[App Review]—LingoDeer (Korean)

Sorry for shuffling my upload schedule around so much lately! However with these new apps coming out, I want to jump on them and give my first impression ASAP!

I posted my review of the Korean Duolingo on Reddit, and the comments just exploded… it got a little messy, but one of the gems to come out of it was the recommendation of another language learning app called LingoDeer. Honestly I was a bit skeptical, but I decided to try it out… and I’m glad I did! This app also has its problems, but it’s generally fairly solid. Just like with DuoLingo, I took some extensive notes as I was playing through the levels (and some of my friends were doing it at the same time, so they reported abnormalities to me as well). Actually, I find this app a bit more similar with the Chinese-learning app HelloChinese than with Duolingo for a few reasons, which we’ll see later. Let’s get into it.

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What is LingoDeer?

LingoDeer is a language-learning app for the three major east Asian languages, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese. In this review, I will focus on the Korean course and give my views on the Chinese one in a later post. When I was told about this app, the person who linked me to it said that it was developed by teachers of those three languages rather than just volunteers like Duolingo uses, so that’s a bonus.

Very first impressions

The first thing I noticed that the LingoDeer app’s design and interface is very crisp and clean, which I appreciate a lot. I experienced some loading delays more than once, but my friends who tested the app out with me said that they didn’t get much of that at all, if any. I think maybe it has something to do with my Wifi, because my phone was showing a less-than-perfect connection strength when I was testing the app. Anyway, just be aware that you might run into some loading screens.

Learning Hangul

The Hangul learning portion of this app blew me away, to be honest. The usual romanization was there, whatever (you know my feelings about romanization already), but what I loved was that the app introduces sounds in a logical order, starting with related vowels. It also shows you the stroke order for the Hangul. And those audio files…! The audio files in this app are SO quality, a lot better than Duolingo’s robot voice. The Hangul learning section is huge and extensive, so going through it all would take forever. Luckily, you can skip the Hangul level if you don’t need it, or you can check out the Hangul charts. There are three charts, and you can tap on each consonant-vowel combo to have it read out to you. There is also a page explaining how Korean syllables are structured. So much information is given; it’s wonderful!

Getting in to learning

Once you refresh your Hangul skills (or not), you can start with the first level. This is the first major downfall of the app—there is no way to test up to higher levels, so you must start from the bottom. This seems like a major oversight considering comparable apps like Duolingo and HelloChinese have these features.

Notes

Anyway, once you tap into the first section, there are notes waiting for you if you swipe to pull up the tile to the left. It would be nice if the notes were the first tile, because it’s very easy to miss. Anyway, the notes are extensive and really well done except for some typos and the occasional weird English translation. Typos actually appear in other parts of the app too, and it does sort of detract from the experience. You can just forgo the notes if you want, and if you find yourself needing more information while you’re in the level, you can just tap on the part of a sentence you’re curious about and a notes window on that element will pop up. This is similar to HelloChinese, and this is what Duolingo’s app very conspicuously lacks.

Learning

Now, it’s time to actually start the lesson. You will be presented words with the Hangul and the romanization, which I was very sad to see, but you can turn the romanization off! Similar to HelloChinese; which lets you choose if you want to see only Pinyin, only Hanzi, or a mix of the two; LingoDeer lets you choose all romanization, all Hangul, or a mix.

The activities in the learning sections are very similar to Duolingo and HelloChinese. You can expect to match the word you hear with a picture, insert grammatical elements into the right places in sentences, unscramble sentences, and more. One of the activities that I do not like is this one where you see the romanization and match the appropriate Hangul with it. I purposely turned off the romanization, and people should move away from it as early as possible, so seeing those kinds of questions, though they are very few and far between, was a bit of a letdown. Also, I was disappointed to see that there are no speaking questions like in HelloChinese (in that app, you will listen to and see a sentence or see an image representing a word and then read/repeat it back into the phone).

While the audio files are, as I already said, amazing, this app is very quiet. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to HelloChinese (which I use a lot lately to work on my Mandarin) automatically reading things out. I find it a bit annoying that if you want to hear read-outs of a lot of the sentences, you have to actually tap the sentence to hear it. Also, there is no indication that this is actually something that’s possible in most cases. Some users might not be aware that they could be getting more audio input than what the app automatically provides. Maybe if they had a little play button or something next to those sentences it would be better.

Level completion

Upon completion of a level, you can get up to five stars. When you first start studying, you set a goal for how many stars you want to get each day, and if you choose the lowest possible number (five) and do a single level perfectly, your study for the day is complete.

 

Review and stats

If you want to go back and review vocab or grammar flashcards, there is a section where you can do that. The review questions are the same as the regular level questions. You can choose to do a single lesson, or you can combine lessons for a comprehensive review. Also, there is spaced repetition listening practice, which is pretty cool. You can choose how you want the words and sentences presented, with Hangul, the English translation, romanization (ㅠㅠ), or just the audio and no writing. After listening, you can reveal the correct answer and rate your recall/performance “weak,” “good,” or “perfect.” You can also choose if you want a word or sentence-focused review. Seems like a good feature.

As for stats, you can check how long your learning streak (they wrote “steak,” as I said there are typos here and there) has been ongoing, and it even tells you how long you have studied for. There are some little achievement badges similar to Duolingo for things like learning time and streaks also. You can also set a time for reminders to study if you would like. However, I notice that the app is not synced to your phone’s clock but some other clock, perhaps that of the server it’s hosted on. So, for example, if I use the app in the morning here in Korea, it will still count any stars I get to the previous day since the app’s date hasn’t rolled over yet. There is not an option to change the app’s clock to sync to your time zone as far as I can tell.

 

Conclusion

LingoDeer’s Korean course is, in my opinion, a wonderful new app for those who are looking to start learning Korean! The pros and cons:

PROS:

  • GREAT audio files
  • Hangul presented in a logical manner
  • Lots of good notes and information on grammar
  • Spaced repetition practice and flashcards
  • Study reminders
  • cute deer mascot <3

CONS:

  • Slow loading at times
  • No function to test out of lower levels
  • Typos and unusual translations in notes and other places
  • App clock not synced to phone clock
  • No speaking practice

 

If updates are made to fix any of the things I mentioned above, I’ll let you know. Happy studying~!