How would you like to learn Japanese from interesting content that you would normally read or listen to in your native language for fun? For example, do you like the Harry Potter books? What would it be like to learn from the Japanese eBook and audio book directly?
That is the basic premise behind the company LingQ (pronounced “link”) which is to “Learn Languages from Content You Love.” This of course includes Japanese, and today I’ll be giving you my LingQ Japanese review – 2018.
There’s a lot to learn about it, so let’s start with the basic philosophy behind it first, and then move on to exactly how the course accomplishes this for its students.
LingQ’s Language Learning Philosophy
To understand why LingQ teaches languages the way it does, it helps to learn a little about one of its co-founders Steve Kaufmann.
Steve Kaufmann was born and raised in Canada, but he only spoke English for the first 17 or so years of his life. Then he developed a passion for France, its culture, people, and of course language.
He spent some time living and attending college in France before getting a job with the Canadian government as a diplomat to move to Hong Kong and learn Chinese. Then he moved to Japan and lived there for nine years, learning the language and culture much as he did before.
Steve’s language learning approach has always been the same from the time he started, up until now where he speaks around 17 languages to varying degrees. His approach can be summed very up simply:
- Do lots of reading and lots of listening in the language you’re learning.
He of course advocates speaking to natives when you feel that you want to, and he says that he references grammar rules to help make things clearer, but the two core activities are reading and listening in the target language.
He says that by doing a combination of these activities for at least an hour a day, your brain gets used to the new language and you then begin to understand and use it much the same way you do with your native language.
Think of it this way, if you ran a total of 1,000 miles in a single year then nobody would be surprised that you’re in pretty good physical shape. Similarly, if you read 1,000,000 words in the new language in a year, then you’ll be pretty good at reading.
Now obviously at first you’ll need to choose beginner level stuff and aim to read, just for example, 500 words per day. But as your comprehension gradually improves in Japanese, you can comfortable increase both the difficulty and the amount that you consume in the new language.
In short, the philosophy is to learn through massive input, and preferably from things that you find interesting and enjoy.
Steve also says that there are three critical elements needed for the student in order to learn any language:
- The attitude of the learner.
- Time spent with the new language.
- Access to compelling materials.
You have to be positive in your thoughts about the new language. You have to like it and believe that you life will be better once you gain a level of mastery with it. You also need to believe that it is possible for you to become fluent given enough time and effort.
You need to spend a lot of time listing and reading, over the courses of months and sometimes years. He personally learned Mandarin by spending about 7 hours per day (the Canadian government paid him to learn it) over the course of about 10 months. This equates to just over 2,000 hours of exposure and engagement with the language.
That’s a pretty good goal to aim for when the language it very different from your native language (like how Japanese is very different from English), but if the new language is similar to your first one, then it won’t take nearly that much time.
Finally, it comes to materials. In a perfect world, you would learn from native materials that are appropriate to your level in the language, and that you find interesting and fun to engage with. Unfortunately, this task is harder to do than one would think.
Things like flash cards and textbooks can be incredibly helpful tools, but the end goal of language learning is to be able to function comfortable in the new language, and consuming native materials is usually the best way to do this since you know the material sounds normal and natural, and because of the massive amount and variety available.
Now here’s the thing: The first two points (attitude and time) are all up to you. That is something that you have to work on yourself and maintain throughout the journey.
But the third point, the one that’s kind of hard to do on your own, is exactly what LingQ specializes in for language learning. Their course is all about getting you the native content that you will find interesting and genuinely want to learn from, and then help you to understand all of the new words you encounter.
It also breaks everything down by level so that you can start with the beginner stuff, but then end up with reading and listening to full books and novels in Japanese.
Let’s talk about how they do that now.
LingQ’s Revolutionary Learning Tools
Alright, so you know that the primary way that you learn Japanese through LingQ is through a lot of reading and listening. The primary strength of this system is that you are quickly able to lookup and then save the definitions of new words and phrases.
Better yet, if someone else has gone through the lesson before you, then there is a very high chance that they will have created definitions for the words already, and you can just select from the list in a matter of seconds, instead of looking them up in an online definition and making a new entry yourself.
