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!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vera
    May 24, 2011 @ 04:51:30

    Hi David, great advice.From my experience, “Greetings and Goodbyes” is the easiest of the LingQ beginner series provided by LingQ, and the best to start with. In some languages tutors added other easy collecitons like I did in German.”Who is she” is fine, after you know some basic words. “Eating out” is still difficult for me in french (and I know about 2,000 words).I hope, this helps.


  2. Anne Bishop
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 15:39:24

    Hi! Thank you for posting this. I have been looking for some solid advice on how to start a new language. Just a couple of questions though. When should one start trying to memorize vocabulary? When should words be moved to the “known” category? How long should this period of repetitive listening last? 300 hours? 500? 1000?

    Hope to hear from you. Thanks!


    • mandarinfromscratch
      Sep 08, 2011 @ 20:47:00

      Hi Anne, thanks for your comment and sorry it took me a few days to get back to you, I was in Dallas visiting my uncle!

      I generally don’t try to “memorize” vocabulary until I can already hold a basic conversation in the language. This may sound odd to say, but you can typically start conversing and using words and expressions naturally at a relatively early stage without ever having tried to memorize them before – the key is to have had enough exposure to them, primarily listening and secondarily reading.

      Especially if you’ve heard and understood something enough times, just like any songs that sticks in your head, it will stay with you and be readily accessible when you want to use it.

      I move words and expressions to the “known” category on LingQ when I can use them in conversation. This is the true essence of “knowing” something to me. I would adhere to the following scale:

      1 – I just saw the word/expression for the first time and am not familiar with it
      2 – I recognize the word/expression but can’t remember what it means
      3 – I remember what the word/expression means but still can’t use it in conversation (passive vocabulary)
      4 – I remember what the word/expression means and can use it in conversation (active vocabulary)

      As far as repetitive listening is concerned, I think the first 1-2 months are really key, and after that you can back down and start listening to a wider variety of material. That doesn’t mean you’ll listening to audios once and never again, however, as I’ve reached an Intermediate level of Chinese understanding and still sometimes listen to tracks I’m not familiar with repetitively, just less times. Not only that, but once I’ve “added” a track to my audio library, I almost never remove it, which means that at some point I’ll hear it again and be reminded of the vocabulary I learned. In this way, you’re guaranteed that at some point it will stick.

      Regardless, don’t worry if you learn and forget, learn and forget. If you keep at it every day and constantly try to find material that’s interesting to you, you will make progress, period.

      Hope this helps!

      Regards from San Diego


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