LingQ is an online language program that offers a wide range of learning materials aimed to teach you a new language using media that you already enjoy. This program includes loads of opportunities for reading and listening practice, which are vital for those seeking to become truly fluent in their target language.
With audiobooks, news articles, podcasts, and more, LingQ has a lot to offer. You can find materials about nearly every subject, and you can import your own learning materials if what they have doesn’t suit your needs.
Although this may not be one of the most well-known language learning programs, it has been around for over ten years and has a loyal following. Some reviewers absolutely love it; they say that they have used this program to learn multiple languages. On the other hand, some say that it has merit but also many flaws.
With such mixed reviews, I decided it was time for me to do some research and see what LingQ has to offer. Come along with me while I take an in-depth look at all the ends and outs of this unique program. Before we get too far along, here’s a quick look at my main likes and dislikes.
LingQ offers learning materials in 34 languages:
Plus a few more that are in the early Beta stages.
Initial Thoughts Of LingQ
My initial thought upon signing up was that there is a lot going on with this program. The app is a little more organized than the online version, but the layout is still very busy and overcrowded. I appreciate that they are trying to offer a lot of material in a small space but it is a bit overwhelming at first.
Thankfully, there is a Getting Started section that helps to alleviate some of the confusion, so I recommend starting there. This guide does not explain everything though, so be prepared to spend a little time finding your way around.
Once I got past the initial confusion, I did find the program to be interesting and unique in a few ways. Although I have tried many language programs that offer similar services, this one has the best reading lessons that I have experienced.
The LingQ Reader is by far the best feature of the app. There are a lot of other random features, but they seem like extraneous additions. I think I would have enjoyed the program quite a bit more if they removed these extras and just focused on improving the reading part of the application.
Signing Up For LingQ
Signing up for this program is as simple as can be. LingQ is available online as well as on Android and Apple devices. For this review, I used both the online and Android version.
When signing up through the app, you simply have to answer a few questions to get started. You’ll be asked what language you would like to study and what level you would like to start at: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced. Don’t worry too much about which to choose, you can change both your language and levels at any time.
Next, you‘ll be asked how much time you would like to study each day and what type of studying materials you enjoy. This includes a wide range of options such as books, podcasts, health, science, and more. You can choose as many as you like. Your choices will help LingQ to create your custom lesson plan.
Lastly, you’ll be able to create a unique ID or use a previously existing account such as your Google, Facebook, or Apple account. If you choose to create an account unique to LingQ, you will need to provide your name and email address and create a username and a password.
At this point you will be asked if you would like to activate a premium account. The premium account includes access to all of the apps features such as unlimited access to lessons and learning materials. There are many extra features that I’ll go over later in this article, but I would recommend trying the free version before making any purchases.
The Getting Started segment is easy to find on the app as it is at the top of the main menu. If you’re using the online version, it is a little less obvious. You’ll have to look in the profile menu which can be found in the top right hand corner of the main page.
Interestingly, the online version and the app version are different. The app version begins with LingQ 101 which is a step-by-step guide to how to navigate the LingQ Reader. This is a hands on approach that would be helpful for those who want to jump right in and start learning.
For those who would like a more in-depth look at LingQ's teaching methods, they have the online beginners guide. This starts with a video series about why the LingQ founder, Steve Kaufmann, feels that his language learning method is the most effective.
The online Getting Started Guide has eleven steps with each step containing multiple videos that cover each function of the program. Personally, this feels like overkill especially for a program that is supposed to make language learning faster and easier.
The app version contains fifteen sets of videos although some of them are language specific, so they vary depending on the language you choose.
If you want to skip the excess and learn the essential elements quickly, then I suggest going through the LingQ 101 section on the app. For the online version, you’ll want to look through Step Two of the guide.
The LingQ Reader
As previously mentioned, the LingQ Reader is the main function of the program, so I want to go over some of its features before we talk about the extras.
The Getting Started Guide on the app is the perfect way to try out the reader and see how it works. Each lesson comes with audio and transcripts, so you can either read the lesson on your own or listen to it and read along.
When you open your first lesson, all the words in the transcript will be highlighted in blue. This means that this is the first time you have encountered these words within the program. As you read through each section, you can select the words that you don’t know to see a translation.
The translations are nice because it doesn’t just show one option or a long dictionary-like explanation. It will show multiple concise options for you to look over. This is especially helpful with languages like Spanish where a single word can mean a myriad of things.
Once you select the translation that you feel best fits the situation, that word becomes one of your “LingQs”. This means that it will be added to your list of words to review later. It will then be highlighted in yellow whenever you encounter that word in future lessons.
