What’s your favorite app to learn languages?… Mine is LingQ without a doubt.
And since there’s a new version (5.0) available now, I thought it was a great opportunity to review it.
In this blog post, we’ll go through some of the reasons why I think you should be using LingQ to learn languages, as well as present you the things I don’t like about the app.
My goal with this review is to describe how LingQ works and my opinion about this service.
It will help you to make a conscious choice on how this app may help you learn a new language.
More importantly though, for readers of this blog:
Will it help you learn or improve your Spanish?
Let’s find out…
P.S. If you want to try LingQ for free (which I highly recommend), you may do it over here.
Affiliate Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links, which are links that will take you to external products that I’ve tested myself. If you decide to make a purchase of any of those products, I’ll earn a commission for suggesting the product at no extra cost to you. I only add these links when I strongly believe that a product is extremely helpful for language learners.
What is LingQ?
LingQ is a whole system for learning languages.
You may access it through a browser from a desktop or you may download the app onto your android or IOS device.
Note: in order to download the new LingQ Update (5.0), I had to update my iPhone to the latest IOS update (15.5), otherwise I would still get the 4.0 version of LingQ.
The whole purpose of LingQ is to help you learn a language through interesting content.
What does that mean?
It means that once you sign up and log in, you’ll have access to a huge library of content in your target language.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, then that will be Spanish.
There are 18 languages on the app available for you to learn.
What’s even more impressive: there are 20 more languages in beta versions.
So likely, we’ll see LingQ’s list of available languages grow in the near future.
Pretty cool, right? But now…
How does LingQ work exactly?
Learning Spanish or any other language on LingQ comes down to one thing:
Learning through context and input.
Input means all the messages we get through a language, like when you listen and read.
This means that you’re not going to have:
- Grammar lessons.
- Or theory.
Instead of that, you’ll have a library full of content in your target language.
The content will be easier or more complex according to the level you have in your new language.
Sometimes it’ll be the news, an interesting article, a video, etc.
Other times you’re going to find a collection of lessons based on stories.
Once you select what you’ll be working on, you’ll get the lesson on a screen they call the reader.
From there you’ll see all the text of the lesson and an audio player.
This is where you’ll be doing all the work to learn your new language.
But let’s take a closer look at these tools so you understand exactly what I’m talking about:
The library is like “the menu” of the content that you want to consume.
In the past, it was a little messy, but since the new 5.0 version of LingQ, they refreshed it and arranged it in an easier-to-understand structure.
It looks like if you were going to pick a movie from Netflix or HBOmax.
Everything is organized by categories and horizontal lines of thumbnails showing you all the lessons available.
As I said before, these lessons are basically content based on your interests.
Some of them are imported to LingQ from YouTube, newspapers, and blogs online.
There’re also collections of lessons and courses that seem to be made by tutors from the community of LingQ.
Personally, I like these lessons more because they offer a little more structure than just picking random content from the library.
Like the course, that I’m going through right now to learn Portuguese.
It’s called called “Meu diário”, in which you’ll hear a Brazilian woman talking about her everyday life, and what she’s doing each day.
It’s helped me a lot to increase my vocabulary on daily stuff.
LingQ offers mini-stories as well, which I’m also using to improve my Portuguese.
It’s very similar to the stories I do for my Spanish students.
You hear a story told with short statements and then questions so you can answer them out loud.
This is great to help you develop fluency and to train your brain to respond automatically to Spanish.
Bring More Content To The Library
One of the most powerful tools that LingQ has to offer is the option of importing content from other platforms.
This will allow you to use external content with the help of LingQ’s tools.
With your premium account, you’ll be able to import:
- YouTube videos
- Articles from newspapers
- Blog posts
- Or even ebooks in your target language.
This tool is great, but for videos, it still needs some improvements.
At least in Portuguese, they should fix some issues. Perhaps for other languages, it works flawlessly, I’m not sure though.
The problem is that for some videos, the transcription won’t be 100% accurate to what is being said in the video.
However, I’m not saying that it’s useless, It will help you understand most of the YouTube videos that you import anyway.
