Google Translate difficulties for Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin... Your experience learning Asian languages with Lingq

Mandarin isn’t too too bad, but Korean, and even Worse Japanese makes Lingqing quite difficult.

The grammar in Japanese is extremely vague and I basically don’t know what is going on for the most part, so I’m just focusing on vocabulary and reading, trying to save lingqs when I can make them with the help of the pop up translator but still don’t understand the meaning much of the time.

The hardest part though is when there is lots of hiragana (japanese alphabet) without the kanji and the dictionary gives me multiple, totally non related words. (naku can mean cry, death, or lose without the specific character). I don’t quite understand how the Japanese deal with so many homophones. You really start to get why they need Kanji, but I still don’t get how there aren’t more problems with listening.

With Korean I find it to be a little bit better, it is definitely easier at this beginning stage to highlight some phrases but there is still plenty of ambiguity and many of the dialogues I try to read are very unclear. It just blows my mind how different the grammar is in these languages and the computer just can’t understand what the meanings are. Having said that I still find Korean Lingq really fun because it’s challenging but I love the writing system. It’s so clever!

Mandarin seems to be much better than the other two but given that the bread and butter of Chinese grammar is the specific order of particles and words, it seem like there could be some problems and often grammar is unclear. I have also heard some people complain that pinyin and spacing problems persist.

How are your experiences using lingq with these difficult languages? How are you dealing with the troubles of google translate and do you use outside sources or alternate dictionaries? (if anyone can recommend a good korean translator let me know).


Have you started with a book like Assimil so you get the basics of the grammar and word structure before you plunge into the word split chaos and confusion of Lingq?

Also for Japanese, is almost always foolproof. There may be many homophones, but you just have to look for context hope this helps. :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh yea, I have been working with Japanese from zero and several others. I have the basic understandings of the different tenses, verb endings, adjective endings, most of the particles and many of the most common grammar structures.

However, It is still really hard to follow sentences that don’t really have any sort of direct meaning and negatives/double negatives always throw me off. There always seems to be a new ending, and complex sentences never seem to follow the basic patterns I learn. It has definitely gotten better over the last several months: it isn’t as impossible to follow, but it it still ambiguous even though I can get the general gist of things much of the time.

There are some things that you just need to have explained to you.

like “dare no koto desu ka”. means, “who are you talking about”, but I would have never been able to figure that out without someone having explained it me. I feel like I need to lingq with a permanent Japanese tutor next to me to translate sentence as I go.

I haven’t had any serious trouble with Chinese yet other than the word splitting and pinyin problems. The right pinyin usually comes with the translation so that tends to work itself out.

Google translate has been working fine for the most part, but when a character has many, sometimes conflicting meanings I usually google the word to clarify in what context each meaning applies.

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I agree. in the beginner stages I don’t have much trouble with google translate for Mandarin. However I’m not a good judge as I’m a beginner. I find Mandarin grammar to be much more intuitive to pick up on, even if it is quite different. The writing system though… that’s a whole other can of bees. Anyone who learns to read chinese deserves a pat on the back. Takes some serious effort and persistence to learn all those characters.

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Now that I have made 30k lingqs, most of my time dealing with korean here is actually spent on Naver. Goggle translate for me is pretty much useless. The only time it helps is when I’m pretty sure what a word means and it confirms my belief. I have had periods where it has frustrated me to the point of downgrading and avoiding lingq completely for a few months.

Using the popular lessons in the library is ok, but once you start importing content, two thirds of your words will have no hints, be really vague or wrong. The way I deal with this vary depending on my mood. Sometimes I spend close to a minute per word, looking at example sentences and making my own hint, but this is really time consuming and I retain very little new information in these sessions.
Lately I’ve started skipping words and just leaving them blue, but then you have those times when you hit the complete lesson by accident.

I must be one of the members with the lowest known words compared to lingqs made, so maybe if I knew 10-15k words I would be having an easier time dealing with this. I also might be a bad language learner, but I never had any problems with learning English.

I believe the biggest problem is that a limited amount of users on lingq has taken Korean to a high level, so there’s very few people making good hints. It’s quite bizarre how often I encounter words that get used daily, but have zero hints.