If you encounter that word a lot and no longer need to be reminded of its meaning, you can unselect it and remove it from your review list.
After you have read through a page and selected the words you want to review, the rest of the words will no longer be highlighted, meaning these are words that you know. None of these words will be highlighted in your future lessons, but don’t worry, you can change this at any time.
This is a great way of improving your reading confidence. When you open a new lesson and see that none of the words are highlighted, you’ll know that this is going to be an easy lesson for you. If you see a lot of blue highlighting, you will know that you’re going to be learning something new!
There are a few features that you can use to make your reading experience even more enjoyable.
As previously mentioned, you can listen to the audio version while you read to help with listening practice. You can listen at normal speed, or you can slow down the audio to make sure you don’t miss anything. You can also rewind in 5 second increments or put the audio on repeat, so you can listen to it a few times without interruption.
There are a few layout options that you can change as well. You can view the transcripts in paragraphs or have it broken down into single sentences. You can also view a full translation of the transcript if you need to.
Under the settings you will find options like Dark Theme, auto grammar tagging, autocreate LingQs, font size, and so on. There are eight features that you can customize to ensure that your experience fits your learning style.
Overall, I enjoyed using this reader because it was so much easier than trying to bounce back and forth between my reading material and a dictionary or Google translate. All of the translations are right there meaning you never lose your place.
Another nice feature about this program is that you can upload your own material. You can import web pages, blogs, textbooks, and more. You can even import ebooks if you have them.
When you import materials, you can choose whether to make the content public or private. Of course, they ask that you keep all of your materials to yourself unless you have express permission to share them.
Not all users abide by this rule because I did find several pieces that were most likely being used outside of their copyright permissions. If you choose to use the import function, please be sure to follow this rule so that you do not risk being banned from the program.
Navigating The Platform
This platform has a lot going on, so I won’t be able to give you every little detail, but I would like to touch on each section just to help you get an idea of what to expect. Because most users will probably be accessing this program from their smartphones, I’m only going to discuss the Android app.
The Main Menu
The main menu, or Library, is the first page you will see when you open the app. This menu includes all your main features: Getting Started, Popular Lesson Feed, Search, Podcasts, Books, and News to Import.
Getting Started includes all of the beginner lessons including the guide to the app and some easy lessons for beginner language learners. This differs by language so the number of lessons per section varies.
Popular Lesson Feed is where you will spend most of your time after you have completed the beginners’ guides. This feed includes all of the popular lessons available at that moment. This is a bit confusing because the lessons do not seem to be sorted in any particular order. You can narrow your search by fluency level. It ranges from Beginner 1 to Advanced 2, but that seems to be the only sorting criteria available for this section.
Search gives you significantly more control over the results if you’re looking for a particular type of lesson. You can search by name, genre, a specific subject, and more. Once you enter your search term, you can narrow your search using a variety of criteria including fluency level, popularity, and resources.
Podcasts is where you can find all the podcasts available through the app. The number of podcasts varies based on language, but there seems to be at least a few for each of the more popular languages such as French, Italian, and Spanish.
Books includes all of the books that have been uploaded to the platform. As you can imagine the books also differ by language with some languages having much more variety than others.
News to Import allows you to view daily headlines and import news articles in your target language. This gives you a chance to catch up on the news and learn at the same time.
Right below the main menu you will find a list of your recently viewed lessons. This makes it easy to pick up right where you left off.
Other Sections of The App
Below your recently viewed lessons you will find more tabs that will help you navigate the app. These tabs include Library, My Lessons, Vocabulary, Playlist, and More.
The Library tab simple takes you back to the main menu.
My Lessons allows you to go over all the lessons that you have accessed so far. Every lesson you start will be added to this tab including unfinished lessons. Each lesson will be marked with how many words you added to your review list and how many new words there were in the lesson. This section will also show you how many coins you’ve earned and how many LingQs you’ve collected that day.
Vocabulary is where all your LingQs go. This section will show all the words you’ve saved and whether it is time to review them or not. You can review your LingQs at any time even if they aren’t due. Simply go to the tab and select Review. You will then be presented with a variety of practice exercises such as multiple-choice questions, fill in the blanks, and flashcards.
Playlist is simply the audio version of My Lessons. Every audio lesson you listen to will be recorded here for later review.
Finally, the More section includes most of the features you would expect to find in your profile such as a profile picture and account settings. You can also find Challenges, Grammar Guide, and the LingQ Forum under this tab.
Although that covers the majority of the app, there are few odds and ends left to go over.
