continue reading.

Unfortunately there seems to be no language separation in the system, and non-English (i.e. non-native language) translations came up occasionally in my suggestions. This is due to other users who have set English as their default language (because the system is not practical to use in their language due to lack of translations), and enter translations in their mother tongue, so it’s something that you would just have to learn to ignore.

Using the system you can read documents quite quickly and make a note of tough words way faster than you would do it manually.

Something very important here is that you are learning words in the right context. Many systems I’ve already seen give you lists of words to learn off with no example sentence or even as part of a larger flow such as in a text document or audio. When you see a word as it’s actually used you can appreciate it way more than in other systems.

All of this reading aspect is free, however you have a maximum of 100 LingQs that you can add before you need to have a paid account. You can simply learn all of these when you have lots of them and then delete them, so you can add new ones. This won’t influence the number of words the system is aware of you “knowing“, which will continue to go up, so by deleting LingQs you can keep it free.

It’s actually better to make sure that you can continue to learn hard words, by making a note of them in a separate learning system as I mention very briefly below.

Great library of audio & text to learn from

Another excellent, and free, feature of LingQ is it’s library of “lessons”, which are actually short text documents accompanied by an audio file. I had looked for something similar before, and this is the most extensive and easy to navigate free database I’ve come across online for several languages, especially for varied language levels. It’s important to note that LingQ is genuinely useful for improving recognition (less for conversation) at different levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), which is not the case in other systems.

This means that you have huge amounts of audio you can download to listen to on the go (as podcasts for example), and compare them with the documents. This combination means that LingQ is definitely an excellent system for audio (as well as reading) comprehension. Since they are integrated, you can combine your reading lessons for learning vocabulary and the listening aspect, to make sure you understand them when spoken.

This feature alone makes the site worth checking out for people who need more content in their target language to practise with. You need a free account to be able to access this library.

Community

Most people who use the system tell me that one of their favourite parts of the LingQ system is its community. I’ve started using other popular systems this week and I can already see that LingQ is an improvement on these in certain ways.

You can search for other members based on their language, and there is a forum that you can ask questions in. It isn’t as active as the how to learn any language forum, but there are regular messages and helpful responses. I started a discussion about this review I was going to write and got many helpful replies and a very interesting discussion.

A troll came to insult me too, but this would be very unlikely to happen to other people as I have a reputation there based on Steve’s somewhat misleading blog posts about me, as well as the unconventional ideas I have in language learning that I talk about so confidently.

If you were invested enough in learning through this system, it’s great to know that the community will be there to help, and you can always ask them when you need it. I noticed that some topics have not been active for a month or longer, but most of them have several posts a day and there are categories for you to practise the language you are learning.

The forum needs some technical work too; most URLs are broken up if you include them in a message (unless you use a URL shrinking tool from another site, which is a frustrating extra step), and you cannot edit posts or use formatted text. To me, this gave the forum a very “classic Internet” feel and it needs to be updated.

I can’t say that I was very active in getting involved in the community, so there is likely way more to discover here that I may come back to later. I am personally a very independent learner, but a lot of new learners would benefit greatly from support offered there.

Also, the site itself, while using very clever programming for the interface, needs some server or other technical work because the entire site was unavailable twice for much longer than a few minutes, and I’ve been using it for a very short time. It was suggested that this happens regularly. This was inconvenient for a specific time that I had set aside to study, and the error message is misleading and the links provided for explanations are unhelpful.

Import feature

I enjoyed testing out the paid features, but I will downgrade to be a free member before my first month is over. The free alternatives to LingQ’s paid ones that I list are fine for most learners, especially if you don’t mind deleting things you are sure of. To be fair, if you were to pay for the features I will mention, they aren’t expensive to use if you do it infrequently, and you do get value for what you pay for.

Another feature that I enjoyed is the Import feature. The export feature I mention below is for exporting vocabulary to study, but is a paid extra that you can bypass by copying and pasting as I suggested. Luckily the import feature is actually free, but is for importing your own text. Free accounts have a ‘limit’ of 5 imports, but you can just delete the documents when you are done with them to keep below this limit of 5. (Paid members do not need to do this, but it’s a simple extra step).

Use of this feature depends on how much of the language you come across on the Internet for reading and isn’t practical for reading newspapers/books etc. (without time consuming scanning and conversion). Since I put my e-mails and random websites through it, I quite enjoyed this option. However, since the database of ‘lessons’ is quite big, there is more than enough free content already there to keep you busy for quite a while.

As I said above, this helps for reading documents faster in languages that you are learning and using the interface for this is handy.

Paid vs point earning options

As I said, I am happy to recommend the free version of the site, and some other features are possible for free members, by earning points by contributing to the system.

Certain features work on a points system, but in my opinion they are not very practical if you don’t pay, so I don’t see this as a real solution for most people. For example, if you wish to have a spoken lesson, you need to have earned at least 500 points. To earn these points you actually have to give two spoken lessons (375 points earned each). Since the student chooses the time for the lesson (beneficial to the learner of course), the tutor has to be flexible around this (although they choose the availability window) and give their attention and a report after the lesson for each of the 3 people. Some people may not be interested in giving two lessons to get one in return (although there are excess points that will add up later).

People who are passionate about the community are happy to lend a hand, and I like this enthusiasm and genuine wish to help others. I’m told that this extra work involved is to maintain the quality of the system.

You can also earn points from referrals (as I could have done by using a specific referral link in this post every time I mention LingQ if I wanted), but I also think this is not practical as you only earn 200 points per month for each referral that opens a paid account (you earn nothing from friends that sign up to use the free system). So you need to convince THREE friends to take out their credit card before you can have one brief conversation a month.

This is ridiculous when you think about it and makes what you earn almost completely pointless in my opinion. I can only see it as a practical solution for people like me with popular blogs that could potentially get lots of clicks, and this explains why I have seen a few websites with their vanity badge of how many words they “know” so prominently displayed, with a referral link behind it. How it can help the system itself with more funding is apparent. If you refer people specifically to help maintain the system then it’s a good idea, but it’s a promotion gimmick, and I can’t see how it can help the actual users to earn enough to make it worthwhile.

As well as this points can expire. This means that even if you pay to use the system, your money can still go nowhere if you aren’t quick enough to use those points. This encourages you to use the system often, but is unfair in my opinion. If you earn / pay for points you should be able to use them whenever you want.

Conversation lesson

Rather than earn points, I paid for these lessons to try them out and was very pleased with them. For $10 you get 1000 points (2 lessons) if you already have a paid account (so I had spent a total of $20 on LingQ, with my basic subscription). With a free account you would pay $10 for one lesson, since points that you buy are worth half as much to free members. A chat session usually lasts 15 minutes, however my tutor Vera (and the next day Annett) were kind enough to go over this time with me.

It’s important to note that there are completely free alternatives for finding conversation partners online, such as http://chatonic.com/ , http://www.babelyou.com/ , http://www.sharedtalk.com/ , http://www.italki.com/ , http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/, http://www.lenguajero.com/ for Spanish and http://vraiment.info/parlezfrancais/index.html for French, you even use chatroullete equivalents in other languages! Other sites offer the interface in French, Chinese, German, Italian and Spanish. I don’t think chatroullete is a great alternative, but you can see that there are lots of free alternatives for practising a language in some way.

I originally thought (mostly from all the hype) that LiveMocha could be a good learning alternative, but from what I see in trying to get use out of it, it’s only really practical for finding natives to practise with and not for learning a language beyond the basics.

I will come back to review some of these systems to see which I prefer as a free alternative for finding free conversation partners, but of course because it’s free there are certain things missing that you get for a paid alternative.

After a pleasant conversation with Vera, she sent me a detailed report of the mistakes that I had made that she had been noting while we were chatting. I did appreciate this and if you are already a paying member then $5 extra per conversation is indeed worth it for the chance to converse with a very helpful native and get the report afterwards and could be a great target to aim for at the end of a week of studies.

However, if you wish to have more intensive spoken practise (which you all know I prioritise) then this would not be so practical and free alternatives (or meeting in person) would be preferable. One or two conversations a week will definitely help, but nothing like the kinds of speed of spoken progress that I personally prefer. I know lots of people prefer to take their time in language learning so this would may not be an issue for them.

Writing correction

There is a completely free alternative to this over at Lang 8 that I have already linked to. I have used Lang-8 and am happy with the free corrections, however LingQ’s one would have the same level of detail in the report as the spoken lesson review, and a level of focus/quality that you might not get in free alternatives.

Once again, it depends on what you are looking for. If you just want to write an e-mail to a friend for example, or get a general idea of your weak points in writing, then a free correction from a native is all you really need. However, if you are writing a cover letter, want to keep the text a bit more private, or are preparing for an examination then you might want more detail about what what you need to improve. How many points you need to pay depends on the length of the document.

You can also correct other people’s text to earn these points, like in Lang-8, although it’s not as balanced in points earned vs points spent. As well as this, in LingQ you have to wait until people submit text to you, but in Lang-8 you can do the corrections yourself immediately. However, this will likely not be much of an issue for English speakers in LingQ, as there is high demand for that.

Criticisims – the vanity badge

As well as the point-earning system that I’ve mentioned, there are certain other aspects that I didn’t like. For a balanced review, it’s important to share this and I hope those at LingQ will take this as constructive criticism, since as I say clearly, I am happily promoting this website as a good learning tool.

The vanity badge (my title for it, not LingQ’s) that states how many “words you know” is quite misleading in my opinion. You can see it here (this example does have a referral link that I would earn points from, if you are in a spending mood, which I don’t personally need to be honest, but you can click here to access LingQ in the same way without me earning points).

I’m very glad to see that LingQ focuses on all 4 means of communication, but using number of words you “know” as the measuring tool is meaningless in terms of your ability to actually use those words. There are many ways to assess your level in a language and I feel this one simplifies things way too much.

Then there’s the use of the word “know”. The writing and speaking aspects don’t directly influence your word-count (unless added individually), so this is more accurately represented as words you recognise as you see/hear them in the appropriate context. LingQ’s focus on context is a fantastic feature for helping you learn words as they are actually used, but that context does a huge amount of the work to help you recognise the word, that simply won’t be there to help you when you need to say/write it yourself. You will eventually learn to know this word if you are exposed to it many times in context, but this is slower than what I would normally do. Once again, if you prefer to take your time, this isn’t so much of an issue.

However, recognising a word does NOT mean that you know it. Remembering words is not bidirectional – it takes more effort to remember a foreign word than to recognise it. In my opinion, you only truly “know” a word when you can produce it yourself.

Even forgetting all that, the count of the vanity badge is not realistic – different conjugations and plurals and declensions count as different words to LingQ. If you think that knowing cat/cats, house/houses, dog/dogs means you know 6 words instead of 3, then you’ll agree with this measuring system. I don’t.

On the other hand using some form of a counting system to see that you are progressing is very encouraging and I like that aspect of it at least. I’ll continue to use the LingQ system, but I will not be displaying the badge on this site’s sidebar.

The flashcard system

I have mixed feelings about LingQ’s flashcard system. It’s great to review the difficult words that I’ve marked later, but the interface operates in a way I would not expect it to that slows me down. I’ve used both the one on the site and the free iPhone/iPod app. (There are no other options available, so tough luck it would seem if you are among the majority of people in the world who have a non-Apple mobile device)

It categorises words as 1. New 2. Can’t remember 3. Not sure 4. Known and the status goes up automatically after a certain number of views, but I wanted to change the status to Known/Not sure for several words after the first time. If it was a simple matter of clicking one button to change the status and review the next one, then this wouldn’t be an issue. But you have to change the status separately, and then click to go to the next flashcard and this slowed me down considerably.

