Suggestions for a Japanese Tree: Pls upvote if you want a Japanese course!

Hi, some of you may know me as the former contributor for the English for Japanese speakers course. Many of you have requested a Japanese for English speakers course, but it has not been started--yet. The reason is that it is so difficult to learn a language with entirely different symbols and grammatical structures.

However, I believe the obstacles can be overcome. Below are my suggestions for the potential Japanese tree. Please upvote if you would like to learn Japanese on Duolingo! :)

First of all: start with "Intro to hiragana."


Hiragana is the most basic writing system in Japanese, and there are less than fifty of them (less than the total for lowercase + uppercase alphabet!). I am imagining a lesson where each question reads "Type the following hiragana." Under that, it says something like あいうえお, and as hover-over hints, in alphabet, it says "aiueo." And what the user has to do is type "aiueo" on their Japanese keyboard and press enter (please search online on how to type Japanese on your keyboard on your device).

After learning the 46 hiragana, we can move on to a simple phrase lesson, such as "Hello," "Thank you," and "Good bye." Of course, there will still be alphabets as hints to make it easier for the user. (We could use kanji for these phrases, but we'll keep everything hiragana at this point. Kanji will, however, be accepted as answers.)

The next lesson would be like "Hello, my name is Taro/Hana." Here, we can introduce different forms of I (my) in Japanese depending on gender. We will also start introducing kanji. What's more, I think there should be a space between each word! That makes everything easier to see.

*Edit: No spaces actually, since spaces aren't usually used in actual Japanese.

And so, the tree will go on like any other course...

And somewhere near the beginning, there will be a dakuon lesson to understand what the slashes on です are...

And when we get around the middle, there will be a katakana lesson. Katakana is the second most basic writing system, and there are also 46 of them. They will be shown and learnt just like hiragana. All you have to do is type, for example, "aiueo" on your keyboard in Japanese mode, press the space key to see the choices, and choose the katakana one.

Only after the intro to katakana lesson can we have lessons using katakana words, such as レモン, オレンジ, ズボン, コート, ジャケット, etc. (mainly fruits and clothes?)

*Update: I think we should stick with using formal language as the best translation (while still accepting colloquial language as answers), since that will be more useful in real life. I believe colloquial language can be taught as separate lessons (ex. "〜だ").

Also: maybe we can ask the engineers at Duolingo if they can let us add Furigana above all kanji?

So, what do you guys think? And if someone working at Duolingo is reading this, do you think we can finally start a Japanese for English speakers course? I would love to become a moderator, if so!

Any suggestions, please leave a comment:)

And don't forget to upvote, please! Bitte und danke!

Moeka W.

August 11, 2016

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First of all, ありがとうございます! for your willingness to contribute to any future course for English speakers as well as contributing to the English for Japanese course, which I have used to learn some basic Japanese up to a certain point.

I have two main suggestions for any future course:

  1. Integrate the Kanji early on into the course and use them naturally as they would be found in any Japanese text (this is different from your approach, so I will explain below why I think it is the best option in spite of the steeper learning curve).

  2. From the very beginning, carefully teach the distinctions between formal and informal language, as well as the proper way to address people and to use pronouns. They are fundamental not only to the language, but also to the culture of Japan.

A bit more detail on each:

1 -- My main suggestion is to find a way to integrate the kanji into the lessons early on, as soon as the Hiragana lessons are over. Some teachers think that by not using Kanji they are making things easier to learn, but this is not the case for a very simple reason: we won't be offered the same easy way out in Japan :) . As a foreigner in Japan you are almost lost without any kind of knowledge of kanji, you have to learn them - period. Nouns and verbs are very important to get the general idea of a sentence even if you don't understand it 100%, and in Japanese these are mostly written in Kanji - hence the importance of Kanji. It is hard work, yes, but there is no other way around it and any Japanese course must use them as they are used in daily Japanese. (i.e., 'The man is fine' should be taught as written in a newspaper: 人は元気です、and NOT  ひとは げんき です, for the simple reason that nowhere in Japan will you find the sentence written only in kana - well maybe in kindergartens but I digress...)