Now, in past versions of the app importing was a bit confusing, but with the latest update, it’s just a matter of a couple of clicks to bring your favorite content to LingQ.
Actually, they even offer a free chrome extension.
So if you happen to be browning the internet and stumble upon a video or an article in your target language, you may use this tool to take it to your “language learning lab” at LingQ.
Personally, I’ve been importing YouTube videos from a Brazilian YouTube channel in which they tell the life stories of famous soccer players.
For me, doing this is way more interesting than if I had to take a grammar lesson.
I learn Portuguese as a hobby and if I had to sit down and learn it from a textbook I’m sure my motivation would be gone.
In other sincere words, I wouldn’t be learning it.
Of course, I’m not saying that everyone is going to feel the same way I do regarding language learning.
But I just want to highlight that interesting content at LingQ’s helps you stay motivated and engaged in your learning.
The reader is like your office, workspace, or “the classroom”.
This is where all the magic happens; where you put all the work to learn the language.
The design is simple and it’s easy to use.
You’ll see a white background with the text or the transcription of the content or the lessons that you’ll be having in your target language.
You may also change the white background to a dark theme in your settings, which is a new function of the latest update they made to LingQ.
This is good for the eyes of those of us who read in the dark before falling asleep.
How The Reader Works
When you open a new lesson in LingQ, you’ll see that there are a bunch of words highlighted in blue, which means that you don’t know the words.
When you click each word, you’ll find its meaning, different dictionaries to make clarifications, related phrases, and a space to add notes if you want.
You will find a score as well, which you’ll use to tell LinQ how familiarized are you with words.
The score goes from 1-4, and this is what each number means.
- It’s a new word for you.
- You recognize it.
- You’re familiar with it.
- You learned the word.
After you go through each word, it will turn yellow, which means that you just learned it.
I really like this way of arranging what you know already or what’s new to you.
Nonetheless, I would prefer that instead of numbers, there was something more intuitive like buttons literally saying “I know this word”, “I’m familiar with this word”, etc…
In the reader, you’ll also find a function to review every lesson or piece of content that you go through.
This review is done through flashcards and spaced repetition.
As you review, LingQ also scores how familiar you are with each term.
I guess it does that based on how many repetitions you’ve had of the specific word you’re presented with.
It gives you the option to score it yourself as well, so it’s not completely up to the system.
I have to mention that when using LingQ in my browser and during the reviews of my Portuguese lessons, I came across several bugs in the app:
- Like the review showing me the wrong meanings of words
- The app crashing all of the sudden
- And statements from the lessons that didn’t fit the screen of my phone correctly.
It didn’t happen too often, but I think it’s honest to mention that I had these kinds of issues.
Now, almost all lessons created in LinQ have an audio version, which requires another great tool that has been improved with the new 5.0 update:
The audio player
The new audio player is way more intuitive than before.
It offers all the basic functions of today’s Internet requirements:
- Play – Pause
- Rewind – Fast forward (5 seconds)
- Play on repeat (which is essential for language learning I must say)
- Speed up or Slow down
However, the most remarkable feature of this player is the “Show synchronized text”, which will show you the text being highlighted as you play the audio of a lesson.
Some kind of karaoke-style for listening and reading at the same time.
However, I must say that this function still lacks synchronization with lots of lessons.
The Portuguese course that I’m taking, for example, does not work with this function, so we’ll have to wait for them to improve this function to fit all lessons I guess.
Other lessons like the new mini-stories work perfectly, which is one of the courses that I’ve enjoyed the most to learn and practice my Portuguese.
The purpose of the reader and the audio player is very clear in my opinion:
Make the content in your target language understandable and practice through listening.
This reflects Steve Kauffman’s (LingQ’s co-founder) method to learn languages: Lots of listening, reading, and lots of easy-to-understand content.
But What About The Grammar?
For those of you who are grammar lovers, or those who think that you have to master grammar so that you can speak a language fluently, I know that this is a downside:
LingQ is not an app to learn grammar.
You won’t find grammar exercises or in-depth explanations about grammar points.
