A review of Benny’s review of LingQ

Benny the Irish Polyglot posted a detailed review of LingQ at his website. I am grateful for the review and grateful that he dropped by to use LingQ for a week.

Overall the review is fair in that it reflects Benny’s approach to language learning, which is quite different from mine. I believe that input, reading and listening, and learning vocabulary from meaningful content, are at the core of all language learning success, wherever we are located.?? Interaction with native speakers is, of course, beneficial, and the ultimate goal, but can be delayed based on the opportunities, needs and preferences of the learner. Input based activities prepare us for meaningful interaction with native speakers.

Benny believes that interacting with native speakers as soon as possible is the fastest way to learn. He tends to downplay input based activities as can be seen from these quotes from previous discussions with him. He believes that a quick grammar review and a phrase book are enough to get us started talking to native speakers, and from then on we just need to talk to achieve fluency, if not in three months then in a short time. I believe that more systematic preparation is required for the interaction to be satisfactory to both parties, the learner and the native speaker. Thus LingQ.

This difference in approach makes it difficult for Benny to appreciate what LingQ offers, especially since he only used it for a week.

according to Benny;

Sorry but to me listening to your iPod or studying books is simply antisocial (Steve and I have very different views on what’s considered “human” in terms of interactions with a language)

There’s an entirely different dimension to speaking a language that focusing on pure content and quantity of vocabulary completely ignores.

none of your advice seems remotely relevant to people in a country NOW who simply couldn’t prepare in advance. You are ignoring those people.

Your advice is for people interested in LEARNING a language, mine is for people interested in SPEAKING a language.

Thus LingQ is for Benny is primarily a way to improve his reading. To me that is missing the point.

Mark?? and a few of our members have responded to his specific complaints about the points system. It is a pity that he did not try our writing correction system in order to judge how it compares to other free services.

Finally, Benny implies that LingQ is for people who want to learn slowly, whereas his system allows you to learn more quickly. Unfortunately this statement is not accompanied by any proof. I am skeptical, all the more so since Benny declines to provide recordings of himself speaking naturally in the languages he claims to have learned.

If I had spent 2 months of full time study of an unrelated language like?? Finnish at LingQ, I would gladly participate in a conversation at the end of it. Benny declines to do this for Czech, claiming he has not maintained it. If I had learned Finnish at LingQ for two months, I would have all my lessons and saved words, and could review it very quickly in preparation for a discussion.

So I feel that Benny’s review represents somewhat faint praise for LingQ, picking on some of our known issues like a less than satisfactory Forum, the occasional downtime, while not realizing the power of the system. Of course not all learners will love LingQ. Many learners prefer Benny’s approach. We appeal to a certain kind of independent learner, someone not into hype and glitz, but interested in improving language skills in a measurable and lasting way.


3 thoughts on “A review of Benny’s review of LingQ

  1. Steve, I whole-heartedly endorse your comments. As a 82 year-old language "polygot" I am finding your approach both realistic and stimulating both of which are necessary on the journey to learning a new language. A big ‘thank you’ to the team. Elizabeth.

  2. Elizabeth, it is great to know that LingQ has a range of learners from their teens to their eighties, and all are learning equally enjoyably. Age is no obstacle.

  3. I have been following this conflict of ideology with interest, Benny has made many valid points and there are some similarities between both of you (as there will be between any one who learns another language I guess) however two things bother me right now.Firstly I am not really interested in any system that allows me to forget or quickly loose what I have achieved. Secondly certainly for Mandarin and I believe for many others there is plenty of material I have listened to of you having conversations on radio shows and such like. The key word is conversations, I don’t believe your Mandarin is perfect, but I can’t remember you ever claiming it was and I did play it a native speaker at one point (because I was using the radio show you did in Chinese introducing LingQ for English). My friend told me that your Chinese was good, she knew you were foreign but listening to the radio show wouldn’t harm my learning (she was quite picky). I can’t vouch for the other languages but it is ironic that on one or two blog posts you are characterised as a none speaker, yet you have a fairly long standing and wide range of media of you speaking and conversing.If Benny is the conversationalist then there needs be examples of unscripted conversation particularly in languages he has learned fast. It doesn’t need to be perfect just match the claims. That is not to say for one minute that I don’t believe just that it should be easy to prove. Benny can’t really claim that he feels uncomfortable doing this kind of video at the same time expecting his readers to overcome any embarrassment they have speaking with native speakers, the same life hack techniques should apply.

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