LingQ Japanese Review – 2019

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 – 2019.

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:

  1. The attitude of the learner.
  2. Time spent with the new language.
  3. 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?


  • Lok Which

    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 

    • Nick Hoyt

      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!  

  • Ryan

    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?

    • Nick Hoyt

      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. 

  • Paul

    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.


    • Nick Hoyt

      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!

  • John

    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? 


    • Nick Hoyt

      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.

  • Elaine $ Scarlett

    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. 


    Scarlett and Elaine

    • Nick Hoyt

      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! 

  • Hong

    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. 

    • Nick Hoyt

      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!

  • Nicki V

    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 🙂

    • Nick Hoyt

      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. 

  • Joo

    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! 

    • Nick Hoyt

      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! 

  • Riaz Shah

    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? 

    • Nick Hoyt

      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. 

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