I really wanted to do a review for LingQ, and I wound up doing a long and crazy post about things that didn’t have much to do with LingQ. As such, I am redoing this post in hopes of better clarifying what LingQ is and how well it works.
For starters, anyone even remotely familiar with Steve Kauffman will know that he’s a huge supporter of what is normally called the input method. That basically means that you learn a language simply through exposure to it. No grammar drills, just listening, reading, and anything else you can think of that will expose you to the language. As such, that is exactly what LingQ strives to do.
The most frustrating thing about learning an Asian language through the input method, in my opinion, is that if you’re reading a book or a non-editable pdf, if you come across a kanji you’re not sure how to read, you can’t just type it into a dictionary. That frustrates me a lot! That’s why LingQ is so good about that. You just hover your mouse over a word and read the hiragana and romajii for it, not to mention get the definition of the word.
Unfortunately, as this thumbnail shows here, LingQ does make some mistakes. In this image “sai” is mistranslated. 89Sai actually means 89-years-old. The other big problem, and this exists solely in Asian languages, is that some words may be split apart into two words, in which case you typically won’t get a definition for either of them.
For example, 勉強します may be split into 勉強 します. To remedy this, just highlight the whole word and LingQ will give you the definition for it instead of trying to define two seperate words. It’s a pain, and this trick doesn’t necessarily work 100% of the time, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Here’s an image of an Italian lesson, and while my Italian is not as good as it should be, I do know enough to say that in this very beginner’s reading there aren’t any mistakes like you find in Japanese. It’s perfect, actually.
I wouldn’t let the mistakes get to you, though. Since it’s free to register, you can always go ahead and become a member and quit if you decide you don’t like it without being out of anything. I personally use LingQ on occassion. I really wish that Finnish and Norwegian were offered on it (maybe someday), but for now there’s a good selection of languages, and Japanese and Chinese will probably be worked on so that the mistakes are eliminated or at least diminished.
What does LingQ offer right now?
And that’s a pretty good list!
There’s also a forum with the free membership, and if you’re willing to pay there’s a few other features, such as having your writing corrected or conversation practice, but that’s all stuff you can get for free elsewhere. Just head over to Lang-8 and type some posts to be corrected, make friends with native speakers, and video chat with them. Yes, you can work around LingQ to keep it free.
So head on over and support the site. Like I said, there’s a few gripes I have with it, but all in all I endorse it, especially if you’re learning a non-Asian language.