The goal of a Duolingo Japanese course shouldn't be as complex as teaching people stroke order, or how to write Kanji - it should simply be to recognize them correctly, which thankfully is a lot easier to do and the hard work has already been done by people who developed input methods for Japanese or Chinese on PCs and mobile devices.

With computer input methods, you do just that - you type the spelling of a word in roumaji (or kana) and the computer presents you with a list of kanji that have that spelling - so you only have to pick the right one. I have been doing the reverse course (English for Japanese) and I find it quite doable, my only two sticking points with it were:

a. Lack of Japanese audio and tooltip transliterations of Kanji into roumaji or kana

b. No explanations on grammar (which is to be expected from a reverse course) - in fact, I am currently stuck on a grammar point (conditionals).

Tae Kim's Japanese course (and especially the Memrise adaptation which is a mind-boggling 1385 lessons long) is in my opinion the best resource out there for Japanese and any kind of Duolingo course should look to it for inspiration.

2 -- The distinctions between formal and informal, levels of politeness, and different ways of addressing people are something fundamental not only to the Japanese language but to the Japanese culture as a whole. They must be taught from the very beginning, and drilled into the heads of the learners to the extent that if there's anything they remember from the Japanese course, it should be these things. Japanese is like the Facebook of languages: you can almost figure out the relationship between Japanese people, as well as the context of their conversation, by listening closely to the ways in which they address each other and the language they use.

Many Japanese courses neglect this aspect and, to give an example, simply state in the beginning that the word for 'you' is あなた (anata), but this is a gross simplification, in Japanese a person called X (that maybe you don't know all that well) should be addressed with Xさん, not with あなた. So, anyone doing the course should know that, when asking you a question, they should rather say this:

もえかさんは元気ですか? (or もえかさんはお元気ですか?to show a bit more politeness),

instead of: あなたは元気ですか?

Also, they should learn when to use です and when だ; when to use 食べます and when 食べる。

August 11, 2016

ご提案ありがとうございます! Thank you for your suggestions!

1-Yes, now I am starting to think that maybe we should introduce Kanji in around lesson 2-3. And of course, the Kanji will have romaji under them:)

2-Definitely, yes! I was thinking of sticking through with だ throughout the whole tree, with around 3 lessons for です/ます and other formal words. Formal words will also be taught in the conversation lessons at the beginning of the tree (the "phrases" lesson).

August 11, 2016

I think it's a good idea to introduce kanji early on and not to worry about teaching them separately. But having romaji instead of furigana is the kiss of death to learning. Your eye goes straight to the romaji and ignores less familiar symbols that it should be focussing on deciphering.

August 12, 2016

Agreed; I would be very disappointed if kanji were not or barely taught in a Duolingo JP for EN course, and would prefer instead to be confronted with them from the very start. The best option, for me, would be to have only kanji shown, with the kana reading for it in the hover-over text, or visible after a switch, like I believe happens for Russian. That way, you would really be attempting to learn to read the kanji as you go. You would see the common kanji all throughout the process, and they would be quite familiar to you by the end.

I would also prefer for any romanization of kana or kanji to be faithful to the Japanese, such that, for example, 「こんにちは」/「今日は」 would be "konnichiha", not "konnichiwa"; I know it's unusual, but I think it would reduce confusion about what each kana actually represents. (Then again, I guess that word, or rather that particle, would require a note anyway, either about its being pronounced differently than you would expect from the kana and a faithful romanization, or about its typically being romanized non-faithfully. So in that sense, which note to go for might not matter too much.)

Perhaps it is because I am already quite familiar with the basics of Japanese that I would hope for a more ambitious course. For absolute beginners, perhaps some of these judgments would better be made differently... but even then, I'm not sure. You do want to teach Japanese as it is really used, after all, to a good enough level well beyond A1 if possible. I think even beginners would probably be better off just biting the bullet originally, and having it be a bit more difficult for them early on.

August 12, 2016

I would add that an option needs to be made to BAN spelling questions that require typing. I have enough issues with this in Hebrew to know that if I have to spell ONE thing in Japanese, I'll go nuts (even though I do have the Japanese keyboard installed). lol In Hebrew, its the yud, vav, final chet letter all looks alike because the font simplified them to an idiotic level, thus, when looking at the keyboard, I can't tell which is which. I don't carry my electron microscope with me to measure the length differences between the straight lines. ;) The other major issue I had with Hebrew is the fools insisted that those who can't hear MUST never know the vowel points so that we can know HOW to pronounce the word! This I absolutely detested and hated! Hearing people do NOT EVER think or consider us deaf people, or those who have auditory processing issues like me! They just assume that we can muddle through it and learn THEIR way. (Thanks for reading my rant.!)

