Frequently Asked Questions

Lingopolo is a website designed to teach you to understand and speak languages.  It does this through online lessons taught through quizzes.

Lingopolo organises lessons into sets of words, and trains you to understand these words by quizzing you with flashcards.  Each quiz consists of 10 words.  At the start of each quiz, you will be shown your current knowledge of the set of words, and at the end of each quiz, you will be shown your new knowledge level.  The idea is that you move each set of words along from having a starting knowledge of 0% to the point where for each set you have a knowledge of 100%.

Our teaching focus on Lingopolo is on listening and getting you to understand what you hear spoken, and when you can understand what is being spoken, getting you to speak.   When you can understand what is being said by someone else, it is much easier to be able to say these things yourself.

As well as this we teach you power phrases - those useful phrases which you will use all the time (e.g. "Hello", "Thank you", "Can I have the bill please", "How do you say xxx in Thai?").  

We build up your language comprehension skills naturally by building up sentences in a pyramid-like way.  For example, first you might learn to understand some nouns (e.g. "man", "woman", "dog", "banana", "two"), then you learn to understand some verbs (e.g. "to like", "to eat"), and then we very quickly start putting them together into simple phrases like "The man likes the dog", "The woman eats two bananas".  Our emphasis here is not on forcing you to speak before you are ready, but on making sure that you understand what is spoken, that you are learning to process language in a very natural way.

Any language learning has 4 main skills:

  • listening
  • speaking
  • reading 
  • writing

At Lingopolo we make the listening to Thai (and of course comprehending what is said), the fundamental platform upon which each of the other skills are built.

Lingopolo is completely free to use and plans to stay that way. Read Lingopolo becomes 100% free to find out why.

Yes, all the recordings are made by real people, who are all native speakers of the language.

All recordings, unless otherwise specified, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. See the copyright information page for more details.

A lesson is a collection of words or phrases which you can practise using quizzes. A lesson can be on subjects from food to Thai consonants.

A lesson can have just a few words, such as the days of the week or have absolutely hundreds of words like the vocabulary lesson.

A lesson can be on a particular theme, such as the colours or parts of the body; for a complete list of themed lessons, see the Themed lessons page.

A lesson can be grouped by part-of-speech, so for example there is a lesson on nouns and a lesson on verbs.  This can be useful if, say, you feel you you are lacking a particular type of word.

The full range of these lessons can be found on the lessons page.

In addition to the lessons described above, we also have some special lessons.  The most important of these is the words lesson; this is the perfect lesson for revision of all the words on this site.  It is the ultimate practise tool for all of the words.  It will very quickly hone in on those words which you find difficult and keep getting wrong, and will keep asking you until you are fluent!

Finally, there is the phrases lesson; this is not something for the beginner, since it puts together the words from each of the other lessons.  We therefore recommend you study the words lessons first, and that you first study the phrases in the context of one of the traditional lessons above.  However, when you’re ready, this is an excellent lesson to really challenge and stretch your Thai.

A quiz consists of up to 10 questions taken from a particular lesson, and is the main way in which Lingopolo teaches you the words and phrases.  Each question in the quiz is scored either right or wrong.

For example, in the lesson on animals, there are currently 20 words.  A quiz will ask you 10 questions, using some of these 20 words.  Depending on how much you have already studied this lesson, and whether you keep getting the words correct or not, the ten questions may be ten diffent words from this lesson, or, more likely (if you are getting words wrong), a smaller number of words with some of those that you get wrong repeated.

At the end of the quiz, you will be shown your results for the quiz.

The levels make sure you are learning the words and phrases in the most efficient way.  We use a scientifically proven method called Spaced Repetition.  All you have to remember is that the website will automatically calculate which is the best word or phrase to ask you next.  The system ensures that you are gradually learning new words, that you get lots of revision of the most recent words or those words which you are having problems with, and that you are still revising old words.

Basically, the lower level a word is (level 1 is the lowest), the more often you will be asked it.  The higher level a word is (level 10 is the highest), the less often you will be asked it.  A word moves from level one (least well known) through to level ten (known extremely well).  When you get a word right it moves up by one level, from say level two to level three.  When you get a word wrong, it goes back to level one.

In addition, the type of the question (multi-choice, Thai to English, or English to Thai) changes as the word or phrase moves through the levels.

Levels for words

The type of question asked (on the automatic question type) varies based on the level, and the timing of repetition is as follows:

Level 0, multi-choice, 1 minute

Level 1, multi-choice, 10 minutes

Level 2, multi-choice, 1 day

Level 3, multi-choice, 2 days

Level 4, Thai to English, 4 days

Level 5, Thai to English, 8 days

Level 6, Thai to English, 16 days

Level 7, English to Thai, 32 days (1 month)

Level 8, English to Thai, 64 days (2 months)

Level 9, English to Thai, 128 days (4 months)

Level 10, English to Thai, 256 days (8 months)

So, for example, if a word or phrase has been answered wrongly, it will go back to Level 0, and then be asked again after 1 minute of delay, as a multi-choice question. If the word or phrase is answered correctly, it will be asked again after 10 minutes, again as a multi-choice question. Note that the English to Thai phase of the learning only happens after 1 month of practise in the Thai to English mode. This ensures that you are thoroughly practised at hearing the word correctly (the listening phase), before you are required to be able to produce it yourself (the speaking phase).

