LingQ Japanese Review (Updated)

I’ve been using LingQ to learn Japanese for over a year now and I wanted to talk about how LingQ works and what my experience using it has been like. I haven’t used it for any other language, so this will strictly be a LingQ Japanese review.

First let me talk about the philosophy behind the system and then I’ll explain how to use LingQ. Once I’ve explained that, I’ll talk about its importing feature, which (in my opinion) is revolutionary.

The Philosophy Of LingQ

LingQ (pronounced “link”) was created by Steve Kaufmann and his son Mark Kaufmann as a way to help people learn languages the way that Steve had learned so many.

For the record, Steve knows 17 languages (including Japanese) and with the exception of his native language English, he learned them all using one simple method:

By listening to and reading a lot of native materials!

The way Steve explains it, when you read and listen to native materials you naturally begin to notice the patterns in the language, the way certain words are used, and if you choose the right materials you enjoy the process as well.

In addition to that, by using material that is created “by Japanese people, for Japanese people” you ensure that what you’re learning are actually the words and phrases that people in Japan use in real life.

I found this to be especially true when learning Japanese. For whatever reason, a lot of Japanese books and courses teach words and phrases to new students that are rarely used by natives when they talk to one another in the real world.

So the advantage of learning Japanese from the books and shows that Japanese people use themselves for entertainment or information is that you learn a lot of natural Japanese.

How To Use The System

The main problem that I always had with reading or listening to native materials is that there are a lot of unknown words.

I mean, A LOT OF THEM!

This is especially true for Japanese since words can be written in hiragana, katakana, or kanji.

But when I really sat down and thought about it, the problem wasn’t that there were a lot of words. The problem is that it always took so long to look unknown words up in a dictionary in order to understand them.

Well as it turns out, LingQ has a system that actually solves this problem.

What LingQ does is break words apart so that you can click on each individual one and look up the word’s meaning instantly.

In addition to that, LingQ uses a highlighting system so that you can see at a glance if a word is new or if you’ve encountered it before.

This color system is a way of reminding you which words you already know, which words you are learning, and which ones you’ve never seen before.

  • Blue = Totally new
  • Yellow = You’re learning it
  • White = You know it

Here’s an example of it now:

There are varying shades of yellow as you move each word or phrase from a low level of understanding to a higher level.

Eventually it turns white when you know it and no longer have to look it up.

When you click on a blue word to learn what it means, some of the definitions that other students are using appear and you can choose to select one of them or create your own with the electronic dictionaries available (like Jisho.org).

Here’s a picture of what you see when you click on the blue word from the above picture:

In this example, the number in parentheses in how many other people are using that translation. Personally, I would go with the bottom one since it has the most information.

At any rate, the reason why I love this system is because it saves a lot of time.

When I used to try to read a physical Japanese book, I would have to spend a lot of time putting the book down and looking up the new word in either a paper dictionary or one online.

Even when I tried reading Japanese eBooks on readers like Kindle, I still had trouble since their built in dictionaries are slow to load and have difficultly identifying words.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to search for the meaning of a new kanji when you don’t know how to spell it, but it’s a real pain in the butt.

I used to spend more time looking up words than actually reading Japanese, but that’s no longer a problem.

LingQ’s system is set up so that I only have to spend a few seconds per new word and all it takes is a click of the mouse.

It is by far the easiest way that I’ve found to look up and learn new Japanese words.

How To Import Anything

In my opinion, LingQ is incredible powerful for two reasons. The first one is their system of looking up new words and saving their meanings in a quick and easy fashion.

The second reason why I love LingQ is because they allow you to import any Japanese materials that you want to.

They say that you learn better when you find the material interesting and engaging, and this has been my experience as well.

I used to use a lot of flash cards (with Anki) to learn Japanese, but I started to hate using them because they felt like such a chore and they were just random sentences.

Keep in mind I had a little over 6,000 flash cards at the time, so I had been using them for a while and was ready to move on.

LingQ on the other hand has allowed me to import my own books and audio files. For me, this was a big deal as it allowed my to finally read Harry Potter in Japanese! Something I had always wanted to do.

In addition to the manual importing of books and audio files, they also have a free extension that you can install on your web browser and it lets you click a button to automatically load the material you’re looking at into a lesson on LingQ.

This is pretty cool for reading news articles and blogs in Japanese, but there’s actually an even more impressive way to import stuff.