When you take all these problems into consideration, it’s impossible for me to understand how Steve got close to 50k known words in such a short time.

lol, it’s the exact same for me in Japanese. I have by far my highest lingq count in Japanese but it’s one of my lowest word counts.

I find that using comparative reading helps with this problem a great deal. Reading a book with Korean and English side by side allows me figure out the meaning of a word even when no satisfactory hints are available.

In Korean, where you might have a single word meaning something like “that would be a spaceship, as you know,” trying to G-Translate your way around gets tricky. To me it’s more about developing a feel for identifying the grammatical intent at the end of the word, then identifying the subject, and just move on with the story.

So, with these languages, I’d stick with material that has translations available a lot longer than other languages. With French, for example, it’s a lot easier to Lingq your way through a book once you have a certain amount of vocab and grammar, because it’s so well supported by G-Translate.

With Korean, I’m happy to comparative read for as long as takes to build up enough knowledge.


I find connecting the sounds with the characters the most difficult so far though it is getting more intuitive as I go along. Time and patience is really all it takes

I’m not sure I understand what you mean by saying Japanese grammar is “vague”. The conjugations are often times simpler and more logical than in English. On the other hand, the subject is often left out of sentences (where it would be included in English) which can be confusing. Care to elaborate?

While it certainly has its fair share of homophones, you’ll struggle less and less the more you expose yourself to the language. While I don’t know if I could call myself fluent, I don’t often encounter problems with them at this stage in my learning (passed N1, been at it on lingq for almost 3 years now). Things become clear through context ^^

I gave up on google translate a long time ago, perhaps it’s improved since then, but I imagine it still has a long way to go. What dictionary do you use? Weblio often shows common collocations and example sentences along with English definitions. is good too.

BTW: なく does not mean to die or lose. That would be 亡くなる and 無くなる which are both read as なくなる.





Google translate translated the above sentences as follows:
"Japanese and Korean languages together with Turkish etc are in a group of agglutinative words, whereas Chinese is in a group of isolated words with Vietnamese etc. I think that the feeling of usablefiber is related to this difference.

I think that Japanese and Korea have common aspects, but Korea has been proceeding in a direction not using kanji, but there is a difference that Japanese has notation written by kanji."


The Japanese language and the Korean language belong to the agglutinative language group, whereas the Chinese language belongs to the isolated language group. I think that what usablefiber felt is related to this difference.

I think that Japanese and Korean have common aspects, but there is a difference concerning the use of Chinese characters. Korean has stopped using them, whereas Japanese is still using them.


Google translate translated the above English sentences into Chinese and Korean:
"日語和韓語屬於凝集語言群體,而中文語言屬於孤立語言群體。 我認為可用的纖維感到與這種差異有關。

我認為日本和韓國有共同的方面,但有一個區別,使用漢字。 韓國已停止使用它們,而日本人仍在使用它們。"

"일본어와 한국어는 응집력있는 언어 그룹에 속하며 중국어는 격리 된 언어 그룹에 속합니다. 사용 가능한 섬유가 느낀 점은이 차이와 관련이 있다고 생각합니다.

일본인과 한국인은 공통점이 있다고 생각 합니다만 한자 사용에 차이가 있습니다. 한국인은 사용을 중단했지만 일본인은 여전히 사용하고 있습니다."


Yea exactly. My brain is just really slow to pick up on this type of grammar.

Interestingly enough, Prinz of may was saying he found Chinese too difficult with the tones to understand where as i find the tones easy. I pick them up right away with a couple listens. Steve Kaufman has said that he “doesn’t find Japanese to be difficult” (which makes me feel pretty dumb) . He also said he found “Korean to be very difficult”.

Personally, I am finding Japanese to be by far the most difficult of the three and Mandarin to be the easiest.

Everyone seems to have a language for some reason that their brain just really has trouble with, and it looks like it’s Japanese for me. For some reasons I can pick up the grammar and meaning a bit easier with Korean than Japanese and I don’t know why. Words just don’t stick in my head. I spent about 45 mins this morning reading Japanese and only added 3 words. Eventually I’ll get the hang of it but it is going to take longer than other languages for me.