See also the blog post New and radically improved algorithm for word and phrase teaching order announcing this.

My name is Hugh, and I am the creator of Lingopolo.  I am working as a software developer of websites, but I am also a student of Thai; this website began as the combination of those two things.  Many of the Thai recordings are taken simply from my real lessons with my teachers.  I am the number one student user of the website, using it for my own language study, and changing the website to be the language website that I want.

Hugh in a Thai language lesson

The picture shows me in 2013 in an actual lesson with Khruu Aun.

The name Lingopolo comes from two parts, "lingo" and "polo.  "Lingo" means a foreign language or local dialect, and of course Lingopolo is all about helping you to learn the foreign lingo which is Thai.  The word "polo" is close to the word "poly" meaning "many or much", but ultimately the "polo" part is mainly there just to give the word "Lingopolo" a nice sound, and to turn it from a non-descript name like "Lingo website" to a proper noun, "Lingopolo".  It's a bit like the way the names "Skype" and "Google" are formed; these names contain bits which mean something (Skype contains "sky", the blue stuff above you, and the name Google is based on "googol", a large number) but then they get tweeked a bit and turned into a proper noun, which becomes the brand name.  Similarly Lingopolo is simply based on the word lingo, turned into a unique brand name by the addition of polo.  And as one of the Thai teachers pointed out, the word "ling" is actually the Thai word for monkey.  So now you know why it's

All you really need to know is the simplified answer which is in the "What do the levels mean for the words in a lesson?".  So make sure you've read that before reading on here.

What follows is a very geeky answer, so you can stop now unless you're really interested to know all the geeky detail.

A card is the term given for a word or phrase in the context of moving through the system of boxes.

All cards start off as "unstarted".  This is like a box of unlimited size labelled "unstarted".  This starting box can even be thought of as box zero (indeed in the program it is implemented as box 0), but the website calls it "unstarted cards" which is hopefully a little less intimidating.  There are 10 other boxes labelled from box 1 to box 10.

Each box has a target maximum number of cards which the box can contain.  As the levels get higher, the maximum number of cards get greater.  This, together with the other rules below, ensures that as cards go up the levels they are asked less and less often.

The size of the boxes is as follows:

Box Maximum Size
1 3
2 6
3 12
4 25
5 50
6 100
7 200
8 400
9 600
10 unlimited

The card to select next is chosen by the strict application of the following rules:

  1. Starting from box 1 and moving up to box 10, is the box full?  If so, take the front card in the box.
  2. If no card has yet been selected from any of the 10 boxes (because none was full), and if there are any cards in the "unstarted" box, take one at random from there, place it at the back of box 1, and repeat this selection process (box 1 may now be full).
  3. If none of the boxes 1 to 10 are full, and there are no cards in the "unstarted" box, select the card which has not been asked for the longest period of time compared with all the other cards in these boxes.

Leitner boxes illustrated

The personal Thai lessons, whether by Skype or in person, follow a similar teaching method.

The basic principle is building an ever larger and larger set of what is called 'comprehensible input', meaning simply, that the person can understand more and more.

Vocabulary building

Each 1-hour lesson typically introduces around 10 new words.  These words are introduced and practised in the following three ways: firstly as individual vocabulary items, then in very simple phrases or sentences, and finally in complex sentences.  Let me now describe in a little more detail how each stage works.

Learning individual vocabulary items

We begin by introducing new words in a very structured way.  The teacher shows a picture of an object, a monkey say, and says the word a few times in Thai, so that the student gets chance to hear the word clearly and simply pronunced.   Wherever possible, the teacher will use the real object if it is something simple like a fork or a camera, but this is rather harder if the object is something like a monkey or a bridge.  Then the teacher shows a picture of a second object, and again says the word a few times in Thai so that the student gets to hear the word clearly.  

Now that the student has heard two new words, the teacher will give the student some trivial practise, by saying one of the two words and asking the student to point at the correct picture or object.  With only two objects this is of course easy, and you will see that anyone can do this.  

The teacher then introduces a picture or object for a third word, saying the word clearly at least twice so that the student can just listen and reflect on what the word sounds like.  Then the teacher will go straight back into saying one of the three new words and asking the student to point at the correct new word.  The teacher will do this more than just once for each word, but will do it so that the student has to get it right several times for each word.  Thus, for 3 words, a teacher would likely ask around 6 questions.  It is easy for an inexperienced teacher to think that this is too easy and they should move on quicker, because the student has already grasped the words, but the student is often not quite so sure of the words, or at the very least benefits greatly from hearing the words said again and again.

Whenever a new word is placed on the table, the words are shuffled around a little, to ensure that the student is relying on his translation ability to know the correct word.

The teacher then introduces a fourth word with the same method with now a longer quizzing.  At each stage the aim of the teacher is to make sure the student really does know the words as well as reasonably possible before adding another word.

This manner of adding new words continues until the tenth word has been added and firmly bedded in by a final extensive quizzing.

If you are familiar with Lingopolo, you will perhaps realise that this is extremely similar to the way in which words are added and built up in any of the Thai online lessons.  This is no coincidence; this website was designed specifically to mimic the way in which our real teacher work, to basically be .

To be continued...

See the Words by frequency page of the particular language: