I’ve been reading quite a bit of Mandarin lately–after following Luqiu Luwei’s blog essays (闾丘露薇 ROSE GARDEN) for awhile, I’m starting to feel like I can call myself one of her ‘regular readers’. Luqiu Luwei is a world-travelled Chinese journalist and one interesting bit of trivia is the fact that she was the first female journalist (from any country) to go to Iraq to cover the war in 2003.
Her essays are always insightful, but after reading one of her recent posts (Why do we care about America?), it occurred to me that I might have finally (at long last) succeeded in creating a regular Chinese reading habit that is challenging, yet doesn’t necessarily feel like ‘studying’.
As any intermediate/advanced student of Chinese will tell you, reading Chinese can be quite intimidating. Long after you’ve started to feel comfortable reading relatively complex sentences, you still find yourself constantly running into strings of unfamiliar characters that leave you absolutely stumped. Sure, you can guess at the first few, but soon enough you’re stumbling through prose feeling completely lost. It’s not hard to understand why it’s hard for some people to ‘keep at it’.
I’ve commented on this before, but because of what I just described, my Chinese study was always completely lopsided, to the point that I could pass an advanced spoken Chinese test but still fail the reading/writing test at the same level. Looking back on the last year, I can definitely say that I’ve made some meaningful progress after a looooooooooong plateau, and I really have to thank the Lingq platform for helping me through a critical period with Mandarin.
[full disclosure: I have no connection with the folks at Lingq–it profits me nothing to share what I’ve written here; this post does not contain affiliate links]
Lingq is like putting training wheels on a two-wheel bike
From my perspective, Lingq is basically like putting a pair of training wheels on a bicycle; because the platform allows you to input your own content, you feel supported, and still remain in control of the direction in which you steer your studies. The different parts of the Lingq platform collectively conspire to help you keep your balance, even if you’re challenging terrain that is a little above your skill level.
For an explanation of how Lingq works, you can click on the screenshot of my avatar below to be taken to a youtube video by the system’s Canadian creator, Steve Kaufmann.
You still have to do the work
One caveat I need to throw in—Lingq makes no promises that it will do the work that you need to do. I had a free account on Lingq for a couple of years (mostly dormant), before I finally gave it an honest effort. Like so many useful language resources and tools out there, I could have picked it up earlier, but somehow I didn’t.
Beyond the significant boost in the number of characters that I can now recognize, I think the biggest benefit that I’m taking from Lingq is that I can now dive into harder texts, both online and in print, with an increased feeling of ‘forward momentum’. I definitely feel renewed enthusiasm for reading and I feel like I’m well-prepared to forge ahead as I head into the next language learning plateau.
The starter membership at Lingq is free, so I would recommend taking it for a spin to see if it works for you. The platform supports the study of at least a dozen different languages.
As a DIY guy, I’m pretty stingy when it comes to spending money on language learning tools, but I think the year that I spent with the basic membership ($10/month) was definitely worthwhile.
Wishing everyone success with their 2013 language learning goals.