Building LingoStories: An Experimental Project for Language Learners

Building LingoStories: An Experimental Project for Language Learners

I previously shared my thoughts on language acquisition. One of the ideas is to maximize the amount of “input” (text or audio) we consume, as long as the input is interesting and mostly understandable. The linguist Stephen Krashen phrased it as “We acquire language in one way and only one way: when we understand messages.”

As I tried to incorporate more input into my language learning journey, I couldn't find the perfect solution. I thought, “I’m an engineer, maybe I should just build it myself.”

So I started making a list of requirements. In my opinion, the solution should:

  • Be centered around stories. I like stories and I dislike random Duolingo sentences. Stories can provide motivation for me to continue.
  • Contain both audio and a transcript.
  • Allow me to go at my own pace, as I might need time to really understand a sentence.
  • Enable me to listen to a sentence as many times as I want, in just one click.
  • Provide an easy way to show/hide the transcript. To practice listening comprehension, I sometimes want to listen to the input first and see the transcript later for double-checking.
  • Include translations that can be easily toggled. By default, I shouldn’t look at the translation until I need it.
  • Have in my language of choice, not only English. If I speak French and want to learn Spanish, Esperanto or Latin, I shouldn't have to go through English translations (it's especially awkward when my primary language and my target language have similar roots).

To me, these seem like obvious requirements. Unfortunately, finding an existing app that offers all of this can be challenging. While LingQ is not bad, I find it expensive for no good reason (around €120/year).

On top of this, I wanted to incorporate additional ideas. The stories should:

  • Be interactive, keeping the reader more engaged and including choices to make.
  • Have replay value, with collectibles to find in different paths of the story. Replay leads to some repetition, which is beneficial for learning.
  • Include language minigames to help practice specific skills, similar to those found in other language apps.
  • Be free and ad-free. The development and maintenance costs should remain low, even with text-to-speech generation. So I believe a free model is sufficient. Yet, for some reason, people are often expected to pay for language learning products, usually with a subscription model, even with the value is not super high.

After collecting these ideas, I decided to build a prototype. The stories will be aimed at beginner / intermediate levels: advanced learners can use content made for native speakers; complete beginners should probably start courses from scratch. You can see the result at


Of course, it’s only the first version with just one story (plus an introduction) and very few languages, but it should be enough to showcase my vision and maybe spark some interest...

There’s still a lot of work to do. The biggest challenges will be getting more contributors and more content. However, it's a start, and someone has already reached out to provide a Swedish translation.

Let me know what you think!