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https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor

English for Chinese speakers?

Ontalor
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Hey,

I was just curious if anyone knows anything about the English for Chinese speakers course? I'm currently living in China, and have a lot of friends who are really interested in using it to study English, but the progress on it seems to be inching along incredibly slowly. Are they just having a lot of difficulty translating the sentences or something? I also have friends waiting for the Chinese for English speakers course, and obviously that's going to be much further down the road.

4 years ago

25 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Z.Shan
Z.Shan
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Hey, @Ontalor. I can see you do know a lot about Chinese language after reading your comments here. Then I'm pretty sure you can understand more about the difficulties we face in the incubating process than others. Chinese language logic is very different from English one and even Japanese is relatively closer to English. We're currently incubating the course teaching Chinese speakers English, so I talk about this direction here. Here are 2 of the lots of difficulties we incubators have to deal with.

1.Tense

The past tense in Chinese is not the same as English. If you know "了", which is one of the only few characters that can tell you one independent sentence without temporal adverbial is about the past, you'll see it also appears in the tenses "simple present", "present continuous", "present perfect", "simple past", "past continuous" and "past perfect". This is because for grammar, Chinese is less specific and we tend to add temporal adverbial to indicate the tense or purely let the context lead you. In the incubator, we first translate the given English sentences to Chinese and translate the best one back to English. We have to accept all possible translations and therefore it's difficult to figure out a way to have a Chinese learner type the tense we want him to learn. In addition, We have to be very careful about which sentence being the best translation. If you want examples, I can give you some.

2.Syntactic expletives

Duolingo's principle is learning through translating. Word to word translation never generates pleasant results; however, if French-English word to word translation is still comprehensible, Chinese-Englsih really isn't. It's not only due to the word order, it's the language logic and expletives. Chinese particles are very different from English, we don't have articles or dummy subjects but we do have measure words and "把/被/给".

Also, simply more contributors in the incubator is not going to help. As @Nitram15 mentioned, a lot of things have to be agreed by all contributors first.

As soon as the beta is released, we'll get to the work on Chinese for English speakers and that will be so much faster since a lot of work has already been done. Thank the whole community for patiently waiting and we'll try our very best to not let you down.

2014.01.11

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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Thank you for the response! I was thinking it might be because the translation is difficult. Thank you for all the hard work! 感谢你们!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ckyle8
ckyle8
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Actually, it doesn't surprise me that the Asian languages are taking so long, especially Chinese. With the languages that have already advanced, they used a specific alphabet that represented specific sounds. Not all of them used the alphabet we're used to, but they follow the same basic principle. Chinese and Japanese are altogether different, with individual characters representing entire words. Add to this the possibility for different characters being pronounced nearly identical to one another, and you have a very long process of ensuring that the right characters are used in the right sentences, and ensuring that future learners will be able to differentiate between them. Now imagine doing all of that in reverse!

In other words, my hat is off to the contributors brave enough to tackle such a complex task. I will happily wait for as long as they need.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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Yah but none of that poses a problem; the course is for people learning English, and all users of simplified Chinese are already familiar with the roman alphabet because they use it for pinyin, their phonetic sound system. They different writing systems won't pose nearly as much of a problem for them as for English speakers learning Chinese.

I feel like I should have prefaced that I'm fluent in Chinese and understand that although it will take longer than the more similar languages, it seems now like it's not moving.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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I also should have added that at least on the mainland, where they use simplified characters, computer and cell phone input of characters is done with roman characters. They type in the romanization and then select the correct character based on that.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ckyle8
ckyle8
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Is that so? Forgive my ignorance, I'm operating off of a smattering of knowledge I picked up trying to learn Japanese on my own. The kanji system is based on the Chinese system, and it was directly responsible for tripping up my attempts. I'm eager to try it again through Duolingo, since it's already doing so well for me with Italian. In my case, though, I have no doubt that it will be ready for use long before I'm ready to use it. Italian is challenging enough for me at present.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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That is true, the kanji are originally Chinese characters. In fact sometimes I can get the gist of a sentence in Japanese just based on the characters they use. Korea and Vietnam also used to use Chinese characters, but then Korea developed their own alphabet and Vietnamese switched to a romanized version. I think Japanese partially developed their own alphabet to reflect conjugations and such that don't appear in Chinese. A word never changes in Chinese, they have no conjugation whatsoever.

I kinda wish Chinese switched to an alphabetic system as well, but almost every village in China has local dialects that are mutually incomprehensible, but their writing system is the same since it's not phonetic.