There are other aspects of how these words are presented to you that I didn’t like, but that is a matter of taste and is based on how Steve himself likes to study. I decided to start my experiment with SRS early and downloaded Anki (for iPhone, for Android, and for everyone else) and found it way superior to LingQ’s flashcard system, even though the interface is almost as simple. The SRS system is way more suited to how the majority of people think, and you can use it way quicker than LingQ. But this is something I will explain in much more detail later, as I continue to learn through SRS over the coming weeks.

If you have a paid account then you can use the Export feature to send your LingQs to any SRS application for studying. To me, this is by far the most important benefit of having a paid account, however if you don’t mind copying and pasting the hardest words to SRS, not having this isn’t an issue.

You reverse the order for testing production rather than recognition ability within LingQ’s system without needing to export, (“Reverse” on the website) but the terminology is confusing on the iPhone (you need to change “term” to “hint” in settings – to me this is far from intuitive and I needed help for it to be pointed out). The website system would do well to incorporate keyboard strokes (like in Anki) so you could use it quicker than clicking.

When using the free version of the site, I suggest you have a separate document open at the same time and copy and paste new words you wish to review later into that document, so that it can be opened by an SRS program and so you can keep your LingQ count below the free limit of 100. I’ll describe the details of how to do this while coming across any vocabulary (not just in LingQ) when I discuss SRS later.

Oversimplification of how a language works

One final thing I didn’t like is the oversimplification (not in presentation, but in progress and learning) of a language being nothing more than single words that you can translate into your native tongue, albeit in the right context.

For a language like German, separable verbs means that you simply can’t select a term to create a LingQ, since other words would be between these parts. Literal translations of these will do nothing but confuse the learner, and can’t ever help you truly understand a text. This is yet another reason that the vanity badge count is misleading, but this time in how much you can understand.

English also does this, e.g. “get your point / the idea / humour across”. In this case “get across” is the crucial term, and individual word translations do not help the learner in the slightest, and “get across” cannot be selected as one term to be learned, and adding it separately (only if you already know what it means; if you haven’t seen it before you wouldn’t think to do this) requires you to leave the lesson (or open a new tab). People not generally familiar with learning languages would not know to do this.

Also, the entire Interface is identical for learning all languages. This does not take important differences required when learning particular languages into account.

Like Steve, I’m not a fan of grammar, however there is no mention of it at all in this system. I try to get through understanding grammar quickly when the time is right, not avoid it entirely. You can always ask for help in the forums, but at a certain stage you need to get some detailed advice on how a language works beyond translations. I personally don’t like this idea of learning a language almost entirely via translations, but others would. As I said, the context helps hugely to improve on this.

You will eventually get most of the gist of it when reading and listening to words spoken in a particular way, however without a few basic guidelines you would need a lot of exposure for certain grammatical points to become natural to you without ever studying them. If using LingQ, it absolutely must be combined with other tools to make good overall progress.

Final thoughts

As you can see, this is an extremely in-depth review, so I hope people see that I am taking my input experiment seriously!

There are some other aspects that I found frustrating about LingQ but that are much more down to personal taste. Ultimately, I want to see what aspects of online learning tools can improve my speed and efficiency in learning languages rapidly, and what would work well for others too, and I will likely be recommending LingQ for free reading/listening improvement along with other tools, and precisely how I combine them, in the Language Hacking Guide.

If I feel another system is worth discussing in detail, I will do so. However, as I said above, I found LiveMocha to be a disappointment for non-beginners, and I will likely rate it among tools for searching for people to practice with, rather than an actual learning system.

If you have used LingQ or have any thoughts on what I said here, feel free to leave a comment. But I should point out that I will delete any rude/irrelevant comments. Lots of this post is mostly just opinion, but I’ve presented quite a lot of facts and important analyses. Take it or leave it! :)

Update: LingQ is a paid system, and as I say in this review the only part I found to be truly unique was the reading interface, which is still $120/year for the basic version. Luckily there is now an open source and totally free alternative that fixes many problems I discuss in this post, especially […]

MORE


  • wccrawford

    I tried to use Lingq for Japanese but it was in beta (for that language) and it was absolutely horrible. I have thought that I might go back when learning another language (Spanish or German, probably) but it's not time yet to start learning another new language, for me.

    As for the tutors… I suppose the feedback on what you got wrong would be nice, but my language partner provides almost all the same benefits and we talk 5+ days a week for 10-30 minutes. I haven't even reached out to a second language partner yet.

  • http://www.learnlangs.com Judith Meyer

    For Chinese, LingQ is also useless at this point, due to its inability to identify words.

    Are you going to try out busuu.com next?

    • http://taeglich.chinesisch-trainer.de/index.php?alle=2 Hans-Peter

      In my opinion LingQ can be used for Chinese, but it can be tedious: texts must be split into “words” (e.g. with Wenlin’s “Split Hanzi”). Splitting has been done for a lot of LingQ’s material. If you study traditional characters, then you have to upload your own texts anyway, because all texts at LingQ are simplified.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yes, I'll be trying out busuu next – I really hope it has more than just the basics like LiveMocha. There's no way I could recommend that to serious learners.
    I've edited the post to say how (already) comments say they don't appreciate how homogeneous the system is for all languages.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for that – since I'm not experienced in online language exchanges I don't have a basis of comparison yet. But I'll be reviewing exclusively free systems as compared to one another soon.

  • Dale

    Thanks for a thorough review. Your thoughts as an experienced learner of several different languages cover a number of aspects of the system that someone less knowledgeable would have missed.

    I actually read your blog and follow Steve’s written and video blogging as well. I’m sad to hear that some of his fans have been rude to you because on the whole I don’t see your approaches as being incompatible. In fact, his goal in language learning is interaction with native speakers and involvement in other cultures. I don’t mean to speak for him, but I believe that to be an accurate summary based on his book and his site. It’s pretty obvious that you are seeking the same thing. The difference rests on how early you each jump into conversation with native speakers. Your focus seems to be more on that as a learning tool as well as the final goal. You rely less on the preparation that his methods focus on. On the whole, I think your approach is excellent for social interaction, while his can provide more depth and breadth for such things as doing business in a foreign language. I see nothing whatsoever wrong with using both.

    I listened to he conversation the two of you had back when it was first posted. My impression was that you both had some excellent ideas, but that the conversation would have benefited from some advance preparation on both sides. What that conversation contained might more accurately be viewed as some of the raw material for a great discussion. You are each passionate about your approaches, in part because you have each developed them on your own and you have each been remarkably successful with them. I don’t believe either of you would be as successful in your goals using the other’s system exclusively. Part of that is simply that your goals don’t match exactly.

    As you are both clearly aware from your writing, language learning is multi-faceted. You both make the distinction of fluency in the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. But, as I’m sure you are fully aware, it is more complex than that, a point that is sadly lost in school language classes. Speaking can take different forms, from intimate conversation to formal lectures. Furthermore, general fluency in a language does not necessarily also involve specific fluency in the terminology of a particular field using that language. I know several multi-lingual people who are quite at ease in most conversations in more than one language, but can only converse about their profession fluently in one. You and Steve have overlapping goals, but they are not exactly the same, and neither of you are wrong in how you have framed your goals.

  • Steve

    I've played around with LingQ quite a lot over the past year or so. I tried with some languages I know reasonably well (all western European ones) and then for beginning Russian.

    It's actually my favourite online language learning tool to date. I like learning by reading, and marking words I don't know for study afterwards. I like listening to audio and being able to read along with it, and the tracking of your progress is quite cool. There is lots of content at various levels, which is good.

    The lack of grammar is a problem for me though, as I like grammar and I find myself disoriented without it. I can (and do) learn the grammar using separate resources, but I find it a little difficult not knowing if something is plural, dative, imperfect, whatever etc. That said, this would be a massive challenge for LingQ – or any other site – to implement. Your point about the separable verbs in German is a good example.

    My main complaint with LingQ is that of expiring “points”. I signed up for a paid package at one point, which gave me a certain number of points to play with. As I'd just started Russian – and had a new baby at home – I wasn't yet ready to have conversations or my writing corrected, so I sat on the points. Then they “expired”, even though I'd paid for them.

    LingQ say this is to encourage you to use them, to advance in your language studies. But it left a very sour taste in my mouth, so now when I visit the site, as I occasionally do, and I reach my limit of words in the free account or want to get writing corrected, I find myself wanting to find an alternative website to do this at. This is just because of the annoyance I feel at this policy. (I don't know if they've changed it since then.)

    I think this was a fair review and I'd encourage people to try it out. Especially if you like learning words by reading OR learning by listening to good quality and well-read audio. If you like learning by grammar books, get one of them first!

  • http://www.italienischassoonaspossible.com Steffen

    I have used LingQ for some time and tried the paid Basic membership for one month.

    To sum it up: I think the principle of how LingQ works is pretty good, but it still has some beta-touch to it.

    I tried English, Swedish and Italian on LingQ with German as my base language.
    The reading interface is I think an excellent idea! However I could only make good use of it where I already had some knowledge in the language.
    I started Italian with zero knowledge and for this the translation suggestions (in German) were far too few to really grasp the meaning very often. Often there was no translation in German available at all. So I had to look it up myself. Since the system cannot understand wordgroups etc. (for the system “houses” and “house” are two completely nonrelated words) this was sometimes difficult for me since I did not know exactly what to look for.

    In Swedish on the other hand I have some knowledge, so here I could make much better use of the system and it worked for me.

    In English where my level is best, the system really worked very well for me! I was very comfortable to acquire new vocabulary.

    My final judgment:
    Very good system by design but still not totally mature yet depending on what language you want to learn and what language is your mothertongue.

    If you want to study English I would definitely recommend it if you have some basic knowledge.
    If your mother tongue is English and you want to study e.g. Spanish I would think the system might work well for you too (because of the bigger English database of translations and so on).
    If your mothertongue is Russian and you want to study Japanese I would be doubtful…but I obviously have not tried it ;).

    Since the systems' value depends largely on the translations in its database and this database is built up by the LingQ community I am expecting it to become better and better over the years. I think I might go on using it for those language where I have reached at least an intermediate level in the future.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a lot for your detailed comment Steve! What you said about expiring points was something else that annoyed me, so I added it in to make sure people are aware of this.

  • http://friedelcraft.blogspot.com/ chris(mandarin_student)

    You seem to have much the same experience as myself. the vanity badge in particular is not at all useful, but there is a lot to like and I found the Chinese library had a some good content.

    For Chinese learners I should point out one aspect that is a little annoying, as Chinese is non-phonetic I am fairly selective about the words I worry about not being able to read, this means that I could have a 100% listening comprehension on something but 90% sight reading (maybe 100% in context but I had to be honest, I would not be able to sight read the word in another context). So not being able to press the button that says I know 100% of that document was pain. The words you know are not much use for the vanity badge but the do help a lot after accumulating enough of them when you load in a new document (just find all the blue words, mark the ones you know and the rest are words you are unfamiliar with).

    As for the negativity, I have a “life hack”, simply that I find I don't learn anything or develop by hanging around on blogs and forums and agreeing with people I share the same view with. Friction and sometimes even what you would call negativity is the place where opinions sometimes change in either direction.
    Agreement and support is fine sometimes but rarely results in anybody changing their mind or taking new ideas on board.

