My LingoDeer Review: How I Started Learning Japanese in One Week
LingoDeer promises a complete education in a number of languages. Sounds amazing!
I tried the app for one week to see if it can help someone who doesn’t know a lick of Japanese learn the language to any level of competency.
Read on to see my review of LingoDeer and find out how my language adventure went!
- What’s LingoDeer?
- How Much Does LingoDeer Cost?
- What to Expect: LingoDeer’s Main Features
- Missing Something? One Week into the Japanese Course
- Summing Up: LingoDeer’s Pros and Cons
- The Final Verdict
LingoDeer is a comprehensive language learning platform.
Born as an app specializing in teaching Asian languages, you can now use it both as an app and on your computer to learn up to 11 languages (as of August 2021): Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, Vietnamese and Arabic (Beta).
For some of the languages, especially the Asian ones, you can even choose the language of instruction:
I opted for the Japanese course taught in English.
How Much Does LingoDeer Cost?
Let me start with the free stuff. LingoDeer gives you the following features for free:
- The alphabet section
- The first couple of lessons
- A phrasebook
- A review feature
- For some languages: a section to improve your conversation skills and a section to practice writing characters.
If you want to get access to all the content it has (and learn all the languages available), then you have to buy a Premium plan.
Starting at around $14/month, you can buy a monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription, or get lifetime access for roughly the price of a year and a half membership.
What to Expect: LingoDeer’s Main Features
LingoDeer has a lot to offer. Let’s have a look at its main features.
App and Browser Availability
As I’ve already mentioned, LingoDeer can be used as an app on your phone (both iOS and Android devices) or as a web language learning method.
If you have a premium plan, you can use it across all your devices and sync your progress.
LingoDeer’s courses have been carefully designed by language teachers and are very well organized.
I’m a language teacher myself, so I know course organization is crucial.
LingoDeer seems to know what it’s doing in this sense.
The courses are divided into different levels of expertise. Each level covers several everyday topics and each topic includes a few lessons.
The courses have a grammar skeleton that gets support from vocabulary, exercises, explanations, sample sentences and audio, among other features (as you’ll see below).
Every language has lessons covering everything up to the intermediate level.
Listening to native speakers of the language you’re learning is one of the best ways to get a good accent and practice your listening comprehension and speaking skills.
LingoDeer offers HD native audio for all its languages from the very first letter to the last sentence.
The “Learn” Tab
A big chunk of the material available for each language has been placed in this section.
When you access it, you’ll notice several things, some more obvious than others:
The alphabet section is naturally the first I always go to when I start learning a language.
I had no idea of how Japanese actually works, so it was very useful to have a place to learn all the hiragana and katakana characters with their romaji transcription.
I also got a very useful alphabet chart.
All the languages in the app include a very complete alphabet section with explanations, examples and native audio. If you’re just starting to learn a language, make sure this is the first place you visit.
Each level of every course includes several useful topics. The first ones for Japanese are Nationalities, Profession and People, but the Spanish course starts with Greetings, Introductions and Family, and the Russian one with Fruit, Occupations and Questions.
All in all, the languages cover more or less the same topics in a different order or under different names, but the structure of the lessons is identical.
For each topic, you get two main sections: “Learn by doing” and “Practice makes perfect.”
The “Learn by doing” section is where the actual lessons are.
Each topic includes two or three lessons, and each lesson introduces around five to seven new words and phrases.
With the help of audio, cute animations and pictures, sample sentences and different types of exercises, by the time you’ve completed the lesson, you’ll have easily memorized its content.
The exercises included in each lesson are very varied. You get:
- Choose the correct answer
- Choose the right image
- Listening comprehension
- Putting words in order
Depending on the language you’re learning, you’ll also get other types of exercises, like choosing the right character, tapping wrong words or adding words to their correct place in the sentence.
Two features I especially loved in the lessons were the audio speed selection (very useful when you get whole sentences) and the mic/ear buttons (perfect to record yourself and then listen to your recording).
And, like many competing apps, each lesson takes around five minutes to complete, so if you’re in a hurry or want to practice microlearning, this is your app.
The “Practice makes perfect” section includes further reading, listening and speaking practice (especially in the form of dialogues, stories and full sentences you’ll have to listen to and record by yourself), as well as a subsection with tips.
The Learning Tip subsection is where you can read everything about the topic of the lesson.
Grammar is presented in a very understandable way so that learners can manage it by themselves. The examples included and the extensive explanations make grammar topics very digestible and easy to grasp.
This section also includes notes on vocabulary, pronunciation (with audio), language usage information and even cultural tidbits that will come in handy if you happen to visit a country where they speak the language you’re learning.
The “Test Out” feature
Every few lessons, there’s a test you have to take to make sure you’ve understood everything so far.
This test is a key to open the next batch of lessons for you.
What’s interesting about the “Test Out” feature is that you can take these tests even if you haven’t done the lessons.
This is fantastic if you’ve studied the language previously and don’t want to waste time revisiting topics you know well.
The problem is you have to pass all the tests up to the lesson you want to start with.
For instance, I wanted to have a look at the last group of lessons of the Japanese course to see what I was heading towards, but to do that, I had to take the 10 tests included in the intermediate level of the course.
Nevertheless, the “Learn” tab as a whole is LingoDeer’s most powerful weapon.
It’s well organized, very thorough and full of content and practice opportunities for learners.
I was very impressed by the amount of Japanese I could learn in just a few lessons. It took me a couple of days to learn the whole alphabet chart, and by day three, I was already saying my first few short Japanese sentences!