The other thing i would do is this: Instead of insisting on you learn it this way only, why not have a Kana only option tree and then have a traditional tree, where they get exactly how a Japanese would see it. Why? Its doesn't discriminate against those of us who actually NEED a Kana only method for the first year of learning due to learning disabilities that will never be cured by forcing your method on us.

Plus, under the Kanji should be a kana pronunciation help AND the romanji with the options to turn off the romanji if the person wants too.

On typing in JP: Its complicated enough to get the stupid keyboard to give me kana, when that is what I want, as it insists everything was meant to be Kanji. And sorting through all the microscopic kanji until you find the one you want, is too hard. I know, I've tried on the iPhone. I quit too. lol For the record, I am only beginning level, still learning the Hiragana letters, but know the Kanji which is used for numbers 1 - 19. I forget what the 0 looks like and how they write 20, 30, etc., 50 and 100.

February 2, 2017

I agree 110% Kanji is incredibly important and having taken a 2 year Japanese course and being introduced to NO Kanji within those two years, I felt incredibly frustrated when it came to actually using my Japanese in the real world. So many people try to brush off kanji like "Oh I can get by without it". but in reality, if you want to do any level of reading? You really can't. You are Illiterate without Kanji. And honestly learning Kanji really isn't that hard, especially if you are learning it in context, and you can look at the hints and see its Kana pronunciation if you forget. People who stress out like crazy about learning Kanji or Hanzi, are generally the people who were told Kanji/Hanzi were hard and never actually tried to learn them themselves. But as shown in apps like HelloChinese/ChineseTalk you can teach chinese characters within a lesson and still get along fine.

Seeing that there is not a crazy amount of formality levels in Japanese, I also agree it would not hurt to add formal and informal speech. And it would make a Duolingo Japanese course an even better resource.

August 11, 2016

Years of learning Japanese without kanji? That's crazy! A few months ago I started by spending a few hours with hiragana for pronunciation (like 10 minutes a day) then jumped straight in. I still haven't finished katakana (as I can do that any time) but know more then a thousand Kanji (how to write them and their equivalent meaning; I will learn how they're said in context). With SRS I was learning 30 Kanji (60 flashcards) a day and now 15 Kanji a day (I'm more busy now).

December 3, 2016

IIRC, Duolingo hasn't added Japanese or Chinese yet because the words can't be stored like regular Duolingo words are, because there are no breaks in writing. It's not that it's challenging to teach - it's very hard to program.

August 11, 2016

Actually, from my prior experience as a contributor, I know that we can click on multiple characters at once and treat them like one word. So I think it'll work out fine if the Duolingo team tweaks the system a bit.

August 11, 2016

If there were an example person in the course named Tabemo (I know this probably isn't a real name, it's just an example), you couldn't tell if "tabemono" meant "Tabemo's" or "food".

Is there a way for this to work?

August 11, 2016

You know how, for example, Duolingo can show you hints, right? And sometimes, one word can have multiple hints. Just like that, we can add both "Tabemono's" and "food" as hints for tabemono.

August 11, 2016

But then how can Duolingo track if the user learnt "Tabemo" and "no" instead of "tabemono"?

August 11, 2016

Fair enough, but I'm pretty sure this issue is more general than just "Tabemo no" versus "tabemono". "anata"/"anatatachi", "kare"/"karera", "ne"/"nezumi", "kuma"/"akuma"... etc. etc. Such differences would all be clarified with spaces in languages currently already in Duolingo, but could not, for Japanese/Mandarin Chinese.

August 12, 2016

I assure you there will be no names like "Tabemo" that may confuse the system.

August 11, 2016

Replying here, because I cannot directly:

I just followed on Zerr_'s idea, but what I wanted to say is this: If Duolingo made a Japanese course using current software, then the course would not track how well people know words, but how well they know characters, which is not what anyone wants.