They’ve recently added the ability to import the subtitles from YouTube videos, Netflix videos, and anime from sites like Animelon.

For some sites like Animelon, it will also load in the audio file!

I’ve also found ways to get the audio from Netflix and YouTube, so now I can load those in myself and then use it all on LingQ.

From my experience, learning Japanese takes a long time and a lot of effort. So being able to learn the language from the shows and books that I love has made a huge difference.

It no longer feels like “study time” and instead just feels like I’m having fun doing something in Japanese and as a side bonus my language skills improve.

The team at LingQ is always working on new ways to improve the platform, so I’m pretty excited to see what else they will come up with in the future.

My Experience Using LingQ

Using LingQ is pretty simple, you look in the library for something that looks interesting (or import it) and then you read and listen to it while looking up any new words that you encounter.

Before I started using LingQ, I was all over the place with materials. I was using different online courses that I had found, some of the popular apps for learning Japanese, a few grammar books, and of course flash cards.

Now I just use LingQ and I have everything in one consolidated place.

Back before I started learning from things I love, I wasn’t really enjoying Japanese anymore. It had turned into a never-ending loop of reviewing old flash cards and studying new grammar.

Now I don’t do any of that. I just find a new anime or book that I want to watch (or read) for fun!

As I encounter new words or phases I look them up and save their meanings in a few seconds.

In order to see how much my Japanese has improved, I think about at first when I couldn’t really read a lot. I could only do about 500 words per day as a goal. I did this by reading through some simple news articles.

After a couple of weeks I noticed that I was actually getting through the news pretty easily and could read about 1,000 words per day without too much trouble.

I then started getting into Japanese children stories which were actually pretty interesting since they’re used to teach Japanese children values like honoring one’s parents and such.

I felt like, I’m actually using my Japanese instead of just learning about it!

It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you’re not trying to learn, you’re just trying to understand a story or something in Japanese and you’re actually able to do it.

I least for me, I felt that it was a breakthrough moment.

Then I started moving on to bigger things like episodes of anime and full-length Japanese novels.

While they were tough at first due to all of the new words, I stuck with it and after about a year I finally got to the point where I was enjoying them with very little problem.

For comparison, my vocabulary was somewhere in the 5,000 word range when I started using LingQ in mid-2018. Now I’m at little over 30,000 words after using it for 18 months.

Also, I’m now able to read and listen to 5,000 words per day without breaking a sweat.

I still try to do more than that though, since I want to improve my abilities to the point where I can read Japanese as quickly and easily as I do English.

There’s still lots of new words and phrases I run into depending on the material I’m going through, but it’s usually only 1-2% of the total volume of the work.

Something else I’ve noticed is that learning new words by reading and listening a lot each day has a snowball-like effect.

At first I only saw a small improvement in my abilities, but as time went on it gained momentum and now I feel like I can easily learn new words and phrases without even really trying to.

Where To Try Out LingQ

In my experience, LingQ is by far the best way to learn Japanese.

Everyone can sign up for a free account to see if they like it, but unfortunately the free accounts are only allowed to create 20 definitions for new words.

I think that most people will probably tap this out in about an hour of reading or so, and then they can’t really use this feature anymore which the whole system is based around.

So if you want to get a good feel for how the program really works, then I would encourage you to try out the premium version for one month and then make a final decision.

When I first used it, I was only planning on giving it a shot for one month and then leave if it didn’t work out, but here I am over a year and a half later still using it!

Using LingQ saved me tons of time and frustration learning new Japanese words. It also allowed me to enjoy the journey by learning from the things that I love.

It’s the most effective and enjoyable way to learn Japanese that I’ve ever found.

Click Here To Try LingQ

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thanks!

18 thoughts on “LingQ Japanese Review (Updated)”

  1. I already had a plan of visiting Japan this coming year but I’m concerned with learning their language,thoughts like how will I cope do run in my mind,and have been taking several measures to learn Japanese but am not getting it.luckily for me I came across how I can learn it with what I do everyday.I love reading so learning my dream language from reading is such a great idea.Thanks 

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think that these next two years are going to be huge for visiting Japan, so there’s really never been a better time to start learning the language in preparation for a trip over there. Let me know if you ever have any questions on the different aspects of Japanese!  