The “Review” Tab
I also loved LingoDeer’s review system.
When you tap or click on the tab, you enter a whole new world divided into different sections.
Depending on the language you’re learning, you’ll see two (Vocabulary and Grammar) or three categories (Characters, Vocabulary and Grammar).
Characters is where you review characters if you’re learning languages such as Japanese or Chinese.
Vocabulary is where all the words you’ve learned so far can be revisited, and Grammar is where you can find the grammar rules you’ve covered in the lessons.
There’s also a section where you can take a 5-minute quiz that will quickly tell you if there’s any word or grammar rule you have to study again.
The tab also includes Knowledge Cards, which are cards that summarize the content of each lesson in a few lines.
The “Fluent” Feature
Only available for Japanese, French, Korean and Chinese, the “Fluent” feature can be used to improve your conversational skills.
It includes dialogues with audio, as well as speaking and writing exercises. There’s also a subsection called Key Points with explanations, grammar and sample sentences with translation.
Free users have access to only a couple of “Fluent” topics. The rest can only be accessed by premium students.
The Travel Phrasebook
The travel phrasebook is one of the free treats LingoDeer offers.
With hundreds of words, expressions and full sentences on topics such as introductions, food & drink, health, shopping or dating, among others, this phrasebook can be used to get ready for your next trip or during it to communicate with the locals.
It’s actually a very complete and useful free resource, although some languages, such as Japanese and Chinese, include much more information than the rest.
The “Character Drill” Feature
Only available for Japanese and Chinese, this feature is fantastic for learners who want to learn how to draw Japanese and Chinese characters like pros.
The Japanese course teaches you how to write 100 frequently used Kanji characters, while the Chinese course includes 1,000 essential characters.
The “Me” Tab and LingoDeer Offline
When you access the “Me” tab, you can see your progress, day streak and achievements.
The tab is also where you access the Help Center, contact LingoDeer directly and choose your app settings (script style, character system, voice, reminders, sound effects, animations, etc.).
However, the most important feature in this tab is, at least for me, the Backup & Download section.
Hidden among a dozen other options, this section allows you to do two very important things: Back up your progress and download the content of your course.
Obviously, depending on whether you’re a premium user or not, you’ll be able to learn more or less content offline, but the fact that this super useful and important feature is so lost among others puzzles me.
LingoDeer PLUS and LingoDeer for Kids
LingoDeer PLUS is another LingoDeer app for Android and iOS devices that includes language learning material in the form of games.
The good news is that you can download it for free and play a few levels in the language of your choice, but if you want to access all the levels for all the different games, you’ll have to buy a premium subscription.
A very negative point here is that your LingoDeer premium subscription can’t be used with LingoDeer PLUS, so if you want to play all these entertaining games, you’ll have to buy a separate premium plan.
Their other app, LingoDeer for Kids, a.k.a. iDeerKids (iOS and Android), is a fun, gamified app to learn English for kids between three and eight years old.
Similar to the rest of the LingoDeer family, only some features can be accessed for free, with an additional premium subscription necessary to access the full content.
Missing Something? One Week into the Japanese Course
At this point, I’ve been learning Japanese for seven and a half days.
I’ve learned how to read/recognize Japanese words with ease even if I still don’t know their meaning (except for those Kanji hieroglyphics I’ll have to learn someday).
I’ve also learned how to pronounce a lot of words and expressions, and I’m able to read and understand short sentences if they’ve been included in the lessons.
I’ve been having lots of fun, but I’ve been missing a couple of things I’m used to having when learning a language.
For starters, there’s no material for advanced students.
I realize I’ve just started learning Japanese, but I like knowing I can start and finish something in the same place.
Additionally, there are no videos.
I know this might sound a bit snob, but I like learning with videos.
Multimedia and real-world content is super important for me, especially with languages I have no idea about.
LingoDeer is the perfect companion to a learning program like FluentU, which contains authentic content from the beginner to the advanced level.
So if you want the recipe for ultimate success, mix these two tasty ingredients.
Summing Up: LingoDeer’s Pros and Cons
To sum up, here are the facts in a nutshell:
Pros of Using LingoDeer
- Native audio in all courses
- Well-structured lessons
- Excellent grammar explanations
- Offline learning
- Fantastic review system
- Free travel phrasebook
Cons of Using LingoDeer
- Not all courses include all the features
- No video material or authentic content
- No content for advanced learners
- Little speaking practice for non-Asian languages
- You have to pass previous “Test Out” quizzes to access later lessons
- Each app needs a separate premium subscription
The Final Verdict
Will LingoDeer help you learn a language? Yes, it will!
The organization of the courses allows students to learn up to the B2 level. The lessons have been created by people who know what they’re doing, and all the supplementary practice works nicely with the main content to create an effective whole.
Is LingoDeer worth its price? It definitely is, but…
Having two main apps (three if you also want the children’s English learning app) and making learners buy two independent premium plans is a bit excessive.
If a premium subscription gave students unlimited access to both the adult-oriented learning apps, LingoDeer would be practically unbeatable.
Does LingoDeer have everything a learner needs to reach fluency in a language? Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
There are some things missing in the app.
The lack of authentic content and video material is its biggest flaw. Besides, advanced students can skip this app altogether, since there’s absolutely no material for them.
Thankfully, other language learning platforms such as FluentU contain a vast treasure of resources covering these two key aspects.
Because of all this, my final verdict is: LingoDeer is a powerful app that’s definitely worth a try.
Stay curious, my “deer” friends, and as always, happy learning!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.