For me, that’s perfect, I love it.
That’s actually one of the topics that I keep talking about in this blog.
Grammar won’t help you develop fluency, and it won’t help you understand real native speakers.
Instead of grammar, LingQ focuses on reading and listening, which is just the way in which our brains are designed to acquire languages.
If you want to dig deeper into the reasons why I say follow these principles, then I suggest you read my blog post:
However, even though LingQ is not designed to teach you grammar, there’s a section in which you’ll find straight-to-the-point grammar explanations on basic topics.
I think they decided to add this section because as adults, sometimes, we need answers to our questions on how things work the way they do
But if you want me to be honest, this isn’t essential.
I haven’t turned to grammar explanations a single time since I started to learn Portuguese.
Tracking Your Progress
One of the things that I love the most about LingQ is that it has an excellent system to track your progress and how much work you’re putting to learn your target language.
Not only does it track how many words you know, or how many you’re just learning.
- It also shows you how much time you’ve put into listening to your new language
- How many words have you read
- How many words you’ve written
- And how much time you’ve spoken the language.
The app encourages you to spend time with your target language through your streak, which for me has been a huge motivator lately.
Keeping a streak helps you to be willing to expose yourself to the language for a minimum of time every day, which invariably will end up in you making progress.
Now, in order for you to keep your streak, you need to gain coins, and you need to…
Gain Coins & Create LingQs
When you learn a language with LingQ, you start to gain LingQs and coins.
LingQs are the new words that you encounter in your reader.
To create them you just click them and score how much you know them.
Now, coins are some kind of points that you make for everything you do with the language.
- So when you make LingQs, you gain coins.
- If you listen and repeat a lesson, you gain coins.
- If you import and read an article online, you gain them as well.
Those coins will feed your streak and will be a record of how much you’ve worked.
In other words, your streak depends on how many coins you collect while learning the language.
Of course, you can select how many coins will you need to complete your streak every day.
For instance, in my case, I set 50 coins daily, which basically requires 10 or 15 minutes of me learning Portuguese every day.
Easy and achievable!
I think this system is encouraging and it makes more sense than how old versions of LingQ work, in which you spent the coins getting stuff to upgrade an avatar that you had in the app.
In my opinion, the avatar didn’t make much sense and the new usage of coins in this new version of the app is more consistent with what it means to keep a streak.
The LingQ’s Community
I was surprised by how active people are in LingQ, and how many activities we have available in the app to work with other people.
For example, there’s a forum to ask and answer questions about your target language, language learning in general, and how to use the app.
You’ll also find forums in different languages to throw questions in your target language.
However, I didn’t like that it wasn’t very easy to filter the forum’s categories.
I wish there was something to get entries with fewer comments or to check what were the most visited categories by users in the app, which is what I look for whenever I want to interact in forums.
I found that there’s also an option to practice your writing skills; a section called “writing exchange”.
The goal here is to write a text in your target language.
Anything you want to write just for the sake of practice.
You post it, and then wait for someone else to correct your mistakes.
When I participated in this activity and I was surprised to find out that in less than an hour two users had corrected my writing.
Other people continued to do it as time passed, which I consider great because that means that people are there willing to help others, practice, and even connect with other users.
Again, motivation is key when you learn anything in life, and LingQ does a great job posting different challenges every month.
For instance, I enrolled in two of them:
- 1000 word Challenge for Portuguese, which is a challenge to learn your first 1000 words in the language.
- 90-Day Portuguese Challenge, which has the goal to get your desired coins for 90 days in a row.
LingQ even goes further to add some “competition”, using a ranking box in which you’ll see how you’re doing against other users.
Honestly, I really liked this because is not just as if they were saying:
“Here’s a bunch of tools to learn Spanish, do whatever you can to learn”.
Instead of that, the system helps you set goals and encourages you to achieve them.
Also, I’m happy to announce that I completed the 1000 Portuguese challenge but sad to say that I failed my 90-day Portuguese Challenge because I lost my streak on a family weekend.
But I’ll restart it anyway till I complete the 90-days.
Is It Worth The Money?