For example, a user who strengthens a skill with words suru and nai would automatically be counted as knowing naru, since what Duolingo would see is that the user knows the "words" na and ru.

And please don't tell me that the future Japanese course will lack suru, nai or naru, because that would be silly.

August 11, 2016

Don't see why it wouldn't work, it already works fine for the Japanese to English course. As you can see in this screenshot, it recognises that もうすぐ is one word but also shows the meaning of もう on its own.

August 11, 2016

Sure, that looks alright, and it is indeed the way rikaikun/rikaichan works (add-on for browsers that gives kana and definitions for Japanese text that you hover over), but I think it would be nicer if the drop down would more explicitly/clearly show that "already" and "another" are from specifically the middle two kana (「もう」, "mou"). (Rikaikun/Rikaichan does do that.) Otherwise that is still potentially confusing.

August 12, 2016

What I have been trying to say is that the system engineer at Duolingo may be able to make the system recognize each set of characters--not individual characters--as a word. That way, Duolingo can correctly track how well the user knows certain words.

August 11, 2016

I know, but which one would be right?

(You get the idea.)

August 11, 2016

The context will determine which one is right. What you are saying is like, the word "can" can mean "able" and "a metal container," so which one is right? But the answer would be both are correct. It just depends on the context.

August 11, 2016

In my opinion, particles should be treated like separate words. They are more along the lines of post positions rather than case markers.

August 11, 2016

In fact, it already seems Japanese is tweaked (with Chinese) in order to be non-whitespace delimited, unlike languages like, per say Korean and Turkish (which is why it is such a pain in the butt for agglutination languages!)

August 12, 2016

I have a far-fetched question for you, as a contributor, is there anyway that your knowledge might be able to help someone who wants to get a Scottish Gaelic course going? The thread for that discussion is And its AdhamhOBroin that is the person who volunteered. Duolingo isn't getting back to him, but I thought that maybe, if he were to create the course unofficially, using the official format that duolingo wants used, that he might be able to submit a rough draft version that would get Scottish Gaelic into incubation. Thanks! (And no, I can't contribute anything. )

January 5, 2017

No it's not hard to program, besides the simplest solution would be to just keep words separate, this would also help people learn easier, no one would die if there is a small space between words even if there shouldn't be one, this way they can just reuse the system used for other languages. Once it's done, the course may then be updated if needed and enriched with more features, doesn't have to have it all from the start. I may be over-optimistic but I believe a Japanese course is not such a big deal, just needs a bit of extra effort to accommodate the writing system, that's all.

August 15, 2016

It may be the simplest solution but it's also the worst. You want people spending their time learning, not typing. They are also going to get used to it and suddenly when they go out in the real word find themselves unable to read because the spaces were a crux.

We are talking like a 2-3x slow down over not putting spaces in because you also lose the IMEs ability to infer what homophone you want based on context and spaces require space enter space at the minimum if the IME got the right kanji.

僕は猫なんだ。 - 16 strokes

僕 は 猫 なん だ。 - 28 strokes and about 3x longer

August 15, 2016

I think we can ask the Duolingo engineers to make it possible to register words without being divided by spaces. For example,


would be a sentence in a certain lesson, and Duolingo would allow the contributors to register 私 and 女の子 as individual words. (Sorry I'm kind of bad at explaining this.)

P.S. I updated my post a bit.

August 16, 2016

Not sure why this is a discussion. The programmer can just change the coding so it doesn't display the spaces... but the back end of it works as it does with other language right? Or am I barking up the wrong tree here?

August 16, 2016

I think the problem was that the program reads to a space to determine where one word ends and another begins. However, they may have came up with a solution to that as well, where the program just compares words and searches though that instead of looking for a space.

February 2, 2017

As far as I know, even Tweeter uses spaces to delimit Chinese characters for hashtags (or also add # at the end, don't remember exactly), that was the easiest way for them to manage the situation.

As for the fact that users will get used to the spaces, I don't think that will be a problem, the questions may be presented without spaces, and while hovering mouse over the characters that form a word, they may change color so the user can see the word clearly as a hint.

On the other hand, the user will be able to answer by delimiting words with spaces, which will be very natural for them, since this will be mostly for westerners. But as I said, this would be the simplest solution, another solution would be for the system to interpret in real time what the user is trying to type and offer auto-completion or such. Auto-completion is a simple procedure, it simply looks up in a table of strings that contain the input characters, it's a high school level problem really.

