LingQ Review: A pleasant surprise!

In this LingQ review, we'll take a look at the platform's pros and cons, and what the service delivers on. We'll also look at some areas where LingQ could provide better options and leave you with enough information to make your own decision.

Our Verdict

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LingQ is excellent for intermediate or above learners or those who learn best from reading and listening exercises. If you're a total beginner, we'd recommend using a different service to get off the ground with vocabulary and grammar basics. Then, you can supercharging your progress with LingQ.

The format and variety of lessons on LingQ kept us engaged and learning, and the pricing seemed reasonable, especially if you're hoping to pursue multiple languages. 

TL;DR LingQ Review

If you don't have the time to read the full review (we get it!), here's a snapshot of the pros and cons:

PROS

  • An endless variety of lessons on every topic to learn from
  • One price for as many languages as you want to learn
  • Ability to directly import material you find interesting and create your own lessons
  • Playlist feature for learning while doing other tasks like driving

CONS

  • Basic knowledge of your target language is necessary; we don’t recommend starting from square one on LingQ
  • The interface seems a little more dated and cluttered than other options.
  • The free plan is quite limited.
  • The quality and density of lessons varies across languages

What is LingQ?

LingQ (pronounced ‘Link!') is an online language learning ecosystem created by Steve Kaufman that primarily uses reading and audio lessons to teach 18 of the world's most popular languages. At its core, LingQ provides assisted reading and listening exercises on a wide variety of topics. So, should you open an account and subscribe?

Let's take a look in this LingQ review.

What Can You Do On LingQ?

Reading and Listening Exercises

You'll spend the majority of your time on LingQ working through reading and listening exercises. 

Creating “LingQs” as you read is the heart of this service. A LingQ consists of a connection between a word you don't know and its definition. That may sound simple, but I found LingQ's implementation very useful.

When you start taking lessons, most of the words will be highlighted in blue. This means LingQ thinks that you have not seen these words before. You can click a word to turn it yellow and select a definition that will be LingQed (”linked”) to it. 

Notably, words you don't create LingQs for will automatically be marked as ‘known' when you head to the next page. That's useful, especially if you already have an intermediate level of understanding of the language; this saves you endless clicking. 

LingQ shows you the definition other users found most useful and some alternatives. Sometimes one dictionary's translation of a word doesn't match the more nuanced definition I know from context, so this added value for me. 

Second, and speaking of context, the real power of LingQ comes from learning words in their natural context, both in written and spoken communication. Because you run across all of this new vocabulary in the wild, not only do you learn definitions, you also get exposed to all of the glorious subtlety that unlocks language at a higher level. 

That's a win in my book.

With hundreds of topics, resources, and themes to choose from, it's unlikely that you'll get bored either.

Language Courses

In most languages, LingQ offers several courses; a series of lessons that build on each other to tell a story as you learn. 

These are great for taking you along a predetermined trajectory, to increase vocabulary and comprehension. However, if the topics don't suit you, you may prefer picking individual lessons from their wide selection.

Spaced Repetition – Flashcards and Quizzes

Like most modern language teaching systems, LingQ uses spaced repetition to remind you of a word just as it's starting to fade from your memory. 

It will prompt you to do flashcards, fill-in-the-blanks, and other quiz-style exercises to keep things fresh in your mind.

While useful, I found these rather stale. Other services make this more fun. Most of the benefit of LingQ comes from seeing things in context, so I'd advocate you keep reading (or re-reading!) material at your level to improve.

Import Your Own Lessons

Remarkably, LingQ gives you the ability to import texts and create your own learning documents. 

That's pretty huge. If you've got other language learning materials (even transcripts from Netflix or Youtube videos!) that you'd like to generate LingQs on, you simply need to import the file and start learning. 

Some of the lessons that other users have uploaded came from copyrighted materials. LingQ seems to put effort into stopping this, so don't be shocked if your favourite book suddenly gets taken down at some point. 

What Other Features Does LingQ Have?

Playlist Mode

I found this feature quite helpful. Essentially, LingQ builds playlists of material you've read so you can listen to it while you complete other low-level tasks, like driving or cooking. That's a great way to review and get more learning hours out of your day.

Community

Many language learning apps and services offer opportunities to learn with others from around the world. Execution is everything, and I've seen better community features on other platforms (for example, see Busuu). LingQ will probably improve this feature In the future, but at present, it doesn't measure up.

Tutoring

Like Community, the Tutoring setup seems to be an afterthought; something added to compete with other full-feature language learning platforms. In general, I'd suggest sticking to iTalki or others that have vetting processes before allowing tutors to start teaching. LingQ's community tutors may work out, but there's no quality guarantee.