    If you are confident you can present yourself as 100% right, that can upset people, even if they think you maybe just 75% right and sometimes you may be 100% wrong. “It’s strange for me to receive so much negativity from people I’ve never met” it is BECAUSE they have never met you, that is the way it works, they see one view, in the context of that space in the web and respond to it, human nature.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your response Chris! Glad to see you agree with my review.
    Interesting analysis of people – I don't mind disagreement, but the way it's phrased sometimes is very immature and can't lead to any useful discussions. Good point that they aren't seeing me as a person, but just a (perhaps impersonal) opinion conflicting with theirs.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks so much for your per language analysis Steffen!
    I agree entirely, and would imagine that the system could be quite difficult for a lot of non-English speakers to learn a language without needing to do it via English. I haven't used the system from scratch of course, so I imagine that could be quite difficult! I'll make sure to mention that if my next language is covered by LingQ (although even I don't know what that will be yet!)

  • http://marcinkoziol.pl Marcin

    I've been using the LingQ in the free version from time to time, but it was too stiff for me. I mean, the only good thing about it was the audio for text, with the instant dictionary. I really prefer to just download the audio, strip it from the LingQ tags (cause after listening 10 times they are really annoying) and put them in a loop. Sentences just sticks to my mind, which is good and then I can check how was it written. I've tried to learn some basics of Chinese this way too, but it's just impossible. http://www.chinese-course.com/ is a lot more useful in this case.

    The whole interface, opening/closing articles, flashcard review system and forum was just useless. I don't like to spend time in front of computer this way. Now I'm trying to figure out if I'll be able to listen to those audios while running, so we'll see if phisical and language excersises can go along. :)

    I agree about the LiveMocha too, after clicking 40 times the same words all over again it gets so boring… A lot of errors in languages like Polish and Arabic too.

    Nice review, thanks!

  • http://lingqvera.posterous.com/ Vera

    Hi Benny,

    It's great that you did such a detailed review of LingQ. Every mentioning is good and people should try if they like it or not. I'm feeling a bit alone here within all these people who don't like LingQ. I didn't found any comparable on the internet. Therefore it is my first choice besides all his lacks. But I'm sure you'll find things that you don't like in every system.

    I saw that you got some things wrong, so I try to clarify it. I got the meaning that you're really interested in an honest review, and I enjoyed our conversation a lot. I hope speaking with you in English in the future.

    My remarks:
    1) Free members need 500 points like paying members to pay for a conversation! I don't know why you got the idea they need 1,000 points? You have to change all your calculations. Only if they BUY points they have to pay more for the points. But the value of the points in the system is the same for free and for paying members. Earned points have the same value.
    2) The suggested hints are the LingQs that other users create before. The more people had studied the same language combination (for example native language English – learned language German), the more hints you'll have. But you can always use the “New hint” function. Then LingQ provides help from different dictionaries.
    3) The problem of hints in other languages is that there are users who choose English as their native language, but they put hints in their real native language in the LingQ. The system is not able to recognize this and store it in the database. When you hover over a blue word the system shows the most chosen hints to you. The more users choose the correct combination the better is the suggestion.
    4) If you don't create LingQs you cannot see the advantages of the yellow marked words (LingQs created, but not learned). To see unknown words in different contexts is a really great feature. Usually a word stays in my mind when I encounter it a second time in another text.
    5) You don't have to change the status of a LingQ manually. If you work with the flashcards twice in one go and got the LingQ both times right, than the status automatically increases. That is what I always do.
    6) Steve was exaggerating when he wrote that this is the longest thread we ever had. I can remember that we had lively and long discussions about other issues too. The great advantage is that if you have a question you'll get very soon an appropriate answer. Often it is not necessary to make a lot of posts. Personally, I'm often short on time and I prefer to work on lessons. But if people need help with German has this priority for me.
    7) As you can delete imported lessons you are able to add new lessons constantly even if you are a free member. Delete the finished lessons. Then you can import new ones.

    For Grammar aspects Steve always recommend to use other sources like books or special websites. That's not a big deal in my mind because there are numerous of websites which offer these.

    You shouldn't take the badge to serious. It's a kind of encouragement. Not less, not more. You have to know how to interpreter the counter. But it shows me my progress and therefore I like the different LingQ statics.

    The technical aspects of the forum need improvement. I agree! But the community is great and always helpful.

    Great is that they are always working on improvement. As the result the system is sometimes offline as you experienced in the last days. You can read on the blog which changes were done. But I can ensure you that there are long times without interruptions. It is like one of Murphys laws that you did your test when they update the system :-) What I dislike is that they don't announce it in advance.

    Sorry for this long post, but it was a long review :-)

    Vera

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a lot for the detailed response Vera! I've corrected the mistakes you pointed out. I had mentioned the points issue is the forum discussion but nobody corrected me then, so I presumed it was right, but what you say makes sense so I've updated the post to reflect that.

    I didn't realise *why* different languages come up, but not having someone have a quick glance at those added to the database makes them less useful. This happened quite a lot of times to me.

    You are totally right that the yellow highlighted words are an advantage and deleting them removes that. However, I am focusing on the free version in this review, and I think LingQ's inefficient flashcard system makes learning those yellow words tedious so that takes away an advantage of them.

    I've also updated what you said about flashcard status changing – without reading help manuals, this change was not apparent.

    If Steve confirms that the thread wasn't the longest then I'll edit what I said, but going on his own words I'll leave that part for the moment.

    I didn't realise that deleted imported lessons take away the count! That's excellent! Once again, even after using the system for almost 20 hours you can see that there are lots of things that are simply not obvious to people and should be perhaps explained better. Even using the system for a longer time would not have made me aware of these things.

    I'm glad you say not to take the badge seriously, but unless the badge had a disclaimer of that sort then a review like this has to point out that I highly recommend NOT taking it seriously.

    I was going to stay in the paid account because I thought that it was necessary for importing, but I can actually recommend AND use the free version knowing that I can delete imports. Thanks for sharing extra hack :D

    Your comment was extremely helpful and improved the accuracy of the review immensely, I'm glad you got to point these things out to me before too many people would read it. Once again I really enjoyed our chat and I'm happy to see how passionate you are about the LingQ community and system! Don't worry, I'm sure other comments will come to defend it soon ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your comment! I agree that the flashcard system is useless, but I happen to like the reading system. Opening/closing articles could do with some improvement too.

    I'm with you about computer-based learning. I'm “taking one for the team” and staying indoors a lot this month so that I can be very thorough and provide the best possible information for all types of learners in my guide. After these weeks I look forward to devoting way more time to more social learning ;)

    LiveMocha was a huge disappointment and I can see that they just have the exact same set-up with different languages copied and pasted in. For the German part there were no articles included with words to learn off, except occupationally in user-submitted hints – a dreadful way to learn vocabulary.

    Thanks for the Chinese link!

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/makaufm makaufm

    Thanks, Benny, for the review…I think. There are some aspects of your review that I have issues with and I will get to those but first I would like to address some of your criticisms and misconceptions.

    Thank you very much, Vera, for already correcting some of Benny's misconceptions. And, Benny, I do realize that some of these issues are not presented as clearly as they could be on the site. Unfortunately, the site is somewhat complex despite our best efforts to present it clearly.

    In response to Steve's suggestion that yours was the most viewed thread ever, I assume he only looked at the list of recent threads in the “Ask Steve” forum which showed yours to be the most active. We don't actually keep such statistics but if you look at the list of recent threads in the “LingQ Updates and Known Issues Forum” http://www.lingq.com/forum/3/, you can see a recent thread on which language we should add next, that has nearly twice as many views.

    Also, you say we have no monolingual dictionaries when, in fact, we do. If you were to choose German as your dictionary language, you would see German-German User Hints and would see German-German dictionaries when you click the “New Hint” button.

    Two of your commenters suggest that Japanese and Chinese are in Beta or don't work. That used to be the case but these languages have been out of Beta and working well for at least 6 months now. I study Japanese myself on LingQ and it works well. There were some unique issues that we had to resolve involving the splitting of Asian texts into words.

    Regarding grammar explanations, while we do not offer explicit grammar explanations on the site, we deal with grammar in the following ways. First of all, we suggest using external grammar resources which are plentiful on the web or in the bookstore. In addition, you can, depending on your study language, find lessons dealing with various grammar components. As well, you didn't try the writing correction system but, if you do write, you will get grammatical feedback from your tutor. Finally, you can ask any grammar questions you like on the forum and you will get answers from native speakers.

    Regarding the Known Words badge or “vanity badge” as you call it, we believe that your vocabulary level is the best indicator of your ability in a language. We believe that our system and Known Words indicator is the best measure available for this. I am not aware of any other system out there for measuring your vocabulary although I'm sure there are some. This number represents your ability in that language and that is why it is on our badge.

    As to your assertion that it is only there for us get people to refer their friends, I can tell you that the badge started out not having the referral link attached to it. It was only upon member request that that link was added. The referral bonus of 200 points or $2 a month is actually quite reasonable considering the fact that most members only pay $10 a month. How much of this $10 should we give out? We actually do have other costs. Keep in mind that the 200 points is a recurring payment that you continue to get as long as your friend stays a paying member.

    The issue with the expiration of points is a tricky issue. Fundamentally, it boils down to the fact that many people are hoarders. I am sure there is an evolutionary reason for this but, in our opinion, it gets in the way of effectively using LingQ. As you are such a big proponent of speaking, I'm surprised you are against a little coercion to get people to do so.

    Let me begin by explaining that we used to have a site called The Linguist which was an English learning site. Users there payed a monthly fee which included x discussions and y words of writing correction. We had many complaints that people couldn't use their discussions up in time or their writing correction. So, when we launched LingQ, we decided to use a fairer model. We asked people to buy points which they could use to pay for services.

    When LingQ launched points did not expire. What we saw was that former members of The Linguist who had been happy to pay and participate in x discussions a month, all of a sudden just sat on their points and hardly spoke at all. This created a number of issues as you can imagine. First of all, it's hard to keep tutors motivated if people are not joining their conversations. This means less interaction and sense of community on the site making members less engaged. Fundamentally, our members were not participating as much as they should be because of this perverse hoarding mentality and were therefore not learning as well as they should be.

    We know our system works but you have to meet your targets. Our new points system was actually causing members to do less and therefore learn less. It is at that point that we instituted a time limit on points, which is actually 3 months and should be lots of time to use up your points. Considering that at The Linguist we had a 1 month time limit, this is more than fair in our opinion. What is more, the points that expire are put back into the community. It is the expired points that are paid out each month to members who provide lessons.

    Now perhaps you can answer this question for me. Why the main thrust of your post should be how to use LingQ for free is strange to me. Are your readers that cheap? Is their time worth so little?

    When you go to a bookstore do you do everything in your power to take the books for free? For example, you could sneak in a pocket scanner and scan your book…or open it and try and read it for free in the store, maybe coming back every day for a week. Of course, you would look ridiculous or should feel ridiculous and it isn't right because the author has spent their time writing a good book, the publisher producing a good book and the store has spent their time and money and stocking the book. All of this probably wouldn't stop some but the biggest reason you simply buy a book at a bookstore is because it is convenient. Our website is no different.

    Obviously, you can use LingQ for free and not participate in the tutored services, however, you would be missing out on all that LingQ can offer. Instead of focusing on how to avoid paying, you should focus on how much you do get for a very reasonable price. All in one place and all conveniently put together. Sure, you can do everything we do at LingQ elsewhere (after a fashion) but it will be significantly less convenient. How much is your time worth?

    I realize that there is an internet culture based on the idea of taking whatever you can get for free since nobody is watching but, really, we're no longer high school students “sharing” songs are we? Yes, there are things we can and will improve on the site. Unfortunately, in the real world, this takes time and resources. I would far rather charge a reasonable amount to provide a valuable service than provide it for free and beg people to support it.