What this process does is takes away all of that busywork time most people spend looking up definitions in dictionaries, over and over again, until finally the information for new words finally sticks.
This allows you to actually read through a story and understand the gist of what’s going on, even if you only knew a small percentage of the words contained in the story when you started.
What you are going to be doing every day is choosing things that you find interesting, but which are in Japanese, and then learning those exact words and phrases in order to improve your Japanese.
As you continue to assign meanings to the Japanese words you encounter, you end up creating your own specialized database of the words you’ve encountered so that you can quickly refer back to it whenever you feel like you can’t recall the meaning.
This is showed pretty simply through a color scheme on each page.
Words that you don’t know yet are colored in blue at first, but once you’ve clicked on the word and selected a definition it changes to yellow so that you know that you’ve encountered it before.
As you continue to read and encounter these same words again over time, you will eventually learn them and change the color to white so that you can mark it as a known word.
Then you just have to continue to do this until you’ve learned enough words to read an entire book without needing to look anything up!
Now let’s talk about listening through LingQ.
The really powerful thing that gets combined with the reading is the ease at which you can listen to natives speaking whatever it is you’re reading.
You simply press the “play button” while you’re reading and you can then listen to the audio in the lesson. In addition to this, you can create a playlist that is comprised of these audio files so that you can listen to them on your phone through the LingQ app whenever you are on the go.
I like to listen to things while I’m driving, while I’m going for a run, or sometimes when I’m doing data entry type work on the computer.
By combining both reading and listening in this way, you greatly accelerate your comprehension in the language and ensure that you make progress towards fluency.
Accessible Through All Of Your Devices
The primary way that I use it is on the desktop when I go through a new lesson. I find that it’s easiest to create new definitions on a computer since you can use the mouse and keyboard for copy-paste actions.
However, I also have the app on both my tablet and phone so that if I just want to re-read a story that I went through a few months ago, I can do so easily and comfortably on the couch or in my bed.
Then when I want to listen to any of the audio when I’m out of the house, I use my phone since it’s always within reach of me.
What this means is that you can use LingQ on any of your electronic devices, at any time. This allows you to make sure you can always take advantage of any dead time while you are going through your day, and instead turn it into learning time for Japanese.
Importing Your Own Materials for Maximum Enjoyment
I’ve used a lot of different courses to learn Japanese, but LingQ is definitely the best one when it comes to learning the language through reading and listening to stories.
This is not only true because of its word saving functions and playlist capabilities, but also because you can import any digital books (and audio books) that you own and then learn from them directly.
This means that learning Japanese is actually a really enjoyable and fun activity since it’s not just about learning new words. It’s also about experiencing a story and going on adventures.
I favor learning through books, but I also find a lot of value in reading the news in Japanese through LingQ as well since it gives you exposure to a lot of vocabulary that are used in that particular medium.
If you enjoy history books, you can learn through them on LingQ. If you like to watch anime, you can study the dialog on LingQ. Basically speaking, if you can get a hold of any Japanese words in a digital format, you can put them in LingQ and start learning them right away.
I think that the two most powerful things that this does is provide you with lots and lots of exposure to authentic, native level stuff, and it also allows you to spend what would normally be your recreation time in Japanese, and therefore improve your skills in the language.
Get Started for Free
And to top it all off, you can get started with LingQ for free, right away. All you need to do is click on the button below and create your account through either your email or your social account (like Facebook).
This will put you right into it where you can select your level with Japaense and then start looking through the lessons that match your current abilities.
Something else that I forgot to mention is that LingQ will automatically keep track of all your stats.
What this means is that even when you don’t feel like you’re making any progree with Japanese, you can just look over and see stuff like your words known, your words read, hours spent listening, and so on to see how far you’ve come along.
Plus there are many other aspects to LingQ like setting up meetings with tutors so that you can practice speaking Japanese.
Or you can go through the forms and connect with other like minded people who are working on learning new languages just like you. Plus if you ever have any questions, you can post one and other people will be sure to anwer you.
Have you used LingQ before? What was your experience with it?