Gamification

Platforms like Duolingo have made gamification all the rage in language learning, and for a good reason! It's nearly universally shown to increase retention and time spent learning. Win-win.

LingQ provides some gamification elements like streaks and the ability to earn coins as you create LingQs, but much of it feels childish. The only thing you can spend your coins on is a cartoonish avatar straight out of 2008. Not very appealing. 

I suspect LingQ will update this in years to come, but for now, it remains a somewhat strange side-show to an otherwise helpful language reader. Maybe young kids would get a kick out of it, but for the rest of us? It seems silly. 

What Does LingQ Look Like?

LingQ boasts both a desktop website and apps for both iOS and Android. I felt the design (especially on the website) harkened back to the early 2010s a bit more than I liked, and they could improve navigation. Still, it’s effective.

Who is LingQ Best For?

I would recommend LingQ for advanced beginner or intermediate level students in a language. This service can help your reading and listening comprehension snowball if you already grasp a language's vocabulary and grammar.

To be clear, I do not recommend LingQ for complete beginners. 

If you already have several languages under your belt, you may find a benefit in a new language on LingQ, but most will struggle. I'd suggest starting somewhere else, then returning to LingQ to supercharge the vocab you learned after achieving roughly A1-2 level.

LingQ is ideal for intermediate learners who are pursuing multiple languages. Its broad offerings and ability to import custom lessons can help you gain fluency across various languages based on the same base material, a very effective strategy. 

What Languages Can You Learn on LingQ?

LingQ has 18 main-line language courses, as well as a further 19 that are in the testing stage. That's a lot!

I'd recommend going elsewhere for the beginning of a language, then returning to LingQ. Also, the Asian language courses seemed slightly less developed than their European counterparts. 

How Much Does LingQ Cost?

Free Plan

LingQ's free plan limits you to 20 LingQed words and 5 imported lessons, virtually hobbling you. It gives you just enough to get a small taste of the service but ultimately makes it difficult to get much benefit from the free version. 

Premium

The Premium membership on LingQ is where the value shows. Premium allows you to create unlimited LingQs per day on any of the languages on the program, as well as import as many lessons as you'd like. You also get some perks like offline access on mobile and some advanced statistics. 

(Plan prices as of Feb 2021)

Premium Plus

The Premium Plus plan essentially just gives you 3,000 points (for an additional $30) to spend on tutoring services. Since I didn't find those features useful, I'd recommend saving your money.

What Are The Pros and Cons Of LingQ?

Pros

  • An endless variety of lessons on every topic to learn from
  • One price for as many languages as you want to learn
  • Ability to directly import material you find interesting and create your own lessons
  • Playlist feature for learning while doing other tasks like driving or laundry

Cons

  • You need to have a basic knowledge of your target language; starting from square one is not recommended.
  • The interface seems a little more dated and cluttered than other options.
  • The free plan is minimal.
  • The quality and density of lessons vary across languages.

Are There Any LingQ Alternatives?

It's helpful to remember that LingQ is context-based, while many of the big names in language focus on translation from a primary language. Instead of suggesting that one is better than the other, I'd recommend using these programs in conjunction to get the benefits from both and advance your learning. 

Use one of these services to get off the ground, then bring in LingQ to go further, faster.

LingQ vs. Duolingo

The 800-pound gorilla in the room, Duolingo, dominates the world of teaching languages, especially for beginners. Their freemium approach has garnered hundreds of millions of users worldwide. LingQ has less gamification and polish put into the experience. Their focus on immersion and reading/listening in the target language differs from Duolingo's approach too. We give Duolingo the edge for beginners, LingQ for those wanting to learn and grow more. You can find out more about Duolingo in our in-depth review.

LingQ vs. Busuu

Busuu, like the other two above, offers games and exercises as their primary form of teaching. Importantly, Busuu also includes decent social and tutoring features; LingQ's seemed dated and less valuable. Between the two, I'd probably recommend Busuu for beginners and LingQ for intermediate and up. 

If you'd like more info, read our in-depth review of Busuu.

A Round-Up of Our LingQ Review

LingQ pleasantly surprised me: I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did! What holds it back in terms of clunkiness and strange features it makes up for with a robust lesson format and engaging content. Ideal for intermediates in any language they offer, LingQ is a great resource to continue your journey towards actual fluency. 

The ability to work on any of the 37 languages on the platform makes it especially useful for those learners working on a wide variety of language goals.