  • Jeff Lindqvist

    “If you have a paid account then you can use the Export feature to send your LingQs to any SRS system for studying, however I still needed to edit the file to duplicate the words to be in the other direction so that I could review both what I recognise and what I can produce. “

    You don't have to do much in order to get the other “set” of Anki cards:
    Open your German deck, CTRL+F, then choose Edit->Select all, Actions->Generate cards->then highlight Production…”OK”.

    Impressive and detailed review, by the way.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Wow, didn't realise it was that easy! Thanks :) As you can imagine, I'm quite the novice with SRS. I'll make sure to do some decent research on it while I'm using it before I write up an introduction for readers who are unfamiliar with it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your detailed response! There are some points that we will just have to continue to disagree on.

    I was going on what Steve himself had written, but based on what was shown in your link I have deleted the line about my thread being the most popular one, for the purposes of not being misleading.

    To answer your question, in my view “language hacking” involves spending as little money as possible, and some of my readers are on extremely tight budgets, and I have a lot of readers in South America and Asia who really can't afford even $10 a month. So I outlined how they can have a very enriched experience on LingQ, and if they wish to go further and contribute to the site they will.

    I spoke highly of my conversation lesson I had and suggested that the paid written review would be higher quality than free ones so people are aware of the quality they can pay for. However, since this is a review and not an advertisement, I have to be frank and honest about alternatives if people don't want to pay.

    Taking your bookstore example: Rather than going to bookstores, I go to libraries – so yes I do look for free options when possible and I don't see anything wrong with that, and there is nothing ridiculous or “highschool” about it. If the same book is in my bookshop and in the library, which one do you think I'd choose? If the bookshop aren't happy about me saying how great libraries are then they need to create other incentives for me to go there (harder to find books etc.)

    The Internet is full of many free resources and they fund themselves in many different clever ways. That's the real world. I'm not sharing any songs in this post, or giving secret links to free points or whatever. I'm just stating information about how LingQ works.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your response Dale! I agree with everything you wrote.

    As I've said, Steve and I share many common views about language learning, but unfortunately, most discussions on his blog have been about the little we differ on. I'm not really that interested in constantly focusing on that and would really like to reach a middle ground with Steve if possible. He said that he will write about me again on his blog next week and I really really hope it will be different this time.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/makaufm makaufm

    Regarding the fact that some of your readers are on a budget, fair enough, and we do provide much of the site for free as you have stated. My point with the bookstore was that the biggest reason to pay for LingQ, just like the biggest reason to buy a book, is convenience. Library books have to be returned or may be checked out by someone else when you need them.

  • Jeff Lindqvist

    Yeah, it's quite handy if you want to be in control of your own learning. Some people belong to the “Production first” group, some to “Recognition first”, and the rest do both directions at once. Both skills are necessary.

    I think I must have written a couple of dozen posts about the superiority of Anki, only to be found in the dusty forum archives of LingQ.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    You are right about the convenience. I think I was clear enough in the post that there are inconveniences involved like copying and pasting and having to consistently delete LingQs/imports. Since I was clear that only free users need to do this, people will indeed pay for convenience and if they want it. I personally don't mind the inconvenience of deleting and copying/pasting and returning books to libraries. If someone doesn't want to do this, then I'd recommend they use the paid version instead of course.

  • SanneT

    For someone who only used the system for just one week, you did a thorough job with your review and I enjoyed the comments on your thread enormously and thank you for your detailed responses to my comments or questions. It is important to remember that we are all allowed to voice our opinion. You must work incredibly hard to do all that simultaneous writing and learning! :

    Even after a year's use of the system I'm still delighted whenever I come across something new; hints and tips are shared generously and patiently shared in the forum.

    I am a committed LingQer but as such I am by no means blind to its occasional shortcomings. For me, a little bit of downtime is well worth the wait for new features and/or new languages. As to the lack of grammar…. Isn't it curious that we as adults complain that there is no serious grammar on LingQ? I found it literally quite frightening at first to start a language from scratch simply by intensive listening and then reading activities whereas at school I would have killed for not having to learn foreign grammar!

    While I often bemoan the lack of points, I don't mind paying for them when I have the funds. I value my time and I value the time and effort put in by the tutors and LingQ. Indeed, I prefer to pay my way (I am one of the people who pay donations on certain sites because I value the service they provide).

    I, too, get frustrated sometimes with the lack of editing functions, but it also makes me more aware of what I want/need to capture and so, indirectly, aids my learning or writing. At the moment I don't have much time for creating LingQs and so I miss the fun of seeing my statistics increase on my profile page: the green bars are a great motivator. The 'vanity badge' is a bit of fun which we can either share or keep to ourselves. I like your description.

    I hope you continue your studies within LingQ and wish you, once again, lots of fun in Berlin. Are the Berliner still as sweet?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a lot for your response Sanne! I'm glad you appreciated how hard I worked at writing the review and being thorough.
    As I said in the review, the whole point of me being so detailed and sharing this in the first place is that I am enthusiastically promoting LingQ as an excellent learning tool, so I will indeed continue my studies in LingQ ;) I found LiveMocha to be a waste of my time for example, so I won't even write a post about it, other than in passing. So this review is my appeal for LingQ to continue improving, because I like it ;)
    Berliners have been nothing but kind and patient with me, I really like it here!

  • Annette

    Thanks for this detailed and extremely interesting review. I'm definitely going to try Linq out and I recently downloaded Anki and will be playing with that a bit, too. All these things are going to come in handy this summer. I want to improve my Italian by leaps and bounds so I can do amazingly in school next year. I'm also going to Costa Rica in November so I'm certainly going to want to try and pick up a bit of Spanish.

    Thanks again! I always enjoy your posts.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/makaufm makaufm

    I should also thank you properly for the review. Nobody likes to read negative comments about their “baby” but it's all grist for the mill. I do appreciate all your observations and hope you do stick around and will appreciate future efforts on the site to improve things.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a lot Mark! I totally understand and would feel the same way – the fact that the review had to be this long shows how many interesting features there are on your site! Great job again for bringing all of it together – it's excellent work! I look forward to LingQ helping me learn several languages ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Annette! I'm sure LingQ and some of my other tips will help you out with your Spanish by November ;)

  • Leigh

    I think, having been a lingq (free) member and having read the blog and responses there, that the hostility towards dissension is part of the site's culture. I think they have a sort of hero-worship thing going on, and I have seen a number of threads where a person would disagree with Steve and Steve was mostly capable of civil debate, but many commenters would respond with as much rage as if you had just said something filthy about their mother. If Steve makes some critical comment on how the Canadian government should scrap their foreign-languages program and use lingq instead, you can almost see a cheer going up. I am not convinced the true believers would disagree with anything he said. I'm a fan of spirited debate, don't get me wrong, but this is something else.

  • Kyrene

    I use linq to improve my vocabulary and listening comprehension in French. It doesn't do much else for me, but that's okay. I don't ever expect to find a single program that fits my personal language learning preferences perfectly.
    I love grammar, so I couldn't use it for a language I'm a total beginner in. I'd need some idea of verb conjugations and sentence structure at least before using it.
    I completely agree with you about what it means to know a word. I find that when I'm learning a new word the best way to remember it is to use it. The first time I try to say it while I'm speaking it's difficult, but after using it I always remember it. This is why I like your method of speaking while learning.
    I try to not mark a word as known before I'm sure I can recall it later, because I want to keep studying it if I don't really remember it, but sometimes it's hard to know whether or not I really remembered it when I have the translation in front of me.
    One thing that I really like about linq is the color code. I try to find articles with a lot of blue so I know I'm going to learn as much as possible.

  • Tom

    Wow very detailed review and agree with many of your findings. I am currently studying a language for which lingq doesn't officially support and tried using it by importing content into one of the language slots. That was late last year. I found the lingq's to be very limited due to the inability at least at that time to edit them. The dictionaries they have such as google and babylon where at most ok but alot of times not (yes again it's not a supported language I was trying to use lingq for) so there wasn't a lot of value there. I would love a place to put written content, to have the audio with that content (and how about the ability to have as the audio is playing to highlight the corresponding section of text – that would be extremely useful), the ability to export either words or sentences into my own SRS deck as I found the lingq flashcards to be practically worthless(well maybe this feature is there for paid users after reading other comments on your review).

    The forum software they use there also is terrible. Very difficult searching though items at least compared to better forum software used on other sites. I don't want to follow 'all' posts so the ability to search and easily find answers to my questions is important.

    I post these comments not to bash lingq but to try to point out the pain points from one users experience. If they want more paid users I would in a heartbeat pay 10, 20, 30 dollars a month or more – if the value is there. Since I can't comment on services such as tutoring or written corrections I can only go by what I was able to use and in searching comments as far back as 2008 people have been requesting other languages to be added and answers such as it's coming next month, it's easy to add and then in another post they state it's not that easy, wait, it's coming….well sorry. In the business world you either improve, expand, give value, etc etc or die. If they want more business than they better speed it up or sites like ling-8 and rhinospike may put them out of business. As I've said I want to like lingq and would be very willing to pay a monthly fee if they actually provide useful functionality for which for my language choice there is very little value in my opinion.

  • Pedro

    Hey man,
    I had used LingQ to help me learn english.
    I haven't been active there recently, but I saw some of your comments on their forum.
    I must say you have an unique style. I liked the way you conducted the debates there.

    There are some issues there that I don't like but most of them are minor. LingQ served me very well to learn english.
    I'm not learning any language now, but in the future I'm planning to go back to LingQ and start studying another one.
    I can say that the system now works much better than when I found it in 2008. They are open to changes and hear their members. From time to time they come with something new.

    That's it.
    Bye.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    That is to be expected of any community (religious, political, town etc.), no matter how logical certain arguments may be. It's human nature! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your comment Tom. Personally, I wouldn't rate LingQ on its usefulness for a language not covered. It wouldn't be fair of me to rate it as not having value if I used it to learn Irish/Esperanto etc.
    However, I can confirm that even for paying members there is no advantage to the flashcards and SRS is preferable.

    • http://odierno.wordpress.com Dominick

      It is nice though that LingQ realizes you may want to study your “LingQs” in a different flashcard system, such as Anki, and provides them in an easily exportable way. To me the export is more useful than the flashcard system itself since I rarely study flashcards at the computer anyway.

      • Pepe Inx

        hihi haha

        • Pepe Inx

          haha heeh

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your comment Pedro. It certainly shows that you learned English really well! ;)

    • Pedro

      Thanks.

  • http://taeglich.chinesisch-trainer.de/index.php?alle=2 Hans-Peter

    You criticise “oversimplification”, but this can be also viewed as a positive thing.
    You write: “Literal translations of these will do nothing but confuse the learner”, but in my opinion they give also some insight on how the new language is structured compared to the one you know.

    E.g.:
    1) Er ist aus der Stadt hinausgefahren.
    word-by-word in English: HE IS OUT THE TOWN OUT-DRIVEN.
    2) Er fuhr aus der Stadt hinaus.
    word-by-word in English: HE DROVE OUT THE TOWN OUT.
    If you analyze this, you can easily see the differences between English and German, and you get some insight into sentence building/structuring in the two languages. If you repeatedly see such structures you will slowly get used to them. That's the intention of LingQ.

    Please read also this article from V.F. Birkenbihl: http://195.149.74.241/BIRKENBIHL/PDF/MethodEngl… – see page 3 of the PDF (“STEP 1″)
    She uses the word-by-word translations as part of her method.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yes Hans-Peter you will “slowly” get used to it, but the system doesn't suggest the actual meaning. hunausfahren is too simple an example.

