Say Hello to Pinyin, Romaji and Hiragana!

It’s no surprise that Chinese and Japanese aren’t the easiest languages to read. Each language contains many thousands of different characters, and remembering them can be a huge challenge.

We’ve heard your cries for help, and are excited to announce a brand new feature here at LingQ that will (help) make your worries disappear.

Pinyin, Romaji and Hiragana are now available directly on the lesson page.

To view Pinyin, Romaji or Hiragana for a whole lesson, just click the appropriate icon that appears at the top of the lesson. As soon as you click, the page will update to display the appropriate script conversion directly above** each individual term.

To see it for a specific word, just click that word and it will automatically show up in the blue and yellow panes.

In addition, Chinese and Japanese have now been updated with a new parsing algorithm. In short, words should be split more accurately now.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

**Please note that there are some issues in Firefox when displaying transliterations. This is a browser issue, and should hopefully be resolved in a future version of Firefox.

Brilliant news!

Love it!

Great work!

I’m wondering: could the next big step be the translation itself? A single word maybe. It would use too much space maybe. But it could be visible only for blue/yellow words. I’d find it very helpful, not having to select words to confirm their meaning, even if this means I only get a single word. Also, this feature would be helpful for not only eastern language learners, but for all languages.

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Yup, translation is something we’re looking at, though it’s quite a bit trickier (due largely to the length difference between a term and a potential translation). It’s not yet right around the corner, but something like this is somewhere on the horizon :slight_smile:

In the short term, you may also want to try the minimized mode. Just click the “[<<]” icon at the top right to minimize the dashboard. In this mode, you can just hover over a word to see the definition rather than having to click on it.

Very cool.

No doubt this will attract the “this is a lazy digital crutch”, “this is damaging to your learning/don’t use this feature” crowd. My best advice: just ignore these people.

For Chinese, there are a lot of respected academics that advocate reading like this to start with, and extending it well into the learning process anywhere from 2-5 years, or longer. The longest, and largest, studies in China (some 20+ years, with 3 million+ children and adult illiterate participants), show this is the best to learn characters.

I’ve never “learnt” or memorized a single character but know many, many thousands, just by reading like this.

It’s like what Victor Mair* stated :

“[pinyin over hanzi] was a godsend in that it enabled me to learn Chinese characters passively and painlessly. By assimilating massive amounts of publications [with pinyin over hanzi text], before long I was able to read texts without phonetic annotation.”

“If I were the czar or god of Chinese and Japanese language pedagogy, I would not teach students a single Chinese character until they were relatively fluent — about two years. I’ve always said that we should learn languages the way babies do; they learn to speak long before they learn to write.”

One point to note; Chinese characters can often have multiple pinyin. I’ve noticed some simple characters often get the pinyin wrong. Not sure if there is a plan to refine/update whatever algorithm is used to select the pinyin, in the future.

[*Victor Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, at the University of Pennsylvania]

Also: Lingq thread - “How do I learn to read and write characters?” my response : How Do I Learn To Read/Write Chinese? Do I Just ... - Lan...


My response to the new changes isn’t as sophisticated, nuanced & intellectual as iaing’s! :slight_smile:

♪♫•* WHOOHOOO! •♫♪
谢谢,ありがとう、merci! *•♫♪
•♫♪.•°”˜˜”°•.¸☆ ★ ☆¸.•°”˜˜”°•.¸☆
╔╗╔╦══╦═╦═╦╗╔╗ ☆ ★ ☆ ★ ☆ ★ ☆
║╚╝║══║═║═║╚╝║ I’M A
║╔╗║╔╗║╔╣╔╩╗╔╝ ★HAPPY little Vegemite!!!
╚╝╚╩╝╚╩╝╚╝═╚╝ :heart:☆★☆★☆:heart: ★☆


I am so unbelievably excited about this new feature. I cannot wait to get back into Mandarin. I learn language best through massive reading input and I really think this will dramatically increase my learning speed…

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I am not seeing this new option in Damn Simple Chinese, or MIT’s Learning Chinese. Both of these are for beginners. Is there any beginners courses with the pinyin option?

Hi! The Pinyin option is available for all Chinese lessons, and can be accessed by clicking the little “A” icon that appears at the top when in a lesson. Let us know if you’re not seeing this for some reason!

I see it now.

I really admire people who take up chinese or japanese, I feel like I wouldn’t ever be able to learn anything in these languages :frowning:

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You can! They’re just like any other language. They have their own difficulties but they’re not impossible. I think that Asian languages sometimes seem alien to westerners, but once you get into them you realize that you can learn to speak and understand them just like you can with English or French or any other language. : )

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The main problem in my opinion is the number of characters, I would’nt how to remember the kanjis in japanese, for instance.

