Readers, you know I am a HUGE fan of learning Japanese through immersion.
When you are enjoying a Japanese TV show or a movie that you love, you absorb new language much more easily than studying from a book. And it doesn’t even feel like learning!
Lingopie is a new site and app that will help you learn Japanese through binge watching real Japanese TV shows and short films. You can watch authentic Japanese content in a huge range of genres.
Each video has optional subtitles in Japanese and English. You can click on a word you don’t know to get a definition. New words are also added to your flashcard deck to review later.
I’ve been using Lingopie for a month or so now. Here’s my honest review of Lingopie to learn Japanese.
Lingopie Japanese review summary
|Price||$12/month, or $50.40 for a full year (the equivalent of just $4.20 per month) with exclusive Team Japanese discount!|
|Access||Website, iOS app, Android app|
|Summary||Learn Japanese watching real TV shows with clickable subtitles for instant translations.|
|Verdict||A fun and affordable way to improve Japanese listening and vocabulary. Recommended for those who can already read basic Japanese.|
Learning Japanese with Lingopie
It is really easy to get started with Lingopie. Firstly, they offer a 7 day free trial (click here to sign up). When you sign up for the trial you need to choose your level, your reason for learning, and your preferred genres.
Then you are instantly given three options of shows you might enjoy and you can dive right in!
Lingopie has Japanese content in a wide range of genres. There are dramas, anime, documentaries, cooking shows and short films. Most of the videos are under 10 minutes in length but there are also many longer shows, 30 minutes to an hour or more.
In particular, Lingopie have a good selection of Japanese dramas and also documentaries about life in Japan.
I would describe most of the content as ‘hidden gems’. They aren’t really famous anime you might have seen elsewhere, but it is still good quality content.
Unfortunately in many cases you only get the first episode in a series so you can’t binge watch a whole series on Lingopie.
At the time of writing there were 62 shows on air but they are committed to launching more on a weekly basis.
It’s worth noting that Lingopie only added Japanese to their lineup in April 2022 so it’s still a work in progress! Other languages on Lingopie, such as Spanish and French, have very extensive content libraries and even include different kinds of content such as podcasts. So hopefully Japanese is heading that way too.
When you are watching a show on Lingopie there are a few neat options to help you learn.
- Speak sentence – repeats the current sentence in a slower, clearer voice
- Say it – record yourself saying the current sentence, get a score and listen back.
- Loop sentence – repeat the same sentence over and over
- Playback speed – slow down the audio (highly recommended for beginners!)
These can all be accessed from the toolbar at the bottom of the video.
Of course, there are also the interactive subtitles, the main draw of Lingopie!
With Lingopie’s special subtitles, you can read along with the audio, and click on any word you don’t know for an instant translation. Any word you look up is automatically added to your words list and flashcard deck so you can review it later.
You can turn on the subtitles at the bottom of the video. These are available in Japanese and/or English.
You can also have the full script showing on the right side of the screen. This is in Japanese only. You can click on each line to play it, or simply follow along with the video.
You can turn off the subtitles and the script completely if you want to really test your listening skills.
I did notice that the dictionary definition given in the subtitles is not always the most accurate. Use it as a rough guide only and don’t hesitate to use other reference materials if you need more context.
Another issue is that the subtitles are currently only available in ‘full’ Japanese, i.e. with kanji. There are no pronunciation aids such as furigana, kana only or romaji options.
Although the subtitle settings do show an ‘English letters’ option, this was not working properly at the time of writing – although my contact at Lingopie does tell me that they are aware of this issue and working on it! So fingers crossed we will get at least a romaji option soon.
Unfortunately, until this fix is up and running, Lingopie is not great for complete beginners. I recommend you know hiragana, katakana and some basic kanji before you start using it. But as long as you are comfortable reading kana and looking kanji up in an online dictionary, you will be fine – and in fact, it can be an advantage to get used to reading real Japanese as soon as possible without using pronunciation guides as a crutch.
When you leave or finish a show you’ll be prompted to review any new words with your flashcard deck. You can also access your flashcards any time from the main dashboard.
The flashcards show the new Japanese word by itself, and also give the sentence in which it appeared in the video. This is great because it is much easier to learn words in context.
Again, one big issue is that there is no furigana/hiragana option for kanji words. So this can be off-putting for beginners. But hopefully this function will be added soon.
You can also see all your new words in a list, and review them with games and quizzes.
How to use Lingopie to learn Japanese
There are various ways you could study with Lingopie. For example, if you want to actively study, you can go sentence by sentence, pausing the video after each line and using the built in features to repeat, translate, and look up any new words.
You can use Lingopie for shadowing practise by repeating each line yourself. This can really improve your speaking speed, pronunciation and intonation.
And when you need a break from active studying, you can go into passive mode. Simply enjoy absorbing some content in Japanese and just translate the occasional word you don’t know.