I still think this would not be hard to implement, only needs a few tweaks to the already existent system.

August 16, 2016

A suggestion system doesn't really work unless it's running at the IME level and the IME already has one built in. All the browser would see is the hiragana until you press space to swap the whole sentence into kanji at once (usually, sometimes it derps and doesn't split words correctly and you have to split it into two parts manually) and then go and fix any incorrectly converted kanji.

And with spaces I more meant it would be a problem if they were reading native content as apart from childrens books there won't be any spaces. The goal of Duolingo isn't just to get good at Duolingo.

I've seen from the discussions on the English for Japanese course that the amount of alternate translations for each sentence is fairly limited (multiple times people have asked if their answer was right and were told it was but they could not add any more options). As a result I'm not sure there would be enough slots to include spaces and non spaces - if there is I don't see anything wrong with going that route, so long as the user isn't punished for not using spaces.

Twitter hashtags are an entirely different beast as even languages that use spaces can't use spaces in them. A bit off topic but the amount of information you can fit in 140 characters of a language using Chinese characters is crazy.

August 16, 2016

This is why I think that instead of user typing in Japanese, it should be user choosing the correct Kanji or kana from bubble buttons. This solves the headache of trying to get the "correct" kanji to type.

Off-topic rant: The amount of space you can fit in Twitter using Chinese is awesome, but twitter insists that the rest of us fools with spaces use the same character amounts. But, Polish language speakers have even less room to write in as their words tend to average 8 letters in length it seems. Thus, twitters 140 character limit I always thought tasteless and somewhat racist even though that was not the intent. He was only trying to imitate an outdated phone texting issue. I thought he should have been more forward thinking and realized that even the phone was going to update and allow more characters. Anyway. lol Such is life!

February 2, 2017

I'm not sure Duolingo would be happy with "Japanese has no spaces between words, but we have these here so that it's easier to program. If you give the actual correct answer, it will mark you as wrong, so please put spaces between words, but understand that this is not correct."

Also, if I were on the mobile app, I don't believe it shows the Tips & Notes, so people learning Japanese entirely for scratch wouldn't know that it's incorrect.

August 15, 2016

Well, actually, since we're probably going to introduce kanji at an earlier point, there would be no need for spaces. (Spaces are often used in actual Japanese text if the text only contains Hiragana, such as children's picture books.)

I'm using the mobile app but it shows the tips and notes for German and French, so that should be okay.

P.S. I updated my post a bit.

August 16, 2016

Ah, to get my hands on children's Japanese resources where those spaces exist. I would love for the beginner to get such luxury as well. We should have the option to turn such luxury off in the future if programmably possible.

February 2, 2017

I do have an idea here. I know its not proper "Japanese" but I think that for the sake of Duolingo, they should just put in the spaces. And just have a note at the beginning of every single lesson that says, remember Japanese does not have spaces, but we are using spaces only because of the programming headache and we wanted to give you Japanese faster.

February 2, 2017

I would like so much to have a Japanese course in Duolingo :D

August 11, 2016

P.S. If there's anyone out there who might want to be a contributor, please comment here! :)

August 11, 2016

I would certainly help.

August 11, 2016

I'm not sure it would be a good idea to learn japanese vocabulary with kana only. It becomes hard to see how a word is formed, and there would be a lot of confusion with all the homophones.

August 11, 2016

yup, for example はし [hashi] can mean 橋 (bridge), 箸 (chopsticks), 端 (edge, end)

or かみ [kami] which can mean 神 (god), 髪 (hair), 紙 (paper), 上 (start, top), 加味 (seasoning, addition)

August 14, 2016

Potential notes/hints for the course (based on Tae Kim's guide, but reworded by me):


Declare something's state-of-being by using "だ" (da). However, note that a state-of-being can also be implied without using "だ" (da).

In a formal context, declare something's state-of-being by using "です" (desu).

"は" and "が"

The basic difference bt/w "は" and "が" is that "は" (wa) identifies what it is that you're talking about (essentially, the topic of your sentence), while "が" (ga) indicates that the speaker wants to identify something unspecified.


