Lingvist: The future of human learning? (Review)

In this post I'm taking a look at Lingvist, a spaced repetition platform. Lingvist uses neural networks and machine learning to offer some of the most innovative language learning software on the planet.

lingvist app

Almost everyone has tried to use flashcards to learn things with.

Whether it's the old-fashioned way of writing the question on one side of a card, and the answer on the other – or online where it's all happening automatically.

And the crazy part is they work ridiculously well.

Spaced repetition works by repeating the information at tactically increasing delays, and hence telling the brain that this piece of information is important.

So for language learning the ideal time to see a word you're trying to learn might look something like this:

20 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks…etc etc etc..

The more reviews you do of a piece of information, the longer you can wait until reviewing it again.

This reduces the risk of forgetting the information.

Sounds easy right? Just space the words out and you have a winner.

Well, yes and no.

In this review I'm taking a deep look at how Lingvist is trying to accomplish this.

Table of Contents:

The challenge of spaced repetition

The biggest problem with implementing the theory of spaced repetition is that we're all different.

We all have different learning backgrounds, histories, cultural awareness, and even personalities.

So, how could you possibly build a system that accounts for everyone whilst still maintaining the highest accuracy of reviews?

You see, in order for a review of a piece of information (like a word in a foreign language) to be the most effective, it should come JUST before you were about to forget it.

Come too late and you've forgotten it, and come too early and you might score poorly on future revisions.

Using machine learning for optimised spaced repetition

This is where software like Lingvist comes in.

Instead of setting arbitrary delays between revisions, or even worse, asking the user themselves to identify “if they have learnt a word or not” Lingvist uses an algorithm that optimises everything for your learner profile.

This is visible in how you start out your new profile:

As you can see, the software asks me to estimate my current level in German.

Then, following that the software will use my success rate to estimate my actual level.

This allows Lingvist to offer me challenging materials I can learn, and not things I already know that are too easy.

The mission and foundation of Lingvist

Lingvist founder Maik Müntel was a guest on the podcast in episode 163 and in the episode he shared the mission for Lingvist:

Our goal is to accelerate human learning and language learning is just the first step of it.

Mait Müntel, AFP 163

Mait believes, along with a lot of other people that retraining of the workforce will become extremely important in the future as we develop more and more machines to automate jobs that are currently held by people.

Today Lingvist uses machine learning algorithms to hone in on the optimal learning for any given user, at any time.

Lingvist Features

Lingvist operates a freemium model, which means there are two access levels for everyone.

Unlimited includes every feature (as the name suggests.)

Here's what's included in each membership:

Lingvist Unlimited

  • Learn up to 5000 of the most commonly used words.
  • Learn as many new words per day as you want.
  • Practice and learn new words on our Android and iOS apps by typing or speaking.
  • Unlimited access to all reading, listening, and speaking challenges.
  • Choose a course focus relevant to your interests.
  • Keep track of everything you’ve learned at a glance in the word list.
  • Access to priority support.

Lingvist Free

  • Limited to 3000 of the most commonly used words.
  • New words per day are limited, but you can review as many as you need.
  • Practice and learn new words by typing your answers.
  • Practice your reading, speaking, and listening skills with one challenge per day.
  • Access to free support.

The main interface

The main interface of Lingvist looks like a physical flashcard, but with the vocabulary word missing.

It features high-quality human recordings (no synthesised voices here!)

It is possible to disable the English translation in the settings, but I find it impossible to know the context sometimes, so I just keep it enabled.

If you are not being tested by Lingvist to find your level (this only takes about 100 reviews or so.) you'll instead see small dots on top of the card.

These represent the amount of times you need to repeat the card before it moves on to the next ‘phase'

The statistics of me playing around on the Russian Lingvist. I think it underestimates my ability right now, but future revisions will help improve that.

There's really not much to say about the interface other than that. It works really well, and the mobile experience does not suffer in anyway on iOS or Android.

You can also bring up the foreign keyboard if you struggle to make some of the characters on your own keyboard.

The last feature is the statistics. If you click the little bars on the top right of the screen you get shown your daily and historical progress as well as your estimated Vocabulary.

Course Wizard

Included with the Unlimited plan. Currently only available with Spanish and German.

A really cool feature of Lingvist is that you can build your own course, and use their neural network and machine learning engine to learn exactly what you need to learn.

It even suggests words you might want to learn.

Like in this example where I typed in actor, and the software automatically suggested Comédien

I think there's massive potential for that, as you can simply paste a list of key words from what you need yourself.

This way you won't have to struggle through learning the same useless travel phrase vocabulary or 15 different types of fish that other software starts out with.

Lingvist Challenges

The challenge section are like quizzes that you can use to test your own knowledge. They come in a variety of levels, and feature different types of media.

Some of the challenges you have to listen to an audio file and answer a question right. Other times you simply need to pick the correct answer to a text question.

It's a small thing, but I like it for the variety that it adds to the learning.

Some of the challenges for Lingvist Russian

Which languages can you learn with Lingvist?

Here are the languages you can learn with Lingvist:

  • German
  • Spanish
  • Latin American Spanish (Beta)
  • French
  • Russian

Lingvist Estonian

Being based in Estonia, Lingvist also features a special mini-course, where you can learn the top 100 Estonian words to celebrate the centennial of the Estonian rebublic.

What does Lingvist cost?

Lingvist operates a freemium model, where you can get access to a lot of features for free. The paid subscription cost as little as $7.50 per month, if paid annually.

Here are the full, latest prices (October, 2019)

review of lingvist spaced repetition software

The yearly membership appears to have ridiculous value compared to the monthly fee, but I speculate that the monthly is just hyper-inflated to make the yearly deal seem a lot better.

Assuming about $6/month this is pretty similar to other language learning subscriptions like Babbel, Memrise, and even Duolingo.

Lingvist Review Conclusion

I think Lingvist is one of the most innovative spaced repetition companies out there, and I really welcome the addition of the “Course Wizard” to the arena of language learning app features.

It's reasonably priced, and the recordings and sentences are of the highest quality.

The downsides to Lingvist are the limitations on the free model (you'll quickly get banners with your limit being reached, if you're keen.) and the fact that it only offers 4 languages at this point.

Give it a go with the free version, and if you like it — I'd say it's worth those 2 cups of coffee a month to have the full set of features and no restrictions.

Click here to try Lingvist (free)

Lingvist Alternatives

Memrise – they have a similar philosophy to Lingvist, but having struggled with user-generated content for a long time they are only now on their way back. Not sure of the technical comparison.

Hope you enjoyed my review of Lingvist.

Have you tried it – which spaced repetition software is your favourite?

Disclaimer: Lingvist is a partner of Actual Fluency and has paid a sponsorship fee for lingvist review to be featured on Actual Fluency. The post is produced by Actual Fluency without any editorial input from Lingvist. Do you want to have your company featured on Actual Fluency? Check out our packages.