Across the top of the main screen, you’ll see icons that indicate your learning streak, your coins, the language you’re learning, and the number of words you’ve learned so far.
The learning streak indicator is pretty standard for most language apps, although I did notice something a bit odd with this one. It has a timer on it. Most of these streak counters are based on your time zone and go from midnight to midnight, but not this one. This one reset in the middle of the afternoon. Not a huge deal, but a bit odd all the same.
The learning streak indicator is in the shape of an apple. The look of the apple will change according to how active you are on your LingQ account. If you aren’t active enough, you will end up with a shriveled apple core. On the other hand, if you're very active you could earn a golden apple.
The coins are the silliest art of the program. They are clearly there to provide a touch of gamification to the program, but the whole thing just comes off as silly. The only thing the coins are good for is buying accessories for LingQ Avatar.
Your avatar is a little, fuzzy muppet-sort of character that hatches out of an egg and grows as you learn. You can choose the color of your little alien as well as buy it outfits and other random accessories.
For those of us old enough to have enjoyed Tomagotchi Giga Pets, this may be a fun little addition to the learning experience. Personally, I felt like it was just too much extra stuff added on top of an already busy platform.
What Version Is Best?
With the massive price differences between each plan, it is important to look at some of the differences before deciding which plan is best for you.
The free version allows you to go through most of the main features but with limited access. For example, you can only save 20 LingQs a day. After you reach that limit you can no longer see translations or save words to your review list. You will also be limited to five imports per day.
The Premium plan gives you unlimited vocabulary words and imports as well as a few extras such as offline lessons and printables. You will also receive advanced statistics about your learning experience and some additional activities.
The Premium Plus plan comes with all the features of the Premium plan with the addition of 3000 LingQ points that can be used for live lessons, writing corrections, and Premium Lessons. The points are worth $0.01 each and can be purchased separately from your subscription.
From what I can see, the Premium Plus plan is not worth the extra money at all. Firstly, it is more than four times as expensive as the Premium plan for only three extra features. Secondly, the extra features are extremely limited; you only receive $30 worth of points to spend which would barely cover two tutoring sessions without any writing corrections or Premium lessons.
If you are more comfortable sticking with one program for all your language learning, you can always just buy points separately as you need them. Personally, I would skip the live lessons and writing corrections on this platform and use some of the other great options out there.
Drawbacks To LingQ
Like every program, LingQ has a few drawbacks.
The biggest drawback for me was the clunky platform. Everything is a bit overcrowded like they are trying to squeeze a bit too much onto every page. Navigating the program is also too cumbersome. A program with one main feature should not require an 11 step guide to navigate.
The other main drawback is the cost. The Premium plan is reasonable if you purchase a 12 or 24 month subscription, but some students would find it very difficult to make a large payment like that all at once.
The Premium Plus plan is simply overpriced especially when you consider that the extra features are drastically limited. There are other programs on the market that include these “extra” features in their subscriptions, so I find it a bit unreasonable to expect members with a Premium Plus subscription to pay extra on top of their subscription for features that should be included.
If feedback from native speakers is what you’re looking for, you should try Busuu. Busuu is available online as well as on Android and iOS. This program provides short informative lessons, loads of helpful practice exercises, and plenty of feedback from other users. They even offer live lessons with friendly tutors.
italki is the place to go if you require a quality language tutor. italki has over 10,000 tutors from around the world for very reasonable prices. They even have tutors for some of the more obscure languages.
HelloTalk is another great option for language learners who are looking for a native speaker to chat with. HelloTalk works as a language exchange program which means you can help others learn your language while you learn theirs.
LingQ Review: Final Thoughts
Overall, I like the idea of LingQ, but I think it could use a little work. The platform is simply too crowded and disorganized. There is also a strange lack of original content for a program that has been around for over a decade.
I love the LingQ Reader and would like to keep using that for my reading practice, but I am not sure that I like it enough to pay for a subscription just yet.
Being able to import your own practice materials is pretty awesome, but in some cases I think it is a little risky considering the number of people sharing materials they probably shouldn’t be.
This program would be a good choice for anyone who needs to improve their reading skills such as those who are learning a new language for business or school. I would encourage these language learners to choose the Premium plan because it will have all the features they need.
For anyone looking for a more comprehensive language program, I would give this one a pass. It doesn’t offer the flexibility or ease of use that you can find in other programs that are free or at least substantially less expensive.
Don’t just take my word for it though, if LingQ still sounds intriguing then you should give it a try. The free version may be somewhat limited, but it will still give you a good idea of whether it will fit your needs or not. No matter what program you choose, just remember to practice every day and never give up.