    What about abhängen von, which means “depend on”, but in a sentence would be something like Das hängt von der Situation ab. (for example). A literal translation of this would be “That hangs from the situation off” or something – hanging has nothing to do with depending, and you would need to be quite imaginative to make the connection without understanding the actual meaning.
    Your example is too basic and can easily be understood despite bad translations.
    This issue is also present for “get across” that I mentioned – this term is likely already in the database, but it won't be recognised when separated with a word in between. I think it's a bad idea to learn a language via translations alone.

  • http://taeglich.chinesisch-trainer.de/index.php?alle=2 Hans-Peter

    Benny, you are right, the word-by-word method is very difficult to do for languages (like German) that have more complicated structures than your known language (like English). But it works very nicely for all languages that have equal or lower complexity, e.g. Chinese->German or English->German.

    In a word-by-word translation I would do your example this way:
    Das hängt von der Situation ab. = That [de-]pends from the situation (de-).
    Er hängt den Eisenbahnwaggon ab. = He [un-]couples the railway-car (un-).
    Ich hänge den Tag ab. = I laze[-away] the day (away).

    Maybe too difficult to do!

  • lingosteve

    Thank you for the in depth review Benny. I will be commenting on it in more detail over the next few days. I am just back from my trip to Europe and have a lot of things to catch up on. Meanwhile it might be useful to understand the basic language learning philosophy that is at the core of LingQ. It is explained in this blog post.

    http://thelinguist.blogs.com/how_to_learn_engli

    • Dale

      Steve,

      It’s good to see you and Benny talking. In my opinion (stated at greater length in an earlier comment here), your methods and his are different, but not incompatible. I follow and enjoy both of your blogs. You specifically have prompted me to seek more meaningful input. And Benny has inspired me to seek out more conversation, although so far it has been chatting online. Each of you in your own ways got me out of the rut I was in. Thank you both.

  • http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/ Street-Smart Language Learning

    Steve, there's no need to pay for writing corrections on LingQ when you can get them for free on Lang-8.

  • http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/ Street-Smart Language Learning

    Steve, I'd also add that Steve Kaufmann's lack of focus on grammar is an issue, and I just wrote a post about it. http://ff.im/-jjUeq

    Benny, you might like the image accompanying that post.

  • http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/ Street-Smart Language Learning

    Here's my reply to that post of Steve's, focusing on grammar.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Very funny photoshopped intro pic, thanks :P

    I tend to agree with most of your post. I sprinkle grammar into my studies to make sure I'm going towards speaking correctly. I never considered this a “hack” as Steve suggests – to me it's the logical thing to do. It would be possible to speak any language with a huge amount of exposure and without ever studying grammar (although grammar is way less of an issue in some non-European languages), but too slowly for my interests, and it is more likely to leave mistakes from the native-language that may need to be looked at analytically to be eliminated.

    For this purpose, perhaps learning grammar is a “hack”, although it's a rather boring and obvious one…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Steve, I have no problems with that post as it does not state any false information. I'm all for sharing of different opinions and approaches.

    But you said in the comments in that post “I will elaborate on my differences with Benny and they are substantial.” I'm very disappointed to read this as I was hoping that this time you would finally focus on the many things we share and stop this ridiculous “battle”. I'm not interested in disproving other people's learning approaches and I am happy to suggest approaches other than mine for people with different goals.

    You primarily enjoy literature, I primarily enjoy talking to people. The reverse is also true, but way less of a priority. So what you suggest WORKS, but why do you keep trying to debunk what I'm suggesting just because it doesn't work for you?? Who you feel is the “average learner” is not what I'm about. I'm sharing my advice and if the non-average learner appreciates it, then I really don't see what the problem is.

  • Karim

    Hello Benny,

    Just wanted to get straight a few things here.

    The first one is:

    Kaufman's approach is actually a bad copy of the Michael Lewis' “The Lexical Approach” published some 20 years ago and got almost nothing to do with “input learning”. You can check it here: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/article

    BUT, like many other things in his “Lingq” he's consciously doing it wrong just to suit his business interests, that is, the limited capabilities of his Lingq website.

    His deficiencies which are not just preferences but make-or-break are:

    1. Language is not learnt by learning individual sounds and structures and then combining them, but by an increasing ability to break down wholes into parts.
    2. We can use whole phrases without understanding their constituent parts.
    3. Acquisition is accelerated by contact with a sympathetic interlocutor with a higher level of competence in the target language.

    And the second one is:

    As I see it, your way of doing things is probably more akin to the “input method” than his, so I'm quite perplexed to see headers here that say “the input experiment”. What I'm trying to say is that you're doing the input part as good as and maybe better than him but by talking with the foreigners (the output) you're also getting listening speed, lexical speed access, listening fluency, and the ability when listen to move from working with words to working with ideas as a result of the response you're receiving during those conversations which is actually a top class natural input that you'll never get using unnatural constructions like Lingq.

    Cheers

    • http://taeglich.chinesisch-trainer.de/index.php?alle=2 Hans-Peter

      Steve Kaufmann’s approach seems not to be “a bad copy of the Michael Lewis’ lexical approach”. LingQ does not automatically recognize lexical chunks and fixed phrases in texts – it recognizes only single words! If it would recognize lexical chunks and fixed phrases – that would be a breakthru!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your comment Karim.

    I don't quite like my own header use either – I never even used the terminology of input or output in a language learning context until recent months as people have categorised me (somewhat falsely) as an output learner. I'm using the term “input experiment” to describe how I'm adapting my approach to be more similar to particular aspects that have been successful for others.

    I have to agree with you that what most people consider input is very artificial and does not impart vital abilities needed when speaking. I really hate this simplification of a language of just being vocabulary and grammar. LingQ adds in context, but I still think its potential is still limited mostly to “input” of reading and listening unless combined with other tools. Even the spoken/written correction lessons are way too brief to be able to feel any sense of real flow to appreciate how a language really works in true immersion style.

    Whether LingQ is “unnatural” or not is not so important since I still think it can be very useful for non-conversation aspects of languages, so I'll continue to recommend it to people who wish to improve their comprehension level, albeit limited in certain ways as I described.

  • lingosteve

    Benny, you like to imply that I distort your point of view or offer false information, or do not read what you say. I think it would be more useful for a discussion to just deal with the specific points I raise, and if you feel I have misrepresented something please quote me verbatim.

    You say that you are all for sharing differences of opinion and then in the next line say that you are disappointed that I have substantial differences with you as regards language learning. Why? Should I be equally disappointed that we have differences in our approaches? Why is a discussion of differences in approach to language learning a ridiculous debate? Why should my stating my beliefs amount to disproving yours?

    You like to imply that I only want to read, and enjoy literature whereas you like to speak. Where do you get that idea? I speak the languages that I have learned, and enjoy doing so, and am quite happy posting spontaneous conversations of me doing so, something that you are reluctant to do.

    Why are you so defensive?

    At any rate I will post further about your review, and then review your website at my blog.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Steve, I don't feel it's my position to debunk all the other language learning approaches. You have always brought the fight to me, that's why I'm “so defensive”.

    There are plenty of examples of you showing that you didn't read what I say beyond post titles. Since you require an example, your post saying that I'll “fail” in my 2 missions is one of several. I WILL sit the C2 exam and try my best, that's the mission. How can I possibly fail in that? I was very clear about my intentions. “Sit” is even in the blog header, not “pass”.

    Whether I receive the diploma or not depends on how much I improve my German, but not getting the diploma will not be a failure. Despite that, based on my past experience I think I have a chance, so it's worth trying. But passing the exam isn't the mission. Without reading the post it's easy to jump to that conclusion.

    One reason I don't like arguing with you is that the arguments continue to be ridiculous! You call me out on not quoting you and then you misquote me! It's hypocritical. I didn't say that I'm “disappointed that you have substantial differences”. I'm disappointed that you said that you will “elaborate” on the “substantial” differences.

    The fact that you disagree with me does not concern me so much as this obsession with that disagreement and need to constantly focus on that. There is so much we'd agree on if you stepped outside of this unproductive mindset.

    I've been the topic of discussion on a huge amount of your blog posts, videos and discussions over the last weeks. At one stage there were a large chain of consecutive posts that kept mentioning me. This isn't a discussion, it's an obsession.

  • Karim

    That is plain ridiculous. Is this the same Steve Kaufman from The Linguist Blog? If yes, then how can you not remember all that you have done to Benny and other enthusiasts who were just trying to have a simple exchange of ideas on your blog? You are hurting my intelligence with this kind of responses Mr.Kaufman.

  • lingosteve

    You asked for comments on your stated goal of being mistaken for a Berliner. I commented that you will fail. You have not achieved this capability in any other language, few people achieve this after years of study, your chances are zero in my opinion.

    You stated that you would study hard to sit the C2 exam and went to great lengths to explain how difficult it was. It never dawned on me that you did not intend to pass it. Why bother saying how difficult it is if your only goal is to take the exam. You could do that without studying.

    You state “I didn't say that I'm “disappointed that you have substantial differences”. I'm disappointed that you said that you will “elaborate” on the “substantial” differences.” Your original was there for all to see so there was obviously not attempt to misquote you on my part. But exactly are you trying to say. That you are only disappointed if I state what I think.

    There will be more posts at my blog as I have stated, one about your review of LingQ and one about your website. This is not an obsession, but rather an opportunity to explore different approaches to language learning, a subject that interests me.
    You stat

    • Karim

      “This is not an obsession, but rather an opportunity to explore different approaches to language learning, a subject that interests me.”

      Are you sure?

  • lingosteve

    You asked for comments on your stated goal of being mistaken for a Berliner. I commented that you will fail. You have not achieved this capability in any other language, few people achieve this after years of study, your chances are zero in my opinion.

    You stated that you would study hard to sit the C2 exam and went to great lengths to explain how difficult it was. It never dawned on me that you did not intend to pass it. Why bother saying how difficult it is if your only goal is to take the exam. You could do that without studying.

    You state “I didn't say that I'm “disappointed that you have substantial differences”. I'm disappointed that you said that you will “elaborate” on the “substantial” differences.” Your original was there for all to see so there was obviously not attempt to misquote you on my part. But exactly are you trying to say. That you are only disappointed if I state what I think.

    There will be more posts at my blog as I have stated, one about your review of LingQ and one about your website. This is not an obsession, but rather an opportunity to explore different approaches to language learning, a subject that interests me.
    You stat

  • lingosteve

    Karim, I enjoy discussions and debates.

    You claim that LingQ has nothing to do with input, yet LingQ has vast libraries of audio and text content, and a variety of functions that help to acquire vocabulary, words and phrases. This is all for input based learning by the independent learner. The fact that Michael Lewis' work supports the approach we use at LingQ is hardly a knock at LingQ.

    In addition there is a community of sympathetic native speakers to practice with. What exactly do you not like at LingQ?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Once again, you haven't read the blog post!! I achieved this for Portuguese and was mistaken for a Carioca on several occasions. I reiterated that in the blog post! Of course you skipped that “minor” detail.

    The fact that you think I could do the same “without studying” shows that you don't get it at all, and once again are not reading even my responses directly to you!

    I'm not disappointed in you saying what you think. I'm disappointed in this obsession when there is potential for so much agreement.

    I really am losing patience at reminding you of things that you haven't read.

  • lingosteve

    I asked several Brazilians to listen to the recording where you introduce Gaelic in Brazilian Portuguese and to tell me if you sounded native. One answered as follows. I am waiting for other responses.