LingQ is a powerful app to learn languages, and therefore it makes sense that for all the benefits that it offers they charge money for its service.
Currently, they offer three kinds of pricing plans:
- Premium Plus
Obviously, the free version is limited, but still, worth time and money investing, so you can get some content in your target language.
Now the premium plan is my favorite because it offers all the tracking and statistic tools, unlimited LingQs, and access to the import function.
The prices up to June 2022 look like these:
- 1 Month = $12.99
- 6 Months = $71.94
- 12 Months = $191.76
Fair prices for the good results you may get and the progress you can make with an app focused on comprehensible input.
Is It Better Than Taking In-Person Lessons?
I know that if you live in countries like Colombia (where I live), the price might look a little high for an app, but trust me on this:
I’ve been through the classic language lessons in academies in Colombia.
Heck, I even worked for some of them!
But most schools are focused on the old textbook-based methods to learn languages.
Yes, they might be in-person lessons and you’ll have a teacher in front of you, but those lessons won’t be as effective as using a system like LingQ.
At least, not for me…
I say that because LingQ is based on Comprehensible input and Steve Kauffman’s (the founder) experience learning languages.
Some people though, need to see a teacher and classmates around them.
For me, I think that If you’re regular, and you use LingQ correctly, you will make way more progress than taking a course in a classic “English academy” or something similar that is text-book based.
These traditional lessons are expensive, they promise a lot, but their results are very poor.
Now, LingQ also offers the premium plus plan, which aside from all the premium features, offers more lessons, and live tutors to get you the help of an instructor.
Yes, not the same as being in a classroom, but again, it might have more positive results than you can imagine.
I like to learn languages on my own though, and I’m not a fan of hiring teachers, even though I am a Spanish teacher (ironic, right?).
But if you’re someone who likes to have someone else’s guidance then this plan might be ideal for you, it looks like this (up to June 2022):
- 1 Month $39.99
- 6 Months $233.94
- 12 Months $431.88
- 24 Months $839.76
LingQ is an excellent service for independent language learners like me who like to be in control of their own progress.
The best part about it is that it’s totally focused on input and content for you to get exposure to the language, which in my opinion is the best way to learn any language.
If you try LingQ as a total beginner in your target language, then it might make you feel a little overwhelmed, but it doesn’t mean it’s not helpful for beginners as well.
LinQ’s strongest feature in my opinion is the opportunity that it offers you to learn:
- Through context
- Lots of listening
- And reading.
I feel like the app is a perfect fit for high beginners or intermediate language learners who would enjoy its features to the fullest.
To sum up, I want to share the list of the cons and pros that I made after using LingQ for some time now:
- You learn languages through context and input.
- Interesting and fun content.
- You may bring content from external platforms to learn from that using LingQ’s tools.
- Great system to track your progress.
- It offers challenges to motivate your daily learning.
- It’s not grammar-focused.
- 18 Languages to learn, and even more on beta versions.
- The reader is a simple workspace to learn a language, I love how simple to use it is.
- Review system through flashcards and spaced repetition.
- Affordable prices.
- An active community of other language learners.
- You need a bit of time to understand how to use the app to the fullest.
- Some bugs with importing and reviewing lessons.
- It took me a while to get used to calling my new words LingQ’s.
- The karaoke-style audio player is great but it doesn’t work for all lessons.
As for the new LingQ update…
It really feels refreshed, simpler, and easier to understand than before.
I still consider that they can improve the dynamics of how the app works, so it becomes more intuitive.
For instance, calling the new words you learn “LingQs” isn’t very understandable and it might even be confusing when you first begin to use the app.
Of course, you get used to it as you use it, but I think most users like to sign up and jump to learning right away instead of going to the support center to fully understand how everything works, as happened to me.
Now, Despite the things that I feel should be improved, I’m 100% satisfied with the app, and it’s still my favorite app to learn languages in 2022.
I love it for learning Portuguese, and I’m sure that you could get a lot out of it if you use it to learn Spanish or any other language.
If you want to try LingQ for yourself or even consider getting a premium account, you may do it by clicking the button below.