"私" (watashi) is used by male speakers in a formal context and by female speakers in both formal and informal contexts.

"僕" (boku) and "俺" (ore) are used by male speakers in an informal context, with the former being a bit more polite than the latter.

"あなた" (anata) and "君" (kimi) both mean "you", but the former is more polite than the latter.


An adjective that can directly modify a noun following it by sticking "な" (na) between the adjective and noun is called a na-adjective.

Unlike na-adjectives, you do not need to add "な" (na) to an i-adjective (a category that contains most of the adjectives that usually end with "い" (i)) when you are directly modifying a noun with it.

Two of the most common exceptions to the adjective rule are "きれい" (kirei) and "嫌い" (kirai). They both end with "い" (i) but are categorized as na-adjectives (adjectives that can directly modify a noun following it by sticking "な" (na) between the adjective and noun).


To change an i-adjective (a category that contains most of the adjectives that usually ends with "い" (i)) to an adverb, substitute "い" (i) with "く" (ku).

To change a na-adjective (adjectives that can directly modify a noun following it by sticking "な" (na) between the adjective and noun) to an adverb, attach "に" (ni) after the adjective.

Sentence-ending particles

When "ね" (ne) is added the end of a sentence, it means the speaker is looking for, and is expecting, agreement to what he or she is saying. This is like saying, "..., right?" or "..., isn't it?" in English.

When "よ" (yo) is added to the end of a sentence, it means that the speaker is informing the listener of something new. This is like saying, "You know,..." in English.


The simplest Japanese sentence contains only a verb. Unlike English, you do NOT need a noun to make a grammatically correct sentence!

Please suggest anything else you can think of!

August 11, 2016


August 16, 2016

おはようございます! :) I'm learning english from Japanese speakers,I'm learning Japanese on memrise and with books, anime etc... I wish Japanese for english speakers ( or for italian speakers if it's possible eh eh XD ok no ^-^ ) I can to be a contributor but I'm not very fluent :/ T^T

August 11, 2016

Very good idea! I have already memorized most of Hiragana symbols and I am trying to learn basic Japanese by using all the resources and apps I can find. I would be very grateful to you if you could suggest some existing pages / apps that teach in a similar way to the method you described above.

August 11, 2016

Tae Kim's guide will cover almost all the grammar you will need. Vocabulary is a bit more difficult, Tae Kim will get you some but you are likely going to need to either find material you want to read / listen to (and learn the vocabulary from that on your own) or find a premade deck on another system such as Memrise or Anki (I'm using the core 2k/6k deck myself but the ordering is terrible).

Duolingo is great but it took me a year of trundling along to realise the importance of just absorbing as much content as possible - I spent a couple of hours a night reading a visual novel and noticed my comprehension improved more in the month and a half I spent reading it than it did in at least the previous 6 months.

August 11, 2016

Hello! I would suggest Memrise and the Nemo app, which I am using along with Duolingo to learn French:)

August 11, 2016

Japanese gets suggested a lot on these forums. Have a look at this post about how to suggest a language: There's a discussion linked from there about Japanese.

August 11, 2016

I have already checked that post, but unfortunately, the comment section of the Japanese discussion page was locked. That's another reason I made a new discussion, besides the fact that my post is way too long for a comment.

August 11, 2016

Your suggestions are very competent and I support you.

Not sure if I understood you correctly, but I don't agree with strange things like "de xyu o", that may confuse many people, there could be other ways like typing the romanized version of a syllable/word and automatically transform it into hiragana.

Other solutions may be to add already written words and the user needs to select them in the right order (like there is on Memrise), or even a listbox/panel to choose characters from, so the user won't have to use a Japanese keyboard.

But leaving details aside, a Japanese course would be awesome!

August 11, 2016

Yes, I totally agree with you about de xyu o (very weird, isn't it?). Maybe we won't use the name duo, but instead Taro and Hana to solve this issue. Thank you for pointing that out!

August 11, 2016

I might not be supposed to be leaking this, but have you seen the "prototype" tree in the Incubator? Seems like there is a framework plan to get learners to JLPT1. I don't know if this might work for Japanese, but for Korean, we essentially made a huuuuuge lesson to cover the alphabet and all of it's combinations before Basics 1. However, isn't the keyboard strokes for typing different for each OS? I believe that the method for typing in Apple is rather straightforward, although I do believe alphanumeric conversion can also be used for it as well.