    “he is indeed quite understandable, but he definitely has a **very strong** accent. Furthermore, he sounds like he is trying to imitate European Portuguese accent, not the Brazilian one. I don't think this is a problem in itself, unless by the fact that he claims to speak like a Brazilian, but he simply doesn't.
    First of all, I don't think there is such a thing like a Brazilian accent. Each one of the 27 states has one or more different accents. He doesn't sound like any one that I'm aware of, and I should mention that I know quite a reasonable number of people from different states and cities in Brazil…
    Cheers,

    “Without studying” was in the paragraph which referred to sitting the C2 exam. If the goal is just to sit the exam, you can do it without studying.

  • Karim

    Read better! “Kaufman's approach is actually a bad copy of the Michael Lewis' “The Lexical Approach””. Not very supportive actually.

    You insist on learning separate words instead of lexical items (chunks) because you are not willing to pay linguists to do quality translation and chunking of the texts which is impossible to do with a dictionary and by a person who is not highly proficient in both of the languages.
    Your “vast libraries of audio and text content” are just a simple short texts that anyone can get anywhere on the web for FREE.

  • lingosteve

    We disagree. Lewis' work supports our work at LingQ. Bad copy is your interpretation.

    Our users can save words and phrases. We have no need of trained linguists.

    Our libraries are attractive to our members who consider them one of the most attractive features of LingQ.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Steve, your responses continue to wear down my patience.
    I made that video 3 months after leaving Rio. I said that locals confirmed that they believed I was a Carioca IN DECEMBER. I don't claim to be able to maintain this level outside of an immersion environment.
    You continue to go on worthless information – I never ever EVER said I had a “Brazilian” accent, that's pure sloppiness!
    It is bordering PATHETIC to see you are recruiting people to debunk me. Your behaviour is nothing short of antisocial.

  • lingosteve

    I do not believe that it is possible to sound like a Carioca in December and have a pronounced foreign accent 3 months later, just reading a text. And a Carioca accent is a Brazilian accent.

    In any case this was just one opinion, I will be getting more. Perhaps there are Brazilian readers of this blog who can comment.

  • Karim

    You have no need of trained linguists? All the quality language learning programs are made that way by linguists. You just keep dreaming.
    It's not just bad copy, it's a terrible copy. Anyone can realize that after reading just that one article on lexical approach.

  • Karim

    People were marked as trolls on your blog for much less than what's you're doing right now Steve. So right now you are A TROLL.
    Karim off

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Karim, while I appreciate and thank you for your defence, I have to request that you don't encourage Steve to keep responding as his responses irrelevant to this post are needlessly taking over the comments section. Even though I don't like Steve, I wouldn't categorise him as a troll. I think he is antisocial, hypocritical and many other things, but he hasn't earned the title of troll (yet).

  • Milena

    Although there are aspects of both Steve’s and Benny’s personalities I don’t like, I truly enjoy their blogs and I’m more than happy to use their methods and learn from their advices and experience. So, just two quick remarks:

    1. from my experience – Lingq works and it works great. If you are not already in the immersion environment, Lingq is a ‘not to miss’ learning tool. (btw, if someone is really interested what is ‘my experience’, I’m happy to write about my progress in Russian and Spanish which came from using Lingq). also, just to say, I’ve first used lingq as a non paying member and started paying once I realized how effective it is for me; not vice versa – started paying first, so now I’m just trying to convince myself it is actually working :). I know that there are free variations of what Lingq is offering and I’ve tried them, but, again – in my opinion, they cannot compete with Lingq system of detailed reports and time organization.

    2. although I am seriously trying, I’m failing to figure out what are these ‘fundamental differences’ between Steve’s ad Benny’s language learning philosophies. In fact, I see their two methods as very compatible ones. If I were told that I have to learn a language in 6 months from scratch, here is what I would do: spend first two weeks with Michele Thomas course (if available) and bunch of books about grammar and phonetics of the language (not trying to memorize anything, just to get the idea about the language – and I wouldn’t leave these books out of my sight throughout the whole learning period). than I’d spend next 2.5 months heavily using all that Lingq has to offer and for the last three months I’d just go to the country and do what Benny is doing, providing I do have money and visa to do it.

    Seems that language learning communities are like Mensa: 100 people = 112 opinions :)

    Aineko

  • http://friedelcraft.blogspot.com/ chris(mandarin_student)

    hmm too many comments here, but I can't let that one go ;) “although grammar is way less of an issue in some non-European languages” what experience do you base that on. Chinese for example appears to have a simpler grammar simply because linguists apply European grammar rules (derived from Latin and possibly Greek I guess). Yes there are things that make it easier but there are also aspects that have no sensible label or peg to hang on in European grammar, so the fudge is usually described in English as something that is understood by context or X word can serve a number of functions in a sentence. Next result is a bunch of grammar like extra junk that you have to learn that has no words to describe it but at that point in time you develop an irrational momentary hatred of anyone who tells you that the grammar is simple. I have to admit that the simple bit seem a breeze but sometimes I would just love to have some nice European grammar to peg bits of a sentence on.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Chris, once again, I have to say that (by your own account) you do not speak any non-English European languages (I'm not talking about casual familiarity), so you simply are not appreciating the quantity of work involved in learning their grammar to speak them correctly.

    Chinese will definitely have aspects of difficulty in register, tones, reading the script and I don't even know what else that I will require me to make many difficult mental adjustments, but many learners who have taken on both Chinese and European languages tell me that specifically the grammar aspect to it is simple.

    To be frank, I trust them over you because of their experience in both. Note that this is NOT saying that Chinese is easier than Czech/Spanish etc. – of course not, that would be ridiculous. I'm saying that just the grammar is. Based on what I've been told by those with more experience, I'll continue to say such sentences. Sorry if you don't like it!

  • caitoceallaigh

    This is not a discussion nor a debate. You were kicked off of another forum (how-to-learn-any-language.com) for exactly this same behavior. What you do is just plain abusive.

  • peterlaunonen

    Benny,
    I disagree with your idea of known words.

    When you read a novel in English, you are bound to come across hundreds (if not thousands) of words that you know and understand but cannot necessarily produce when you write something yourself. In other words, they are not part of your active vocabulary.

    If you write an essay, blog post, book or whatever, you will only be able to use the words that come to mind as you are writing it. This may be limited to only a few thousand words. But in reality, you would know (in your native language) a lot more words (I don't know how many exactly, maybe 10,000+). I would still consider that you KNOW these words even though you cannot necessarily produce them all at any given point in time.

    I think it's the same with foreign languages. I've been learning French for several years (with LingQ for the last year or so). There are lots of words that I understand when I see them written or hear them spoken, but I cannot necessarily recall them when I speak or write. But the way I see it, this is no different to what happens in our native language. Therefore, I still consider that I know the words.

    In my opinion, the best way to describe the situation of someone who has been doing lots of input-based language learning (e.g. with LingQ) but has not spent much or any time speaking, is that they have a very large passive vocabulary, of which a large part can be made active when they are in a situation where they can (or need) to use the language a lot.

    Well done with your review and I'm glad to see you found LingQ useful. I look forward to seeing more of you on the forums in the future.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for your thoughts Aineko! As you may have seen in comments above, I'm constantly suggesting that Steve stop focusing on these 'fundamental differences'. Although his comments here show little sign of doing so, at least his review of this site was more balanced.

    I don't see my advice as contrasting with Steve's at all because they are to be applied in different situations. There is no 'better' in that case. As you said, for someone in a country what I have to suggest is simply more practical, but if you have time to prepare in advance, then using efficient study methods like LingQ is crucial.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Peter, you give a good argument with some valid points. Of course there is an aspect to knowing words in your native language that you'll never produce, but these are for words that you can live comfortably without. Technical and literary words that I would never use myself are 'known' to me, but since I'll never even need to use them, their importance to me on a day to day basis is limited to recognition only.

    If one's goals in language learning are recognition, this isn't a problem. But me recognising very important words and believing this means that I'll know it when the time comes to say it, is not a useful frame of mind in my opinion. Since my focus is on speaking, I'm not too interested in a very large passive vocabulary. Steve and others appreciate literature and movies etc. more than me, so it's more logical for them to appreciate 'knowing' these words.

    Definitions of what 'to know' means can be nothing more than opinion, so I offered mine, but as you show there are plenty of ways of viewing this.

    Thanks again – I'll make an appearing in LingQ's forums in future don't worry!

  • peterlaunonen

    I agree that the question of goals or priorities is a crucial point of difference. With respect to 'speaking' vs 'recognising' a language, I will make the following points/arguments.

    In your case, being immersed in the country and speaking all the time you will have the opportunity to learn a lot of day-to-day vocabulary that someone like myself with French has not (yet) had. I have very little knowledge (passive or active) of French slang or idioms, for example.

    What I have been finding, though, is that I can understand radio conversations quite well and I can have conversations with my tutors without too much difficulty. When I finally get the chance to stay (or live) in a French speaking country, I expect the slang and day-to-day language to start sticking pretty quickly.

    I understand that a high percentage of a language (I'm guessing around 80%) is made up of a relatively small number of words and phrases (maybe a few thousand). I've found that, through listening and reading a lot, those words have become quite active and I can recall them without much difficulty. (To a lesser extent, I had the same experience with learning Spanish from scratch on LingQ for 6 months.)

    Technical and literary terms are not that important to me either. But I find that even from reading literature or listening to technical podcasts, those 80% of words (or whatever percentage it is) that appear all the time are becoming more and more familiar (and active) and I'm slowly building on that foundation with new words and phrases.

    With respect to the 'spoken language' however, I'll admit that there are certain things that I'll never learn until I spend some time there (in France, for example).

  • http://friedelcraft.blogspot.com/ chris(mandarin_student)

    I actually pointed out my lack of experience in European languages on this blog and you thanked me for it. As for not appreciating the quantity of work required I take my que from Khazamoto's AJAT post on Grammar, Japanese having a lot of European characteristics and Khazamoto being so successful I took from that the positive message that I don't have to worry about about grammar when I come to study a European language (well I could do couldn't I?).

    To be frank there are many successful language learners who have not explicitly learned grammar. When I look over both of our comments I have to conclude that as an independant observer I would probably conclude that we are BOTH potentially talking out of our backsides (doh) with no experience to back it up.

    Not withstanding that some Asian grammar may seem superficially simple, grammar books seem just as thick but perhaps we should blame that on the linguists.

  • lingosteve

    For those who are interested here is my review of this website.

    http://bit.ly/9VIAWC

  • Karim

    no thanks

  • Karim

    Tell me, I'm kind of curious, how much do you pay those Indians with the names “Anglophobe Jones”, “ed” etc, to comment on your posts? 5$ per post perhaps?

  • lingosteve

    The desire to discredit those with different opinions, rather than discussing issues, reflects a particular poverty of intellect.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Bad boys!
    Steve AND Karim – both of you go to the corner and think about what you've said! We'll have no naughty behaviour here :)

    Karim, please stop encouraging Steve!!! That comment is really immature and is going to spark off another pointless argument. I have no doubts that Jones and his other commenters are acting of their own accord. I can tell you from experience that reactions are precisely what Steve is looking for, and you are satisfying him with more reasons to show his face on my site. I have given up contributing to discussions about me on his blog because of this never-ending aspect of his “discussions”. Once again, I appreciate you fighting my side but you are not helping…

    Steve, THIS is bordering on the troll behaviour I hadn't yet assigned to you. Contribute to the post or disprove/dismiss his ridiculous claim in order to defend yourself/your commenters if you must. But responding to an insult with another insult is immature and serves no purpose other than to have the last word.