      Reply
  2. I’m definitely gonna need to check this out! I’m a gamer and an anime fan to the core, so visiting Japan is somewhere near the top of my bucket list. What seems great about these courses is that you’re learning the language in a practical manner as opposed to the generic lesson structures of most language courses. Having a new language presented with familiar reading material also seems like it would go a long way in helping you retain the information. How long did it take you to become fluent in Japanese using this platform?

    Reply
    • Yeah, learning from meaningful content is definitely preferable to learning through generic lessons. However, I do feel that at the very beginning a normal lesson can be a great help since it allows you to learn the new language in bite-size amounts.

      Still, the sooner that you can learn from native material, the better off you will be. A combination of both is usually the best way to go about it, in my experience.

      As for using LingQ, I’ve been using it myself for a little over three months now and I can say that I’ve seen a huge increase in my passive vocabulary for when I’m listening and reading Japanese. 

      I’ve been using other methods before LingQ for the previous 18 months, and I can communicate just fine at normal day-to-day topics, but I really wanted to bring my Japanese vocabulary up to 30,000 or 40,000 words so that I can use Japanese at the same level as my English (native) language.

      Based on my progress so far, I would say it will probably take me another 9-12 months if I maintain my current daily pace. 

      Reply
  3. Dear Nick Hoyt,

    Learning other languages is always awesome and fun, but It needs a lot of dedication and discipline.

    To share my own experience… In my childhood joined french school and later switched my medium. I started to learn Hindi, after few months I didn’t attend those classes and recently I started to learn Hebrew and didn’t shown much interest. After reading your review post LingQ Japanese I am determined to attend my Hebrew classes without skipping it. Thanks a lot!

    “Learn Languages from Content You Love” this is an awesome concept and for sure it will be a greater help.

    Thanks for the valuable advice “Do lots of reading and lots of listening in the language you’re learning” I am going to follow it. I often think Japanese is a tuff language to learn after reading your post I feel like learning languages and becoming a linguistic seems easy.

    Very helpful site and going to learn Hebrew online with Lingq. I joined Lingq thanks for the great recommendation.

    Paul

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think that probably any and all languages are tough to learn for someone who is monolingual. Once you’ve learn a second or third language, you are better able to learn a new once since you have that experience of success and you know some methods that work.

      As for learning through things that you find interesting, it’s a very powerful concept since it turns “study time” into “play time” once you begin to understand what’s going on. 

       A lot of people spend 1-2 hours each day doing things that the love in their native language, like watching TV or reading a book, and once you begin to do that in the language you are learning, you are virtually guaranteed success since it will ensure that you spend lots of daily time in the second language, over the course of months and years. 

      As it turns out, you can ALSO learn Hebrew through LingQ! Check out the link I left above, and use it to start a free account so that you can begin learning Hebrew through LingQ’s system! Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Wow!  Thank you for this great review.  I’ve lived in Japan and learned Japanese.  I love the concept of LingQ and learning through the content you enjoy. Indirectly, I did that by certain TV programs and discussions with friends and agree 100% to do lots of reading and lots of listening in the language you’re learning. 

    This system seems way better and faster that what I have done in the past.Now I’m putting a little effort into Mandarin, and being 20+ years older, am finding much harder. Is this LingQ product available for Mandarin? Have you personally learned Japanese through this system? Whats your favorite of all the systems online to learn a foreign language? 

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Yeah, you can definitely learn Mandarin through the system, and the best part is that you only need a single account in order to gain access to ALL of the languages on the platform.

      Like yourself, when Steve was learning languages he had to struggle to find things that he could learn from that were at his level of comprehension. But through mass effort he eventually broke through the fluency barrier. 

      Then over a decade ago he teamed up with people to create LingQ, which is like a turbo-charged version of the way he learned langues before!

      HE even says that he has actually learned more languages through LingQ in the past 10 years, than he did in the first 50 of his life!

      I’ve been studying Japanese for the past two years now, and have used a boat load of different courses, books, and methods. Out of all of them, I would definitely say that LingQ is my favorite for learning new words and increasing comprehension (both reading and listening).

      I’m using it now to boost up my Japanese vocabulary, as I want to bring it up the about the same level as my English.

      Reply
  5. I found this very interesting and a great idea. Learning by reading what you enjoy. As an avid it appeals to me..

    I am wondering if this also applies to other languages like spanish? Although I guess if yes learned 17 languages it would. But, still curious. It seems very easy if your an avid reader. Will give it serious thought. 

