I wanted to write about my experience with LingQ for Chinese Mandarin learning as a beginner. I’m now in HSK3 level going to HSK4 hopefully next month. I’m writing this to help people with my own experience before they pay for it. Again, this was my own experience.
If you don’t know what it is, have a look: [lingq.com](https://lingq.com). Created by Steve Kaufmann, a polyglot.
It’s a website that has a huge and growing variety of not-curated reading material, which you can also listen to. You can keep track of new words, words you know and the level of knowledge of each word. It has an easy access dictionary while you read.
Another perk is that you can upload your own material to study, though it is not easy to setup and may take you time. One of the features is creating LingQs, which means saving new learned words, and try to learn them with time. It has a flash-card system and challenges. You can also pay tutors.
Overall, I have to say I don’t think is suited for beginners in Chinese. There are many reasons and I’ll discuss some.
The website is not easy to navigate. They’ve made some adjustments with the new version, however I still feel it was difficult to search for material. There is a path for newbies but it is not obvious and I had to search for tutorials on YouTube. The phone app was quite bad, now it’s better but not great.
They have some beginner-suited material, but the backbone of LingQ are the Ministories. These are 60 stories in any language, that go from “easy” to “hard”. They are supposed to be suited to learn a new language, which I think they are but are not really made for Mandarin. You can read and listen to them, in a natural voice. They are supposed to be used as repetitive material, and I usually played the ministories while I was doing something else because I already knew the context, but sometimes I would sit down and read and listen to them again.
The problems I found with the ministories in Chinese Mandarin, were that:
1) They were read only by a female voice and no male examples provided. Perhaps not hugely important but it was to me to have some range in pitch.
2) Some of them were read badly, either too fast or the voice was too low. If they’re fast you can slow them down but doesn’t sound very natural, but the low voice was just impossible.
3) The accent varied, sometimes they pronounced “zh” as “z”, etc. As a beginner this was hard to grasp.
4) The dictionary asks you to pick the best definition yourself.
5) People’s names were translations from English. Not bad, but it would be good to get used to common Chinese names instead of Mike.
LingQ has the possibility to use “Sentence Mode”, where you have a full sentence on the page, and you can just read and listen to that complete sentence with natural speech not a TTL voice, which would be great if it worked all the time. It didn’t. I found it very glitchy, sometimes it stopped before it finished or went over another. And these were supposed to be the curated stories. It’s actually worse for your own material and you really need to spend time fixing it for study. They never say it’s perfect though.
As a beginner, the website glitchiness was very troublesome. I mean they have a lot of material but you don’t know where to start, the search algorithm is not good at all, and you feel very confused for a while. Once you get a hang of it is actually ok. But keep in mind, you have to pay 12.99/mo for this service. If it really worked as advertised, with perfectly curated stories, no glitches, voice options, I would pay more for it.
I stopped the service after a year of use because I was not using it anymore to justify the expense. When I tried to cancel, they send you to a page where it asks you if you want a discount, if you say no, they send you to another page where it tells you to pay 3 months in advance and get 50% discount. If you say no again, then it goes on until it tells you that if you don’t pay $2 USD per month, you will loose all your data. If you want to go back eventually, you don’t want to loose your data! So now I’m stuck with paying $2 USD/mo to keep my data intact in case I want to go back.
I apologize if all this sound negative. Anything positive? Yes. If you are NOT a beginner you can actually benefit from uploading your own material, curating it for you own use and learn new words. Just upload the news, a book, a movie, series, anything you want to read. You can upload the sound as an mp3 and adjust the timming to suit your reading. You can also find other material. I think this can be very powerful, at intermediate and advanced levels. Just don’t expect it to be neat or glitchless.
Did it help me? YES, it did. After months of trying to make it work for me, I became really good at listening and reading, because I repeated the ministories daily for at least 1-2 hours for 1 year. But looking back, I think now going into HSK4 it’s when it will really help me advance, so I’m saving it for that time.
I hope this helps other people decide. I would say, pay for 1 or 2 months and see how you like it.
Any thoughts on this? Did I miss something important?
I would like to hear if I’m nuts or if you agree.