Maybe your real problem is that: you don’t find something interesting to you.I think that you are too concerned about don’t understand the language, and maybe this thing are making you not enjoy the language. Don’t forgot language learning takes time.

I am already working on my italian for 2 months 30 min at day and i have see this two little words since the beginning (più and ogni) and even now I don’t get theirs. So keep working and find someting interest.

I have a question just for curiosity, how many languages do you listen/read/speak ??

+1 for Naver. I use it to go from Korean to Japanese for my hints because the two languages map to each other so well, but it’s probably a different story if your hints are in any other language.

As far as community hints go, I’m blazing my own trails at least as much because of using Japanese for my LingQs. Every so often I’ll encounter some well- (even overly-?) thought-out hints, but for the most part I’m just winging it too.

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When I studied Korean pretty intensively for a few months, I found Google to be absolute terrible at finding the “correct” definition for most contexts. It was much better to try and look up the stem of words and find a list of possible meanings. Towards the end, I started to just rely on context to get the meaning of words which proved to be more helpful.

I don’t remember exactly which websites I used for definitions, as most of the time I google search the stem/word, and look at several sites.

My experience with Korean on LingQ was good, but not great. LingQ really needs more high beginner to low intermediate content to bridge the, what I believe is, the biggest stretch in language learning (A2 - B1).

I stopped studying Korean after the 3 months, but not due to that. And as t_harangi said, comparative reading really helps also, which I did quite a bit in Korean.

“When you take all these problems into consideration, it’s impossible for me to understand how Steve got close to 50k known words in such a short time”

I suspect his bar for marking words ‘known’ is pretty low. I’m fairly sure he makes use of the feature for marking everything blue as ‘known’ too.

When I began with LingQ was shocked at the appalling state of user hints for much of the content. I went through a long phase of dutifully entering properly researched hints (looked up the definition on Naver, wrote more than one English word to capture the meaning, possibly mentioned the grammar pattern in use)

I gave that up a while ago.

I tend to feel that most of the collaborative aspects to LingQ don’t apply, either in general or to Korean. And people are not really helping this any when they’re clearly accepting any old random thing for a hint.

My bar for marking a word as known is when I don’t need to look it up in order to understand what I am reading. I also make sure that wherever Hanja are available I put them into the Hints that I create. Google translate is very hit and miss, and even Naver is often not that great. I kind of flip back and forth between Daum and Naver.

I would be careful about making assumptions about what other people do, when you really don’t know. If we look at our statistics it is clear that I spend more time reading than you do, and a lot less time writing and deliberately learning words. This just a matter of preference. It means that you probably have a better level of mastery over what you have studied, and I have covered more ground, read more, listened more, exposed myself to more content, and acquired more words. To each his own.

Yea, that gap between “who is she” type beginner lessons… and 10 minute intermediate lessons like Iyagi is the biggest problem with some of the smaller library languages.

"I would be careful about making assumptions about what other people do, when you really don’t know. "

You don’t have to make many assumptions to make a pretty good guess. You just demonstrated that in your post even!

I think its a bit in error to look at totals because they stem more from time spent using LingQ. I think its highly likely you have spent more hours on Korean than I have so yes - you have done more of everything.

I think ratios are a better indication.

One just has to know the rules for the stats - when the lingq count is increased, under what conditions would known words increase but not the other stats, what causes lingqs-learned to increase…

Then look at someones profile and see how these stack up.

I mean if you look at my profile you can see that I create a lot of lingqs. 15% of my words read have turned into lingqs. My known words is a fraction of that with my lingqs-learned being very similar to known-words count.

You can tell that I tend to lingq most, if not every blue word. I rarely click the ‘i know this word’ or use the ‘move all blue words to known’ option (on the mobile app). I’ve probably bumped up most words using the familiarity meter - from blue to yellow to white.

One could also work through any content I have worked through and if it has a lot of poor user suggestions, conclude I have most likely clicked that word, made a lingq based off one of the aforementioned suggestions listed.