    The best, and most mature solution is to accept for yourself that Karim is an idiot or whatever you want to think. You are free to defend yourself if you must, but that comment does not achieve anything and is just polluting my site.

    You'll notice I'm getting endless and foundationless abuse on your blog and I'm just letting it be. I have comments here for pleasant discussions, not to give people chances to insult one another.

    I will blacklist BOTH of you if this crap continues. I knew something like this would happen by my simply (reluctantly) mentioning Steve in this post, which is why I warned in the post that I will be moderating. I have not yet had to do so, so please don't force me to.

    Comments are for the matter at hand, not an opportunity to endlessly rant about people.

  • lingosteve

    Benny, you seem to feel you can call me a hypocrite, anti-social, silly, call people idiots , call Ed a troll , call criticisms of your statements “foundationless abuse”, call people's comments “crap”, or whatever comes to your mind. I do not use these kinds of terms, even when I think them.

    You are welcome to defend your positions at my blog however you want. I do not censor. I gather you have a different policy at your blog. No problem.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Steve, rather than being direct like me and others – you seem to think that indirectly insulting people “doesn't count”. You have insulted my character endlessly, and yet for some reason I thought you would show me some courtesy this time. It was naive of me to give you more chances.

    You just wrote on your blog “He makes numerous misleading or completely false claims, deliberately distorts what critics have to say, creates strawman arguments in order to then debunk them with hyperbole and gusto, and then offers up gratuitous insults.” and continue by implying that my followers are “sorry for me”. Your endless wave of unprovoked insults towards me has to end.

    You are one of the rudest people I have ever come across with such a well established presence online. Since it is no problem, I have accepted your invitation and you are no longer welcome in my comments – I am sick of this “discussion” that serves no purpose other than character attacks.

    Maybe you'll write a post entirely about this decision, like you wrote a post entirely about one of my comment responses here. You'll put that up on your “language blog” to winge about it to your minions and they'll all agree in unison that Benny is a fraud.

    For those curious, as well as Steve's comments here and many insults on his blog, I was motivated to block him due to his terrible reputation online. He has spammed many other bloggers whose enthusiasm irritated him, such as Tim Ferriss. See Tim's response to Steve here and here. Tim would have been well used to years of ridiculous comments, but Steve was talented enough to get his particular attention.

    Steve has also been banned from the Internet's most important language discussion forum. I don't know the story behind that, but I am not in the least bit surprised. I saw on his blog that he wrote a post about comments about him being a “windbag” and once several responses asked him what the hell this had to do with languages, and the wave of opinion was against him, he deleted the post as if it never happened.

    The only reason he discusses me is because (by his own accord) this has caused the most traffic and discussion to his blog. He is a leech, and is using me to try to relaunch his own popularity. I played his game long enough. I will always give people a chance before blacklisting them, and Steve went well beyond what I should have endured long before I even wrote this post.

    Now if you'll excuse me Steve, I would like to focus on helping people learn languages and writing good content. I'm sure you will continue to use your “languages should be fun” blog as a platform to whine about people you don't like.

  • Karim

    I'm very sorry Benny, I got carried away and forgot the first rule: “do not feed the troll”. I started well but then my emotions took over. I will stop this now. Again, sorry. I just couldn't find the strength to ignore his hypocrisy but now it's over.

  • djc463

    oof, what a nightmare. I thought about making a language blog site to help others and show how I've reached fluency in a modest few languages, but this is just a hobby. I have immense respect for Steve/his accomplishments/his product, but his pointing out the “inferiority” of others methods is rather annoying. I wish he would just leave you and others alone and focus on constructive work to encourage other young talented (but perhaps not yet quite as experienced) language learners (like I'd like to consider myself and Benny).

    Anyways, while I agree with Steve on some points, I want to say that I highly respect you Benny and hope you keep up your lifelong language learning goals!!!

    I'd also like to see you pick Czech back up! I find it a fascinating language and think you should go for it.

    One last piece of advice: BENNY GET OFF THE INTERNET AND GET PRACTICING YOUR GERMAN. YOU WANT TO AVOID ENGLISH DURING THESE THREE MONTHS!!!! YOU'RE SPENDING WAY TOO MUCH TIME IN PETTY ENGLISH DEBATES. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm rooting for you

  • Milena

    “if you have time to prepare in advance and love reading and listening, then using efficient study methods like LingQ is crucial. I personally also believe that you should seek out natives even before travelling to get used to real conversations”

    well, reading, listening + writing and speaking with natives – lingq offers all that (in an organized manner, which would be quite important if I had a little time* to learn a language. downside – yes, you have to pay for it.).
    I totally agree that people should seek conversations with natives before going abroad, otherwise they might end up very surprised and in a situation “can understand everything, can say nothing”. It is just not that easy to find 'cooperative' natives, especially if you are time constrained.

    *speaking of a little time, I'm not even sure what I mean by that since I've set up myself for 2.5 languages (0.5 being being some kind of basic fluency, being able to hold conversation about certain topics) in a year, without setting a foot outside the country and finishing phd in meantime… definition of 'short time' in language learning depend on person's needs and affinities. That is why I do not agree with yours (or Steve's? I'm starting to mix up) argument that your methods are designed for people who have different time frames in mind. Both method can be used to master a language in a very 'short' or very 'long' time – I still do not see the disagreement…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    There are thousands of language learning blogs and as I've suggested it is an amazing community that generally helps one another out and exchanges interesting ideas. Steve doesn't have a language learning blog – he freely admits that he invents controversial topics to increase traffic to his site. I find that pathetic – the only purpose of that is to feed his self-image and sense of importance. I'd rather gain traffic by writing interesting content.

    Don't think bullies like him are the norm – I hope you do make a blog!! I'm always learning and if you've reached fluency in a few languages, maybe you can help me too :) Pass me on the link to your blog when it's ready!

    Well said at the end. I thought that this “discussion” would only require a few answers but it's been an immense waste of time for no reason other than to satisfy the ego of some guy in Canada. I've been spending too much time giving him the attention he doesn't deserve. Bullies enjoy both positive and negative attention, so he is the winner in this whole debate from the very fact that it occurred and took up so much time. He has fun stirring the pot for no reason, and I don't. I prefer pleasant discussions and being social, even if I disagree with certain things someone thinks.

    Unfortunately I can't see coming back to Czech as likely anytime soon. While I enjoyed my time in Prague, I didn't fall in love with the culture as I did Spanish/Brazilian etc. – this is due to my personality rather than the country itself. I really need an emotional investment in languages to be able to focus on them and I learned that in Prague. However, I may take on languages in the same family.

    Thanks for your comment and reminder to stay on the ball!

  • William

    So what's the deal with the Flashcards?

    I want to know because I find Anki's system of giving you four choices to be uselessly overcomplicated. I don't want to have to think about whether I know it really well or just kinda sorta know it, even if it's just for a split second.

    I find myself mostly using two of the buttons, and I'd probably be better off if I just considered it as a two button system since I don't want to have to worry about what the system will do depending on which button I hit.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Hi William – Anki's system is “overcomplicated” (although to me it seems extremely simple to be honest) because taking advantage of the different buttons is the whole point – if you don't want the system to adapt then I imagine another flashcard program might be for you, although I'd skip most SRS systems in general if I were you. Throwing out this aspect makes flashcards tedious and boring to me, I'd suggest other learning approaches like image association if it's not for you.

    Personally I think this is the amazing thing about it, and one of the main reasons that it deserves a chance – before using it, I had dismissed it as the basic flashcard system you seem to be looking for. I imagine flashcards aren't for everyone, but I look forward to your comment about why it didn't work for you when I write the post specifically about SRS in a couple of weeks.

    Thanks!

  • splogsplog

    I use ANKI, but found that it was a pain being tied to the computer. My use of ANKI increased dramatically when I downloaded the version for my mobile phone. This means I can now use ANKI anytime, anywhere. It is like having a personalised, intelligent, phase book with you.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Hey Anthony!! Glad to see you back, we've missed you :)

    I agree – these experiments to me are to improve my learning strategy, but that aspect of being tied to my computer is something I dislike. I have an iPhone, but it's been somewhat difficult finding an app that I like (due to Apple's extremely restrictive programming strategy making it hard to develop a version for their OS – I can't wait to be able to afford to get an Android phone), so I'm going to try the browser based version of Anki while out and about. I hope it's fast enough! This would help a lot, as I'd rather be studying on the U-Bahn to parties to speak with people, rather than cooped in my flat that I spend too much time in already…

    Hope all is well! :)

  • splogsplog

    Hi Benny,

    You are right, there are versions of ANKI for the iPhone, but they are a bit of a pain to get working: http://ichi2.net/anki/#iphone

    There is also BYKI for the iPhone, which is similar to ANKI, but it does cost money: http://www.byki.com/iphone/iphone.html

    If it helps, I made a little video recently comparing (very briefly) BYKI and ANKI (including ANKI on my phone): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbJTrmZf_lE

    Cheers
    Anthony

  • http://www.italienischassoonaspossible.com Steffen

    Hey djc 463.
    I totally agree with you: this discussion is ridiculous. I am quite new to the sphere of language learning blogs (most blogs I use to read I have discovered more less recently with the exception of AJATT which I have been following for quite some time) and this atmosphere is really surprising me. I feel like in a football match.
    Personally my aims are quite simple: trying to learn languages (and have fun both in learning and using them).
    I would generalize it even more: my aim is to have a good time!
    Therefore by now I stopped reading the comments concerning the personalized debate that convey mostly negative energy in my opinion. Instead I focus on what I am here for (and on other blogs): interesting input concerning methods of learning and daily motivation in doing so. I don't know why, but actually I often see connections between language learning and Personal Development (as on my beloved AJATT ;) ).

    Oh and I agree on one other thing: Benny, leave your flat and have a conversation in German! Time is running out ;).

  • William

    Well, I didn't say that it didn't work for me… though I did uninstall it a while back cuz I wasn't using it, so I guess it wasn't. But I think that has a lot to do with the fact I don't want to be sitting in front of my computer.

    anyhow I recently re-installed it. and I would say it is very feature-filled and can do all sorts of things, and has all kinds of resources.

    maybe I don't get the system but I'll either click on the fourth button cuz I don't want to see the card again, click on the first button cuz I've no idea what the card means, or click on one of the two in the middle… but then what sense does it make if I don't then come back every day and go through all the cards the program gives me? even with portable flashcards I don't get to them every day(on a phone or whatever). and with Anki on the computer I don't often get to it more than once a week.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I love your FSM PC background :D Great video, thanks Anthony!!

    I paid for BYKI for the iPhone and have used it, but got through it very quickly as it just focuses on basic vocabulary, a lot of which I was already familiar with. You can only use their pre-selected decks on the iPhone – you can't import unfortunately. To be honest I don't like the BYKI presentation strategy, and the PC version you showed does not seem any different.

    I've been through that page and even with a jailbroken iPhone I have had no luck using Anki. The only option seems to be through Safari, which I'll try but I have a feeling will be quite slow. As I said, I can't wait to get rid of this closed device. Great intro to SRS, cheers!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Update – I tried again (there was a server issue before) and the jailbroken app is working!! It operates via Safari, but works offline and can synchronise with online servers.

    Yay, I don't have to wait until I get my Android device :D I can review Anki's usefulness on the go – awesome :)

  • http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/ Street-Smart Language Learning

    I'm not with you on this one, Benny. Without getting into the merits of your reasons for blocking Steve, I think as a matter of principal comments should be left open and free, even if that means that they get chaotic sometimes.

