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My LingQ Lesson Checklist for Beginners

This checklist was inspired by my colleague Tina, who asked me how I get started learning a language, how I found the time to study languages every day and how to use study time most effectively.

As Steve Kaufmann from LingQ posted on the subject of finding the time to study last week

I was motivated to share what I drew up for her here.

Let’s say you’re starting to learn Spanish on LingQ and your native language is English.

I recommend starting out with the “Who is she?” and “Eating Out” series, as these are available for all languages, contain short, context-rich lessons that cover at least a few hundred vocabulary words, and as there are 26 + 4 = 30 of them, you can follow the learning cycle described below for one month J

These are the 7 steps I think you should follow every time you do a lesson on LingQ to get the most out of each lesson:


1)       Listen to the original Spanish twice without reading anything. (1 minute)

2)       Listen to the Spanish and read the (Google translated, unless translation is available) English twice. (1 minute)

3)       Listen to the Spanish and read the Spanish twice – DO NOT read the Spanish without listening to the audio, and DO NOT read out loud – this, in my experience, is detrimental to your pronunciation when you start speaking later. (1 minute)

4)       LingQ (“save”) the words in the lesson – DO NOT try to memorize vocabulary or grammar, or to find different forms (e.g. infinitives of verbs, etc.) or meanings of the words: as long as you get a feeling for the word in context, you’re fine.  (2 – 5 minutes, depending on the length of the lesson)                                                                                                                                     

5)       Listen to the Spanish and read the English twice. (1 minute)

6)       Listen to the original Spanish twice without reading anything and compare your comprehension to step 1 – believe me, it will be much better! J (1 minute)

7)       Download the audio and put it on your mp3-player/phone to listen to once before you go to bed.

Max. Time: 10 Minutes

Let’s say the above-described steps were for Lesson 1 on Day 1 of your (hopefully) daily learning cycle.

Day 2

Before starting Lesson 2, listen to Lesson 1 at least once without reading anything and once while reading in English.

Follow the 7 steps for lesson 2.

Day 3

Before starting Lesson 3, listen to Lessons 1 and 2 at least once without reading anything and listen to Lesson 2 once while reading in English.

Follow the 7 steps for lesson 3.

Day 4

Before starting Lesson 4, listen to Lessons 1, 2 and 3 at least once without reading anything and listen to Lesson 3 once while reading in English.

Follow the 7 steps for lesson 4.


Continue like this for 7 days, and after 7 days start removing one lesson from the list, so:

Day 7

Repeat: Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Learn: Lesson 7

Day 8

Repeat: Lessons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Learn: Lesson 8

Day 9

Repeat: Lessons 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Learn: Lesson 9



This may seem repetitive, but it will help to immerse you in the sound of the language at the beginning, and this is very important if you want to have a good accent. To this end, always do more listening than reading (this does not include reading the translation in English), as this will ensure your language acquisition is primarily auditory rather than visual, which, once again, I believe is more important at the beginning of your studies.

This method of always adding a new lesson and removing an old one from your daily listening should be continued for at least a month, as a certain amount of repetition is important to give you a feeling of “familiarity” with the sound and common words of the language, as well as helping you to retain comprehension for longer periods of time by staving off the normal process of learning -> forgetting -> learning -> forgetting when there’s not enough intensity.

When your comprehension gets better, you can start to listen to longer lessons and repeat them less times, but that’s ok, because common vocabulary will naturally repeat in longer lessons anyway.

Also, because the audio files for beginners are typically only 30 seconds to 1 minute long, you will never spend more than 20 minutes total on your ‘learning period’. No excuses! J Keep in mind, however, that if you listen more on a daily basis, you will learn to comprehend more words and more words will naturally repeat themselves, which means:


*** When reading the vocabulary reminder emails from LingQ, take a look at the words you saved but don’t worry about memorizing anything. Your primary means of review should be listening and trying to understand the language in context, NOT reading lists of words. Confer this great post from on some of the DO NOTs of successful language learning.

Happy learning!

My return to Mandarin

I’m happy to say I will finally be finding the time to return to my Mandarin quest, after an extended hiatus of slightly more than 1 year.

Said hiatus was a result of my having begun a job as a full-time German QA tester and translator for Sony Online Entertainment in February of 2010, as the hours I had previously dedicated to Mandarin were now to be spent learning esoteric German vocabulary used to describe any number of medieval weapons, armor and creatures in order to be able to translate SOE titles like Everquest II (

So, back to Mandarin – this morning I listened to an Intermediate podcast on CSLPOD 

and I was surprised to find out how familiar the language remains to me after having listened to it intensively for only 4 months and then perhaps only a few times in the course of the last 14 months.

Although I’d like to dedicate the 3 hours a day to listening I was able to maintain during my studies at the end of 2009/beginning of 2010, I doubt that I will realistically be able to do that on a daily basis, as I am also an aspiring mnemonist ( and would like to start competing in memory competitions sometime in the next 2 years.

I think it’s important to mention, however, that I DO NOT use mnemonic devices to remember words in Mandarin, nor in any other language I am learning, until I have reached the point where I can already speak comfortably (see

My primary method of learning still involves an 80-20 mix of listening and reading, respectively, in the target language (in the case of Mandarin I read the pinyin, not the characters – see my post from December 31st), where I try to listen to at least an hour of content a day and repeat lessons as necessary depending on the amount of new vocabulary.

Also, I begin listening to intermediate and advanced dialogues I have the texts for at an a very early stage, as these can be roughly translated into your native language using Google translate or Babylon, and then you can read them while listening – confer

In fact, one of the great things about CSLPOD is the fact that members can contribute translations for the lessons they are studying, and they are usually quite good (much better than using Google Translate, to say the least!).

And finally, although I would say I understand Mandarin at an Intermediate level, I have never attempted to have a conversation, as I simply do not feel like doing so. I am content with the knowledge that my comprehension and my feeling for the language are improving on a daily basis, as evidenced by the ever-growing number of audios I can understand.

I don’t worry about grammar, I don’t try to memorize vocabulary – I just try to find things interesting to me to listen to and I try to understand more every day. For an article that mirrors much of what I think about the “benefits” of “learning grammar”,  be sure to check out

I welcome any comments or criticisms, and look forward to posting again soon.

Regards from San Diego