And the sounds of chinese are so few that a single word can have a ton of different meanings …
It’s one of the reasons why this language doesn’t attract me, which is a bit of a pity considering how interesting is chinese culture…

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“the sounds of chinese are so few that a single word can have a ton of different meanings”

This is a well worn fallacy.

Chinese has around 1300 distinct sounds (which is quite low compared to many languages), but the vast majority of words are two of these sounds together. This structure makes for comparatively few words having the same sound but different meanings, compared with many other languages.

In English the word “run” has over 100 meanings*. Do you have a problem with this word in English? If not, then Chinese is nowhere near as difficult.


Absolutely marvellous! Thanks so much! This is what we have been waiting for!!

I find that reading a translation with pinyin and the characters line by line from the notes box very helpful the first few times I read and listen to a lesson. This is comparatively easy to include. Of course, I don’t make the translation, but Slow Chinese has a translation available (free resource) and ChinesePod has all three if you pay for the privilege. CP is, unfortunately, quite expensive these days.

I agree, TBone!

I have been extremely slow in starting and nearly gave up. However, just over a year in, much of what I am listening to and reading is making sense. It is possible!

At the same time, I am discovering that learning Chinese is absolutely fascinating and addictive. It beats any computer game for an absorbing way to spend time.


“some simple characters often get the pinyin wrong” eg : 给那看说把几万看发听为当令角打地的得读女扫

It sounds like a good thing for beginners, who previously had no Pinyin to view in Chinese, making it very difficult to start reading with LingQ.

However, I still don’t know how much the word splitting has improved, or if it’ll ever be 100% accurate, which is pretty essential for learning material! Imagine a book on the market with incorrect Pinyin and translations…

If the word splitting is not 100% accurate, the Pinyin will possibly also be inaccurate, leading to more confusion than it’s worth.

As an example, I came across 中国传媒大学 which was phoneticised as zhōngguó zhuàn méi dà xué, It should be Zhōngguó Chuánméi Dàxué. If you pronounce chuánméi as zhuànméi, you will not be understood. Zhuàn is an alternate pronunciation for 传 with a different meaning. But more importantly, you will be learning neither the individual words nor the name as a whole even if you figured out the individual words. This is not good for a learner…

What I’ve always done and recommended others do with LingQ is use the popup Chinese-English dictionary Google Chrome extension called Zhongwen. With this tool, one can hover their mouse over the first character in 中国传媒大学, that is 中, and what will pop up is the following information, including the simplified and traditional characters, the Pinyin (with tone marks and color indications), and the English translation. Notice it will also accurately detect long phrases, words, and individual characters, listing the information as follows:

中国传媒大学 中國傳媒大學 Zhōng guó Chuán méi Dà xué
Communication University of China (CUC), the highest institute of radio, film and television education in China
中国 中國 Zhōng guó
中 Zhōng
China; Chinese; surname Zhong
中 zhōng
within; among; in; middle; center; while (doing something); during; (dialect) OK; alright
中 zhòng
to hit (the mark); to be hit by; to suffer; to win (a prize, a lottery)

Then if you move your mouse over one character to 国 you get:

国 國 Guó
surname Guo
国 國 guó
country; nation; state; national; CL: 個|个

And again, if you move your mouse over to the next character 传, in 中国传媒大学, it recognises:

传媒 傳媒 chuánméi
传 傳 chuán
to pass on; to spread; to transmit; to infect; to transfer; to circulate; to conduct (electricity)
传 傳 zhuàn
biography / historical narrative / commentaries / relay station

So there at the bottom you see the alternate pronunciation and meaning of 传, but because the program accurately detected 传媒 (chuánméi - media) and earlier the entire name 中国传媒大学 (Zhōng guó Chuán méi Dà xué - Communication University of China), you know that’s not the pronunciation or meaning you’re looking for, but now you know it’s there. Instead, you learn the entire name and the individual words and characters that make it up.

It is far more accurate and useful to hide the splitting on the Lesson page and use this tool for learning Chinese. If you want to see the Pinyin for everything as you read, simply hover your mouse over it as you go. Or if you think that’s too much of a crutch later on, but still want to see the Pinyin and quick meanings for words, simply hover over them as you wish.

This extension uses the dictionary from, and it obviously works everywhere on the internet, so including the LingQ forum and not just the Lesson page. However, it’s only an extension for Google Chrome. So, perhaps not everyone can use it.

What I would suggest then, is for the LingQ team to contact the developers (of the Zhongwen extension and to see about integrating it into the LingQ system, so people no longer have to fool around with clumsy word recognition, splitting, and incorrect Pinyin. Accuracy is essential for a learning tool so learners aren’t getting poor, incorrect information.

There is also now a German version of this extension which works in the same way. Since German and Chinese are the languages I study, I find it useful to use the German version when reading Chinese too.