I'm also looking forward to Japanese. I won't know how serious I'll be about it until I try, but I would like to since I spend so much of my time playing Nintendo lol.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ckyle8
ckyle8
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And I wouldn't mind being able to brag about understanding anime without subtitles. :-P

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Not to mention that Japanese uses 3 scripts (kanji, hiragana, katakana) strictly speaking, 5 if furigana and romaji are included.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/juckele

Furigana isn't an alternate script despite the 'gana' in the name though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furigana

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ratizi
Ratizi
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I have much respect for them working hard for free. I can be patient for my Korean ^_^

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/harryclark17
harryclark17Plus
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Sometimes people just don't have time to work on it.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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I understand that, but the reason I waited so long to raise the question is that it is at this point by far the slowest language developing in the incubator, with languages released after it already way ahead, and it has the second highest number of contributors, beaten out only by English for Polish speakers.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/squiggy.fl

I am currently waiting for japanese, korean, and chinese from english. The slow progress is kiling me too. Japanese has been stuck for weeks. I am overall displeased by the slowness of the incubator. They said "by new years" we would start having blank to english in the incubator. This has not happened. They cant even get people to work on korean to english. The engish to blank courses are being done by the same people, who will likely be all burnt out by then and so it will slow everything down even more. Ive been waiting for Japanese since the first news report that the recaptcha creator was gonna do language software. That was years ago. Now it looks like I will have to wait yet another year for japanese, chinese, and korean. I wish they allowed a lot more people to work on the courses. 10 might be the magic number. That way if 4 of them decide that they have better things to do, or they have some kind of family emergency, there are 6 people to keep the ball rolling.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Npatrick94
Npatrick94
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Don't forget duo is offering an incredible service for free, give 'em some slack. There are also other places on the Internet such as busuu where you can already learn those languages

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Nitram.
Nitram.
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Believe me, becuase I have personal incubator experience: even 2 people with different ways of thinking are unable to cooperate, then do you think it is possible for 10 people to cooperate and become totally efficient? I agree with you, things are very slow, I can't wait for japanese either, but you have to understand, especially if you know a bit of these languages, that they have nothing to do with english (neither did hungarian). i'm pretty sure a chinese to japanese course would be a hundred times faster. Be patient sir, they're on their way. Asian people are well-known for their diligence, I am sure this will be definitely worh it.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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I get that, but the Hungarian course was released a lot later and still finished incredibly fast. The Chinese course was in the first stream released with the incubator and still isn't at the halfway point.

(Also I feel obliged to point out that Chinese and Japanese aren't related to each other at all. They're about as different as two languages can possibly be. Chinese has very simple grammar and very complex pronunciation, Japanese has fairly simple pronunciation and very complicated grammar.)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/le-lapin-noir
le-lapin-noir
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Chinese pronunciation really isn't complex at all. There simply aren't very many possible sounds, at least in Mandarin.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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I really should have pointed out in my first post: I'm already fluent in Chinese, moreso than any other language I study. It's not inherently complicated, but it is to foreign learners of the language. It takes a while to learn how to pronounce things properly, whereas with Japanese it is easy to pronounce almost perfectly very quickly.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/adamyoung97
adamyoung97
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He may have been referring to the fact that Chinese is a tonal language, that is, the way you say a syllable can change its meaning. Japanese isn't tonal, but it has trickier grammar in some aspects

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/le-lapin-noir
le-lapin-noir
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I grew up speaking neither Chinese nor Japanese, but I got a B.A. degree in Chinese and was only a few courses short of an additional degree in Japanese (too many units because of attempted triple major, forced to graduate). The difficulty of Chinese pronunciation is vastly overblown. I could pronounce Chinese almost as good as a native within a semester of study. The pronunciation itself, while there are some sounds that are initially strange to English speakers, is not hard because there are really not many of those sounds and the actual pronunciation rules are very regular. There are only 4 tones, and they are easy to distinguish and pronounce after a short amount of practice. Compared with a language like Vietnamese, which has quite a lot of sounds that English speakers find confusing, Mandarin is very simple.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Nitram.
Nitram.
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Well that's true but it took 4-5 hours of hard work every day! I don't think we would have finished so fast if we hadn't had Abenhakan to work so diligently!

As for Chinese, I see. You know, I don't speak Chinese, and I've been learning Japanese for about 3 months... I based my thoughts on that several Kanji and Hanzi have the same/similar meaning and similar pronunciations, which might help the Japanese and Chinese learners. Japanese grammar is quite difficult for an English speaking person but rather easy for a Hungarian one, I suppose.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tonywangtj
tonywangtj
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Thumbs for Korean :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Booyagrandma

Thank you for bringing this up Ontalor. I have been wondering the same thing for a while as my duolingo ID indicates.

One thing I want to discuss since I keep seeing this refrain whenever anyone "complains" or "demands" something from duolingo, is this thing about duolingo being free and therefore immune to criticism. Two things: First, while duolingo is free it is not a non-profit. Duolingo is making money from the service it (we) provide to companies. Second, while I think it is fair to give volunteer moderators some slack regarding how fast they work, I think it is fair to ask that duolingo consider other options in cases where so many deadlines have been missed (Chinese). This is in the best interest of both the user community (we want more languages) and duolingo (users are less frustrated and duolingo can make more money).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SirenAnimations

I could help out with the English for Chinese Speakers

4 years ago