A screenshot of Lingvist in use, demonstrating its lovely, clean interface.

I Befriended a Lingvist (and It Was About Time) [Review]

I gave Lingvist a whirl this week, a sentence-based language learning app from Estonia that had mysteriously passed way under my radar until now. The verdict: Lingvist, I’m glad I finally found you!

It’s a bit of a match made in Heaven, to be honest, given my love of mass sentence techniques. This app uses in-context, useful sentences to illustrate all of its vocabulary items, drawing on a massive library of items for each language. The sheer size of its libraries should keep even the most avid learners busy for a while, and it’s available in an impressive number of languages:, including Estonian (as you’d expect!), Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish, as well as the other ‘biggies’.

It boasts a very smart, clean app design, using an eminently readable font (always an easy thing to overlook in a language app). It has a sensible, just-forgiving-enough approach to mistakes, particularly with accents. And – most impressively – it has the most user-friendly automatic voice input mode I’ve come across in such an app. Even more impressively, it allows Japanese input in all three writing systems.

A screenshot of Lingvist in use, demonstrating its lovely, clean interface.

In use, the app has an excellent approach to exposition and testing. Items, new and old, appear as gap-fill challenges as you perform sentence repetitions. That makes for an engaging routine, even when words you already know pop up – it’s not just learning, it’s practice. As such, it’s the perfect tool if you already know some of the language, but want to start filling in the gaps.

Not a Newbie? Not a Problem!

Talking of non-beginners, Lingvist also features a great placement test mode. For a start, it’s not overlong. Isn’t it always a bit soul-sapping when a new app makes you churn through a 10-minute test off the bat? Lingvist’s snappy check pretty accurately chooses a spot to skip you to very quickly.

To check it out, I performed the test in my strongest foreign language, German. It airlifted me about 85% of the way to the end of its mammoth list. And, proving there’s always something more to learn, the sentences were actually complex and interesting enough to challenge me. That bodes well for forging ahead it with it in my more nascent languages – you can reach a very decent level of language with it.

It tracks that gap-filling with what seems like a quite sophisticated spaced repetition algorithm. Despite that sophisticiation, you have at-a-glance access to all of those stats in a clear, unjargonised format, which¬† makes the spaced rep process understandable even if you’re new to it. Again, no wonder I love it, given my constant proselytising of the spaced repetition original, Anki.

Generous Trial Period

The best things, of course, are usually worth paying for. And true enough, Lingvist is a premium app, although its pricing is very competitive compared to the likes of Babbel and others, at just over ¬£5 a month on an annual plan. But what’s striking about Lingvist is how generous the team have been with the free trial (at least on iOS). You get a whopping 14 days to try the software out. That’s significantly more than the usual seven days with most – if you’re lucky enough to get a trial at all.

I’m just puzzled over why it took the algorithms so long to push Lingvist in my path, especially since the App Store says it’s been around since 2016. I hope it’s not been such a hidden, under-the-radar app for others, as it really deserves to be up there amongst the best.

If it’s your first time hearing about it too, check it out!

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