    Blessings,

    Scarlett and Elaine

    Reply
    • Yeah, in fact you could learn Spanish even easier than Japanese through this method since Spanish is much close to English in the way that it’s structured. The written system is also 10x easier than Japanese’s!

      And the cool thing about LingQ is that once you sign up, you gain access to ALL of their available languages. So instead of having to buy a “Japanese” course or a “Spanish” course, you can just get the one LingQ account and start learning any language from interesting content.

      Good luck! 

      Reply
  6. This was an awesome read. It’s very impressive that Steve Kaufmann is able to speak around 17 languages using doing simply lots of reading and lots of listening. He kind of reminded me of how I learned English. My native language is Chinese. Learning English as a second language was not an easy thing to do. Whenever people asked me how I learned to speak English. I never really knew how to answer them. After reading your LingQ Japanese Review. I 100% agree with LingQ’s approach. He reminded me that I used do a lot of reading, listening on the radio, watching tv, and also speaking with Natives to learn English. These are some great ways to improve your new language skill. I took three years of Japanese in high school. I barely remember any of them now. I’ve been thinking about brushing up on my Japanese but didn’t know where to begin. I am so glad to read your article. This is one of the most informative and helpful articles about LingQ Japanse review. I like the idea of learning the language through reading and listening to stories. I also like the fact that you can sign up for free.I will definitely check it out. What can you lose when you have a chance to use something for free. Thank you so much for sharing. 

    Reply
    • Yeah, I can say just from reading your comment that your English is excellent! Probably even better than some of my American friends, lol!

      Yeah, the thing about learning is that the human brain is always looking for and recognizing patterns. And since all languages are just a collection of repeating patterns, once your brain gets enough data into it through reading and listening, it begins to figure out how it works.

      There are lots of ways to learn a new language, but LingQ is (in my opinion) one of the best, if not THE very best!

      Reply
  7. That is a really cool program and I just signed up for it from reading about it in this post.  I have always been a huge fan of learning different languages.  I’ve always said that “anyone can get a degree, but learning multiple languages takes a super power” lol

    I have used duolingo for a few years now and I even listen to podcasts and youtube learning videos, but this looks really good.  I like how you can translate the words and hear them.  I can’t wait to dive in and see how it helps me learn! Thanks for introducing me to this 🙂

    Reply
    • Yeah, I’ve also tried out Duolingo in the past, and I felt that they were pretty good, but I didn’t really enjoy all of the translation exercises that they use to help you learn the new language. 

      Definitely give LingQ a try and see how you enjoy learning from the interesting topics and stories that are available on there.  The cool thing is that you get access to ALL languages through LingQ, so you can learn multiple ones if you would like to. 

      Reply
  8. This LingQ is so interesting in the way it caters learning to individual’s needs. You choose what you want to learn, and add those words to your database. The color scheme is such a genius idea too, so it makes a more lasting impression if you know you had encountered this word before. It helps to tickle your memory even if you have forgotten about having read it before. 

    I’d be trying this out, as I’m visiting Okinawa for holiday in December. Thanks for the recommendation! 

    Reply
    • Yeah, I also love the color scheme since, just like you mentioned, it reminds you of when you’ve already seen a word. This usually prompts you to try and remember the meaning or the pronunciation and many times you can then recall it.

      It’s definitely a great way to learn a new language! 

      Reply
  9. Wow Nick, I’m like, super hooked and inspired when I read about Steve’s journey!

    I was like him once, except that I didn’t manage to learn that many languages fast and I only started picking up a language better and faster after I’ve reached that country. There are many language courses all over the world but it’s the story of how they formed up that interests me to join one and start committing myself to learning till I learned the language. 

    Out of curiosity, how many hours do you spend listening and reading before you are able to do it faster each time? 

    Reply
    • Yeah, I also was inspired by Steve’s language learning journey and I’ve even read his book where he basically talks about the first 50 years of his life or so. A really fascinating read if you ever get the chance.

      As for hours spent with the language, it’s kind of tough to estimate, but I spend about three hours a day of listening (most of it while doing other stuff) and then I read about 3,000 words per day.

      What I’ve noticed is that anything new takes work to understand, but when I re-read something after two or three months it’s actually pretty easy. I think it’s a combination of learning new words, and of course going back over old ones again. 

      Reply

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