Posted on | October 15, 2007 | 8 Comments
LingQ finally exited its beta last week. Congratulations, Steve, Mark, and your team!
I have been using the LingQ system for my French study since its beta launch in the beginning of August. During the last 2 months, I have been reading a lot. The LingQ system simply facilitates my reading activity, making it something very enjoyable to do. Indeed, I have noticed my French reading comprehension has improved substantially in this period.
What I find most fascinating about the system is its ability to give you a good estimate on the difficulty of the texts you read. It records all the words you have previously read and tells you the number and percentage of the ‘unknown’ words present in the text you are about to read.
The term ‘unknown words’ could be somehow misleading. I prefer to call them ‘un-encountered words’. The number only gives you an estimate, since you might know many words you have not encountered so far. Sometimes you would skip looking up some words you encounter, but they would still be unknown to you.
The most natural and efficient approach to absorb new vocabulary, suggested by Master Steve (and some others), is to pick the materials which are slightly above your current level, but not too much. You would then be able to absorb the new vocabulary with the help of the dictionary, or simply infer their meanings from the contexts.
I have been trying this method in the last 2 months, and honestly, I don’t know how I can do it without the LingQ system. From my experience, everything with less than 10% ‘unknown words’ are no-brainers. Everything with 10%-25% ‘unknown words’ are acceptable, and they are the ones I usually encounter and put my focus on. I should try to avoid everything with more than 25% ‘unknown words’. This is sometimes unavoidable though, as I might be reading a book and certain chapters might go beyond the 25% mark. Note that this percentage guideline is for French. It might be different from language to language.
I don’t need to worry about those texts which go beyond the 25%. As I read more and accumulate more known words on my way, I notice the marks get lowered. This indeed gives me a very satisfactory feeling.
Reading with the LingQ system is also very addicting. When I see some texts with low percentages of ‘unknown words’, I would want to read them right away. Even those with high percentages, I would just watch the the marks get lower and lower as I read other texts. I believe I have read more in the past 2 months than in the past years!
Besides being a valuable aid for reading, I have not yet found comfortable using other parts of the system, such as the vocabulary builder, writing, and speaking sections. I think they still need some improvement. Meanwhile, I am happily using other tools to cover those areas.