My review of LingQ Italian!
Is it worth it? Let’s find out!
Some good readings in all the mess
Lack of focus on reading
The only valuable resources are the readings, but they’re surrounded by distracting features that break the flow of reading and thinking in Italian.
Their vast content library lacks consistency and organization.
- The content is quite diverse and comes from various sources
- Short lessons
- Links to multiple dictionaries
- You can learn any language they offer
- It’s easy to add your own content
- The content is not consistent in terms of format and quality
- Lack of plan and organization of lessons and readings
- Cluttered and distracting user interface
- The word-by-word pronunciation is not human, and indeed, sounds like a robot
- The speakers sound amateurish and have regional accents
- Reviewing words is chaotic
- The live tutoring and writing practice can be found in other places on better terms
Why a review of LingQ Italian
Since I made my Italian readings with slow audio available for subscription, I received feedback from many users who love them and renew their subscription, but also from a few who canceled the membership.
One of the latter wrote to me that they were canceling to sign up for LingQ.
Indeed, LingQ is a big player in the online language-learning market, but I had never thought I would be replaced by them.
In particular, I was taken aback the user’s reasons for preferring LingQ because, to me, those were reasons for not using it at all.
Sadly, many casual learners just don’t know how to learn languages and choose the wrong resources for the wrong reasons.
That’s why I decided to write this review.
What is LingQ?
LingQ has so many features that it’s difficult to say what LingQ is designed for.
Ideally, LingQ is an app to practice reading and listening with a vast collection of real-world material.
In addition, there are flashcards with a spaced repetition system (SRS), dictionaries, live lessons, coins, avatars, challenges…
I guess their intention is to make a language-learning community.
In practice, it looks like a bit of a mess to me.
I’ll tell you why.
Lessons without a course
LingQ lets you explore content and choose what lessons you want to complete.
There are mainly two types of content: readings and lessons.
There’s a huge library of readings and lessons, but they’re hardly related or not related at all.
This is not bad per se, especially for stand-alone readings like stories and news.
However, I’d expect the lessons to follow a plan.
Some structured courses like Duolingo prevent you from accessing advanced lessons until you either complete all the prior lessons or test out of them.
Many other programs, like Ripeti Con Me and Pimsleur, technically don’t prevent you from jumping around at will, but they do set you on a clear learning path.
This is because the material from earlier lessons reappears in later ones, forcing you to recall words and concepts that you’re supposed to be learning. The lessons build on top of one another.
On the contrary, if taken as a course, LingQ lacks a structure and thus lacks repetition (I’m counting flashcards).
Where’s my lesson?
To practice reading, first, you need to choose what you’d like to read.
The Lesson Feed is the first place you’ll land and it’s a bit chaotic.
Lessons seem to be ordered based on the last time someone liked them, which is absurd. I guess they do it to give a sense of community and activity.
You can also filter by difficulty levels or search if there’s something specific you’re looking for.
The Lesson Library gives you a few more filtering options, but it’s still not particularly convenient to browse through.
It was annoying that I didn’t manage to sort the lessons by number.
The next tab you’ll see is My Lessons. These are the lessons that you’ve opened at some point.
Let’s see what reading on LingQ is like.
How does LingQ work?
It’s hard to tell what LingQ wants to do, but the main exercise in LingQ is reading.
If it’s your first time using LingQ, you’ll find all of the words are highlighted in blue.
As you read, you can click on any words that you don’t know and look up their meanings.
If you look up the meaning of a word, then it automatically turns yellow and this is one of your LingQs (a word that you’re learning).
You can also choose to mark the word as known or to ignore it.
As you go to the next page of any reading selection, any words left in blue will become marked as known and turn to white from then on. You can change this though if you’d prefer to manually mark each word in the settings menu.
You can look up words in a variety of external online dictionaries including Reverso and Google Translate.
Above the paragraph, an audio player plays a recording of it by a native speaker. The ones I heard have a strong regional accent and mess up open and closed vowels.
You can pause the audio as needed to look up words. My tip: don’t do that or you lose the flow. When I read something, I only look up words after I read everything once.
There’s a button to slow down the reading if it’s too fast.
Other reviews of LingQ mention various kinds of exercises. I couldn’t find them, so I guess they don’t exist anymore, or at least they were not present in the material I tried out, or they’re hidden somewhere.
Flawed Italian pronunciation
Ironically, every word plays a sound if you click on it to check its pronunciation, but the audio is a dull text-to-speech and as such is useless or even harmful. Google translate sounds infinitely more natural.
The speakers I’ve heard have a strong regional accent and get the vowels wrong (open vs closed).
If you’re serious about new words, you’ll end up with an endless list of yellow words for later review.
Although spaced repetition is a sound method, I’m generally against flashcards, all the more if they’re too many.
Just because you come across a new word, it doesn’t mean that you need to learn it. You can’t just cover everything right away. You’ll feel overwhelmed and lose the flow of reading and thinking in Italian.
This quickly makes LingQ’s SRS review section unusable.
And, anyway, if the system is so smart, it should give you chances to practice those words inside other readings. We learn better in a context that in flashcards!
You never know what to expect in terms of format and quality because the content comes from lots of different places. Little of it is original, while most of the content on LingQ is added by users.
