Do you mark words as known even though you don't know the kanji?


I’m new to the program and I’m not sure what to do with words I know very well though I never learned the kanji for them. Should they be considered a new word? I’m just wondering if it’s more beneficial to prioritize mastering both the word and kanji before it’s considered a known word or to focus on comprehension and let kanji recognition eventually come on it’s own? I’m curious to know what others have done/are doing.

for Chinese, I only consider a word to be known, when I can also write the characters. (i.e. write by hand, not using pinyin keyboard)

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While I’ve been using LingQ for French for a few years, a few months ago started using it daily too to refresh my old B1ish level understanding of Japanese. Back in the day, I could read about 1,000 kanji.

I still kinda have this question myself about how to use LingQ effectively with Japanese.

First, I’d say that LingQ isn’t really designed to help learn kanji. If it was, it would help track kanji known as robustly as it tracked words known. For instance, what if LingQ visualized words known, as it does, with the background colorization, but also employed colorized underlining of unknown and partially known individual kanji at the character level? What if LingQ provided the user the ability to click on individual kanji to then see the kanji’s on and kun yomi, the meanings, the stroke count, the radical used for dictionary ordering, the composite radicals more loosely definied, an animation with stroke order, etc. [even as other software has done for 20 years]? The LingQ design team simply hasn’t prioritized such as this. With Steve’s personal language background, this kind of surprises me.

All this being said, I suspect the best practice is to mark the word known when all its kanji are known, with at least the meaning and on/kun yomis as used in the given word.

Then the next question is, do you identify it as known when you can only read it? Or when you can write it? Generally, in other languages, LingQ works best when you mark it as “known” when the word is in your active vocabulary. In an alphabet-based language, there’s little distance between being in active spoken vocabulary and an ability to write. With Japanese, it’s particularly large between the number of on and kun pronunciations an individual kanji can have. So here, to use LingQ effectively, I think the question has to be, what your goal? Is it to be able to a) speak and read?, b) write with the aid of modern online tools, or c) write old fashioned pen [or brush!] and paper?

Personally, when I studied Japanese first many years ago, I put soooo much time into writing by hand. I regret the amount of language study time I put into that skill. I wish I had just focused on being able to speak and read. As such, now in re-learning/re-freshing Japanese, I mark a word know when I can read it with the correct pronunciation without the aid of furigana, romaji or similar. When you mark it known may depend upon what your language learning goals are.

Now, that said, this gets me to another LingQ problem. This one isn’t a feature limitation but more simply bugginess in my opinion. Sometimes, the LingQ software gets the on and kun readings wrong. Others can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this issue and its relationship with breaking sentences up into words has been brought up to the LingQ support team with rather unurgent “we’ll look into that” responses.

All that being said, I’ve been using LingQ as a fairly effective tool to help refresh in my brain the Japanese I learned years ago. I just have to check on and kun readings sometimes when I don’t trust LingQ.


I have a similar background to gmeyer with Japanese, and very much agree with his points.

As far as lingQ status, my preference may be a little different. I don’t worry about the words being in my active vocabulary on lingq, because lingQ is mostly a tool for passive consumption of content.

I like for words that I don’t feel I have on lock to be highlighted. My hope is that calling attention to them as I read helps burn them in. This would include words for which I know the word but not the kanji, or could read because I know the kanji but was unfamiliar with the word.

I change statuses manually based on my own standard, and mostly don’t rely on the flash card system to move them up. If you are using that, you may not want to explode your flash card quantity by leaving so many highlighted.

For me, I use the statuses very functionally:
1 = unfamiliar and new words
2 = everything from somewhat familiar to words I do understand but don’t feel are locked in
3 = select words to drill with LingQs flash card system (I filter by status). I only do L1 → L2.
4 = words that I have moved up using flash cards.
5 = words I feel I have on lock and understand

I’m not saying use it like I do, but I’d recommend using the statuses in a way that is most functional for how you use lingQ.

Yes, I have been using the flashcard system which is what prompted the question. Because there is a gap between what I can understand and what I can read, if I marked everything I couldn’t read, I would be stalled on kanji lessons rather than working on new vocabulary or I’d be quickly bogged down with the reviews…which has the potential to eventually make me want to abandon the whole thing (looking at you wanikani). However, I think the idea of making up my own system, manually changing the status and just not relying on the system for that would solve the problem.

Thanks, you’ve all given me lots to think about, namely how I need to define my goals and think about how I want to use the program. I think I’ll need to shift my approach a bit. I was expecting to learn a cut and dry program but I see now that because Japanese presents some unique challenges (kanji, the odd spacing, wrong readings, etc) I’ll have to play around with it and develop my own way of using the system.

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