Lingopie pros and cons
✅ Good price (less than half the price of FluentU!)
✅ Fun and addictive way to study
✅ Flashcards are great, unknown words automatically added to decks
✅ Easy to use interface
✅ Great for improving your vocabulary and listening
✅ Great for auditory and visual learners
❌ The dictionary could be improved. It gives a single word translation with no additional explanations, for example 俺 (ore) is simply translated as ‘I’ with no mention of the nuances of different ways to say ‘I’ in Japanese.
❌ No furigana/pronunciation guides for kanji – difficult for beginners (although romaji should be added soon)
Lingopie vs FluentU
|Standard price: $12/month (and 65% discount on annual plan available for Team Japanese discount!)||$29.99/month|
|7 day free trial||14 day free trial|
|Subtitles in full Japanese or English only, no pronunciation guides for kanji||Subtitles in full Japanese, furigana/hiragana and English|
|Full length content: mix of short films and longer shows||Short clips only|
|Entertainment content only (dramas, anime, short films)||Wider range of ‘real life’ content (ads, speeches, news, music etc)|
|Smaller choice of content at present (but more to be added)||Larger choice of Japanese content (and more added weekly)|
|Slightly harder to navigate/filter content||Easy to filter content by theme, level etc|
|Simple dictionary, single word definitions only||More advanced dictionary with pictures and example sentences|
Personally, if I could only sign up to one of these sites I would pick Lingopie. This is because I prefer to watch longer shows (you can really get absorbed, and it feels less like studying!) and they have a great selection of dramas. Also, the price is much lower.
But FluentU definitely has some advantages too. One major advantage is that you can turn on furigana (pronunciation guides) for the kanji in the Japanese subtitles. This makes it the better option for beginners. They also have more content at present – although Lingopie say they are working on this. And I felt like they had more of an emphasis on reviewing new vocab with flashcards and games.
I feel like Lingopie is simpler to use and has a focus on watching and enjoying content. FluentU is more focused on learning and drilling new words and phrases.
The standard price for Lingopie is $12 per month billed monthly, or $71.88 per year if you pay upfront.
Lingopie have offered me a unique discount of 65% off the annual plan for Team Japanese readers.
This makes it $50.40 for a full year, the equivalent of just $4.20 per month! To access the discount, just register using this link.
The best thing is that you get access to all 9 languages on Lingopie for the same subscription fee. (Currently they have Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, English and of course Japanese.) So if you are studying more than one language this is a great deal.
There is an especially huge amount of content in French and Spanish, but they are adding more to other languages as time goes by.
It’s also worth noting that they offer a family & friends plan where you can add up to 4 users for $99 per year! If you are studying Japanese with some buddies you could split the cost, making this a real bargain.
You can also get a free month for every friend you refer.
Lingopie free trial
You can get one week’s free trial at Lingopie by signing up here.
Keep in mind that you will need to enter payment info to take the free trial, and you will be automatically charged at the end of the trial period unless you cancel. So put a reminder in your diary so you don’t forget!
You can easily cancel your trial or subscription under your account settings online.
Conclusion: should you subscribe to Lingopie?
Overall, I have been really impressed with Lingopie and I think it is a fantastic tool for language learners! But, like any tool, it’s not for everyone. So, is Lingopie any good for you?
✅ YES if…
- You are looking for a fun and easy way to improve your Japanese (especially vocabulary and listening comprehension)
- You are a visual and/or auditory learner and you are looking for a resource that works with your personal language learning style
- You can read a little Japanese, and you are comfortable with the idea of learning kanji
- You want to watch more Japanese shows
- You can afford $12 per month or $50.40 as a one-off cost for the year.
- You understand that Lingopie is not a full Japanese course and will not teach you grammar etc.
❌ NO if…
- You haven’t already learned the kana and some basic kanji (come back to Lingopie later!)
- You’re not interested in Japanese dramas, documentaries or short films
- You are looking for free resources (try these instead!)
- You prefer to concentrate on a full Japanese course to learn grammar, reading, writing etc.
In conclusion, I found that Lingopie is great for extra immersion and introduction to native Japanese materials! But keep in mind it is not a substitute for an actual course. It will not teach you grammar, writing and so on.
If you are just looking for a way to improve your vocabulary and listening comprehension while enjoying original Japanese shows, I recommend you give it a go!
Have you used Lingopie to learn Japanese? How does it compare to other programmes you’ve used? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!
Other resources to learn Japanese online
- JapanesePod101 review
- Rocket Japanese review
- FluentU review
- Pimsleur Japanese review
- Huge list of Japanese podcasts
- Huge list of Japanese YouTube channels
- Huge list of site for free Japanese reading practise
Rebecca is the founder of Team Japanese. She spent two years teaching English in Ehime, Japan. Now back in the UK, she spends her time blogging, self-studying Japanese and wrangling a very genki toddler.