A lot of the user-submitted content was actually made by other commercial resources. That’s clever, I guess. But I wouldn’t be happy to see my content there.
There’s also lots of content from free resources like podcasts, textbooks, other online lessons, books, magazines, and more.
All in all, there’s a lot of interesting material to read and listen to.
Lack of focus
Language-learning material authors that broaden the range of their services end up with products that resemble each other and are not being particularly good at anything.
This is the case with LingQ. You’ll find lessons, LingQs, points, coins, avatars, tutoring, writing exchange. It’s not obvious how everything works, even with the onboarding popup.
The main feature, and the only one worth paying for, in my opinion, is the reading material.
However, the readings are buried under a cloud of useless boxes and decorations. It’s very distracting.
The text seems almost secondary to the rest of the interface.
Some interesting insight about distracting interfaces and gamification comes from an inquiry I received some time ago (Glossika is a popular language app):
To study or to play?
Gamification is rampant among the trendiest language-learning apps.
Gamification means that elements typically found in games are introduced in study material to make it more enjoyable and keep motivation.
While I do agree that learning should be fun and you need the motivation to keep going, the fun should come from the learning process and not from visual and audio fluff like avatars, coins, and fanfares.
First, the only vaguely objective indicator of progress in the stats the LingQ compiles for every user is the total number of words you “know”.
However, while it’s cool to see this number grow, it’s not an accurate reflection of someone’s total vocabulary. You end up overestimating your abilities based on this number alone.
Then comes external motivation by means of competition.
LingQ also has lots of challenges that you can join in on. Personally, I don’t care at all what others are doing and have nothing to prove to anyone. I only find it distracting and stressful.
You’ll also get streaks based on how many days in a row you study and can earn coins.
These coins lead to the most trivial part of LingQ – the avatar. With the points, you earn buy useless gadgets and accessories to improve the look of your ugly avatar.
LingQ offers live tutoring, but it’s not at the level of what you get with most paid language-learning programs.
It’s basically the same kind of ad-hoc tutoring via Skype that you can arrange with random freelance tutors, rather than the scheduled and structured classes provided by Living Language and Rosetta Stone.
With other language learning apps, the tutoring is usually tied to lessons that you are required to complete before you can sign up for a session.
With LingQ, you just don’t know what you’ll get.
Thus, I don’t recommend signing up for the most expensive plan that includes live lessons (Plus plan at $39.99/month).
I’m not saying that 1-to-1 tutoring is not useful. On the contrary, it’s the fastest way to master a language.
However, there’s a better place to find online language tutors: Italki. Here’s my detailed review of Italki.
Another feature of LingQ is that it’s possible to engage in language exchanges where you can get feedback on your writing, audio recordings, and more.
This section is fairly dead though.
Again, I recommend Italki to find language exchange partners as I do for professional tutors.
Another feature of Italki that I like a lot is the notebook section, where you can submit your homework and then get feedback and corrections.
Because the community is so much larger, getting feedback is far quicker than on LingQ.
How to use LingQ?
The smart way to use LingQ is to take it as a library of reading material and focus on the readings (i.e. not the grammar lessons).
You shouldn’t interrupt your first round of reading to look up words, or you’d lose the flow and stop thinking in Italian.
For online tutoring, language exchange, and writing practice, Italki is the best option for any language.
How much does LingQ cost?
LingQ Premium plan costs €12.99 / month if paid monthly.
The cheapest it gets is €7.99 / month for 24 months, which is way too long, anyway.
This plan includes the following features:
- 1000s of hours of audio with transcript
- Access all lessons on web and mobile
- Access all 25 languages on web and mobile
- Download lesson audio
- Access available full-text translation and notes
- Sync lesson progress across devices
- SRS vocabulary review tools
- Synced Playlist across devices
- Track all learning activity
- Unlimited Vocabulary LingQs
- Unlimited Imported Lessons
- Vocabulary import/export
- Offline access on mobile apps
- Print lessons
- Edit lessons
- Additional activities
- Enhanced statistics
The Premium Plus is much more expensive (€39.99 / month) and includes live tutoring and writing correction.
Is LingQ worth it?
The concept is good, but its application is not ideal.
Depending on which language you want to learn, there are better options.
If you study Italian, try Leggi Con Me.
For half the price of LingQ Premium plan, you can access a consistent, organized collection of interesting Italian readings with slow audio, transcript, and translation.
My alternative to LingQ Italian is Leggi Con Me
My impression is that LingQ, like many language apps, appeals to the casual learners who expect an app to entertain them while learning the language for them.
Are there any alternatives to LingQ for the Italian language? Yes!
More serious, motivated readers will value a focused, organized resource like Leggi Con Me.
It’s a collection of
- Italian short stories
The readings are sorted by level and include:
- Slow audio
- Italian transcript
- English translation
That’s all you need to practice reading and listening the smart way.
As of September 2020, there are more than 200 readings, while news ones are being added every day.
New readings are delivered to your mailbox twice a week so that you won’t miss a thing.
And also, the price makes the choice a no-brainer – it only costs US$5.90 per month. That’s half as much as a Premium subscription to LingQ ($13 per month).
Start a 7-day free trial now!