    And even if Steve is trolling, I don't see why that's a bad thing. Once you have trolls, you've made it as a blogger!

    (Note: I have not yet made it as a blogger. Trolls are welcome.)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Sceptics are definitely expected (what I aim for is sometimes even ridiculously ambitious).
    Trolls are unfortunately part of the faceless aspect of the Internet.
    People saying things I don't like is a fact of life.

    But I will NOT accept the level of abuse Steve has given me. He has used his blog as a platform to attempt to destroy my character. He has gone way beyond wearing my patience thin.

    Comments are free for everyone, but if someone sends me waves of insults then they lose my respect as a person and no longer deserve to write on MY blog. They may continue to spread lies about me elsewhere and there is little I can do about that.

    However, there has to be a point where you tell people to shut up when they are on your turf if all they are doing is attacking you. It has nothing to do with differing opinions, it's consistent public character slander over several weeks. The story in these comments is only the tip of the iceberg and not part of the entire story. Steve the commenter AND Steve the blogger are banned.

    I understand that a lot of people won't agree with this, but unless Steve apologises and dramatically changes his tune he is not welcome here.

  • leigh

    I believe you can import byki decks of your o wn onto the iphone but you have to have on your desktop the $80 version or whatever it is that allows you to create your own decks and upload them into your account. I personally haven't bothered because I don't think BYKI Deluxe is worth the money, not when you can get an anki client for nearly free or the (non anki, google-docs based) google flashcard app for free. I don't much care for BYKI anyway; there are lots of duplicates within their card sets and I much prefer SRS. But it can apparently be done.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Leight! Good to know the option is there. But as I say below I figured out how to get it to work for Anki and it's working great!! I don't like the BYKI set-up – strange that the free option with Anki is better for me than the paid alternative!

  • http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/ Street-Smart Language Learning

    To paraphrase your own advice above, “the best solution is to accept for yourself that Steve is an idiot or whatever you want to think” and to not worry about it. I still don't think the blunt hammer of censorship needs to be broken out.

    I'd recommend attacking Steve's method as you see fit, and ignoring the rest. It's that kind of debate that will be of use to language learners, regardless of who they end up agreeing with. Indeed, if this is truly the end of the discussion between you and Steve, I myself am a bit disappointed because, vitriolic aside, the debate about how to learn a language was interesting.

    (And I have to admit that I'm also a bit disappointed that I won't be able to use that stupid photoshopped image in any more posts.)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Quite a lot of people told me that they found this whole exchange very amusing, but I wish people would actually look at it from my perspective. It's been stressful for me to see so much being said against me publicly.

    Steve hasn't given up – he will definitely mention me on his site many many more times. He has found a formula for guaranteed comments from his groupies. You can use the image again I'm sure, but it will just be of his attacks, not my defences. Steve is an annoying bug that I will just have to learn to ignore. That would be way harder if he kept coming back here and appearing in my inbox.

    This was never an interesting debate about language learning. It was a soap opera or a car crash that people would slow down to peep at. Any drama is fun to watch from the outside.

    I don't like your suggestion at all of attacking Steve's method. His method works for him and for other people. I have absolutely no problem with people using methods other than mine, and pointing out holes in people's approaches when they clearly work for them is not what I started a blog for.

  • http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/ Street-Smart Language Learning

    You do have a point in that his method works for some. I suppose I should refine my suggestion to say that you (indeed, all of us) should (a) attack it where it can be improved and (b) help people figure out if it, or some other method, is the method that would work for them. Actually, that goes for any method anybody's suggesting, including yours and mine.

    Believe it or not, there was a debate going back and forth between the two of you, it was just surrounded by a bunch of fireworks. That debate was what I was tuning in for. It's a shame the fireworks brought that to an end, but I don't think anyone can blame you for removing yourself from the conversation if it was getting to you that much.

  • leigh

    I can understand why you're frustrated, but I don't think that the comments on his blog make you look bad. I have repeatedly seen Steve making faulty assumptions using sloppy statistics (once claiming that a national spelling bee was “a major part” of a Canadian literacy initiative and longer ago claiming that the cost per capita per year of a particular initiative was the total dollars divided by the number of people served before that initiative – ignoring that the new initiative might serve more people and that the budget isn't a one-year budget.) and simplifications of his opponents' viewpoint. He has a genius for self-promotion and does this all the time. Anyone with an eye can see it.
    My point being that anyone who isn't a sycophant is not going to read this and think badly of you. People consider the source. I added your blog to my rss feed having re-discovered it after one of Steve's posts on it, and having found your blog useful and interesting. Honestly, don't let yourself get stressed out over this. It isn't a negative reflection on you.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    OK, thanks for the support and encouragement ;)

  • Jeff

    Benny,

    I read the review. Twice. I think you did a good job of looking at LingQ. You pointed out what worked for you and where it fell flat, as a good review should. You didn't slam it or get personal or snarky, either — unlike he-whose-name-shall-no-longer-be-mentioned-here. You were fair, and looked at LingQ from your perspective and with your learning style in mind. Which is all you can do really.

    Keep doing what you're doing. And stop reading these comments and get back to working on your German!

  • GiveMeABreak

    Get over yourself pal — you're not doing the company any favours with that attitude.

    One of Benny's main criticisms of the site was that lots of the site's features aren't explained well at all, and a lot of people agree with that.

    By providing the “missing manual” for your site, Benny is doing you a massive favour, because the confusing interface is a massive turnoff to many.

  • Anonymous

    The only problem I can find with it so far is that the translations are not accurate. You may find “ayudarme” and the translation will merely say “to help”.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      It goes beyond this – sometimes the translations are not in the right language because of limitations of the interface. So “ayudar” could be translated to “aider” (for example) even if you don’t speak any French.

  • Jill

    Hello! I’ve just found Lingq & have come to the same conclusions about using it intelligently.
    However, as you say, one does need grammar. Not only grammar, but also a way of entering the language (Italian in my case) at a level that is more than (and often quite other than) a mere sum of  dictionary definitions.  And I can’t find it on the net.
     I’m pretty sure grammar is the number 1 reason for people not daring to think they’re  ‘ready’.
    I live in Italy and people are very patient with my lack of it – but I’m certainly not.
    So – can you offer any amusing links to grammar quizzes or the like? It could be a brilliant subject to offer.
    Best wishes,
    Jill

  • Jill

    Hello! I’ve just found Lingq & have come to the same conclusions about using it intelligently.
    However, as you say, one does need grammar. Not only grammar, but also a way of entering the language (Italian in my case) at a level that is more than (and often quite other than) a mere sum of  dictionary definitions.  And I can’t find it on the net.
     I’m pretty sure grammar is the number 1 reason for people not daring to think they’re  ‘ready’.
    I live in Italy and people are very patient with my lack of it – but I’m certainly not.
    So – can you offer any amusing links to grammar quizzes or the like? It could be a brilliant subject to offer.
    Best wishes,
    Jill

  • Jeff Winchell

    I started using Lang-8 the last week after seeing your links to it. Since it came from Japan, there’s no surprise that the asian languages are quite dominant there (as well as English). Other language pairs can take a while. (My main focus in writing is in German). So I also looked for another site.

    Italki.com  seems to be the only real competitor.  I do like that Lang-8 is focused on writing. It does a better job than italki. Though maybe Italki has more users (who don’t all write, so I can’t say which has more writers).

    Right now I am using both sites. Maybe LingQ will be my third.

  • http://twitter.com/LWT_Project Learning with Texts

    Thank you for adding a new preface to your LingQ review and recommending LWT from now!

    ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/LWT_Project Learning with Texts

    Thank you for adding a new preface to your LingQ review and recommending LWT from now!

    ;-)

  • William Lucas

    Hi Benny
    I came across the Lingq site yesterday with the aim of learning Japanese. I played around with it for a while, but needed more clarification and description of how it works. Yours was the top-of-the-list result after googling ‘Lingq review’. I appreciate the work that you’ve put into the report. It helped me a great deal. I may hang around and pick up some more of your tips.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Megan-Attrill/100001445033016 Megan Attrill

    I’m a bit sad to hear that you had recieved some negative comments regarding your thoughts on LingQ, as I believe there is enormous value in being given an in-depth, honest review… free of charge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ross.morel.9 Ross Morel

    I don’t understand the beef between you and steve, but i think you guys both have extremely useful tips for learning a new language, i guess you guys have different approaches that you both feel passionately about. Anyway, a very good and very true review (i am a user of lingq and have been for a few weeks), i feel that your criticisms were fair and you made a fair analysis of the benefits of using lingQ. I’m learning french, with the aid of a native speaker, and using lingq for most of my private study (as i find the interface really user friendly, and the amount of resources is better than i have seen before).

    I think lingQ doesn’t do enough to make you actually speak, but it’s great (as you say) for reading and listening practice. the vanity badge is a bit silly, but i have had previous experience with the language (my grandfather was french and i spent a few months in france as a child) so my level is actually above that of my vanity badge, its just i have forgotten so much of the basics which is the reason why i use lingQ. The badge is just silly though, far too vague, and it lets you get away with just knowing the word passively.

    Thanks for a great review, Benny :)

    Ross

  • mike

    i wrote to steve asking him to use a word for word translation and he said he wasn’ t interested .like u said u cannot just learn a sentence literally when u use separable verbs .ive been using vera birkenbihls method of ” word for word translation ” for over 15 years .it was the breakthrough i was looking for .i was left frustrated using flash cards because at the start u dont know enough grammar to test yourself .her method is great ! its 100 percent easier to learn the chinese phrase ni hao ma? as ” u good question particle ?” ( how are u ? ) as just how are u ? as u know yourself how is not even used in the phrase !!! assimil has a variation on her method with word for word translations when needed .i find them to be the best books on the market .i wondered if anything else has good experiences using this method .i disagree with u over the pimsleur method though .i think its great for a beginner .it gives u structure in the language and the repetitions help u solidify your knowledge .yes , u are right , there isnt enough vocabulary but maybe they could improve their system by adding courses 4 , 5 or 6 .i learned japanese and chinese using pimsleur and i swear by it.i ve been learning languages for nigh on 25 years and speak seven and understand a lot of swedish , norwegian and danish .i use pimsleur and assimil for audio and text , watch films and comedy for audio , use paper for doing my word for word translations and for the grammatical aspects i use software mindmaps .mindmaps , i find are much better for everything .they are flexible ( i can add points later and keep everything in the one place ) , they take up no space ( very important sonce im trying to learn so many more languages ! )

  • mike

    and i find they are more memorable ( lots of colour ) .what are ur thoughts on word for word translations and have u ever used mind maps to learn languages ? also .dont u find its difficult using flash cards from the beginning when u dont know much about the grammar ? i have to say i used them for years but only for difficult stuff .keep up the good work .nice to see a paddy doing well ! from a anglo irish man in hamburg

  • mike

    oh i forgot to mention .learning separable german verbs is easy if learn word by word .” Fahren Sie ab ? ” would be ” leave 1. you ( polite form ) leave 2″ ( are you leaving ? ( polite form ).

  • Amanda Patterson

    I’ve just discovered LingQ recently and although it definitely has many of the issues you pointed out for non-european languages (I use it for my low-intermediate korean in addition to advanced Spanish and beginning Swedish), I think you should re-visit it as a lot of things have obviously changed in four years.

  • James Register

    Needs updating, I tried lang-8 and you have to pay now after 2 journal posts

  • Captn jackboot

    I can get a real life language tutor in my city for 15-25$ per hour. The price on lingq for an online tutor is a ripoff.