August 11, 2016

I know NO ONE that uses the phonetic characters to type on a keyboard in Japanese. It may be done, and admittedly it would be pretty fast to do so. But a lot of people (Including native Japanese) just use the latin letters to type. (I.E. I type Konnnichiha and it comes out こんにちは) The rare exception I see is a lot of flip phone cell phones use a kana input (Reminiscent of old phones before they had qwerty keyboards)

In regards to learning the alphabet. Every course I have seen on here that tried to teach the alphabet beyond just a basic introduction to me felt useless. Even the ones that did get a basic introduction. I think the best way to learn an alphabet is just through flashcards (With sound) like with memrise (Or Tiny cards). It simply won't be as efficient nor will you master the letters as well if you ONLY rely on the alphabet lesson on Duolingo. It would probably take me 4-5 hours to learn the whole Korean alphabet using just a course, but only an hour to do it with flashcards.

August 11, 2016

That's is exactly why I want to limit the Hiragana lesson to just one lesson. I want the learners to learn phrases on Duolingo. There are a lot of flash card websites and apps, so those can be used to memorize Hiragana.

As for the typing, yes, 99% of the people use the qwerty keyboard to type in Japanese, with some exceptions such as flip phone users ( * cough * me * cough * ).

August 11, 2016

Have you seen the JA/EN prototype in the Incubator yet? If you still have incubator access, it will be pretty interesting what HQ came up with (although it is 100% temporary). I do agree that less people use the Kana option as well... kinda like Dvorak in the English speaking nations and Sebeolsik in Korea

August 11, 2016

No, unfortunately, I no longer have access to the incubator...

August 11, 2016

That's unfortunate. You could however, rejoin the EN/JA team. Chances are they will carry over to the JA/EN (and boy they have a lack of contributors :( )

August 11, 2016

It's more common, indeed, especially considering there are much Windows users than Mac users, and those who transition keep the same habits :p. However, as mentioned in the Wiki article, Apple keyboards designed for Mac OS X have two language input keys, alphanumeric (英数) and kana (かな).

However, mind that at least for Korean, the lesson itself is designed to be like flashcards and not only will go only into the alphabet, but all of the possible combinations and quirks. Duo has much more potential than flashcards and can be great if used in the right way.

Edit: Sorry, brain fart

August 11, 2016

Hmm, never heard of more mac users than windows users. All the Japanese people I know are windows users. And I use windows as well (Including an alphanumeric keyboard) although I have both Kana and Hangeul stickers on my keyboard. The apple layout pretty much looks the same as my keyboard layout (I use a razer keyboard) There is very minor differences like ろ in the top left on an apple keyboard being in the bottom right where め is. But a lot of the keyboard is the same. Same position for characters too.

August 11, 2016

Sorry, I meant less mac users than windows. Kids, this is what happens when your brain runs on coffee

August 11, 2016

I wish people would stop fixating on the most basic elements of the language, when they're effectively a solved problem. Hiragana and katakana are easy, and there's a million effective resources out there already, from realkana to Heisig's RTK to ❤❤❤❤❤❤' Wikipedia, and the same principle applies to all of the fundamentals and many higher concepts. Even kanji, this terrible demon whose difficulty has been elevated to almost mythical proportions can be banished by a bloody deck of flashcards. Duolingo's unique strength is having users actively do instead of passively memorize, and getting bogged down in these details indicates a shift in focus away from its core competency to a bunch of ancillary ❤❤❤❤. I know it runs contrary to Duolingo's high ideals of an all-encompassing language course that can take you from 1-to-fluent in however many lessons, but it's time to bend to reality.

As a learner, there's far more practical benefit to a good-but-incomplete catalogue of lessons on a specific aspect of a language with offsite addenda for whatever isn't covered that I can get now, then some perfect vaporware course which covers everything and will do it all for you for zero effort while it sucks you off because it's so amazing no really it is just wait for release coming soon™. Hell, not even the addenda is really necessary. If someone's really motivated to learn they'll find the resources, fill in the gaps, etc. on their own. It also offers the practical benefit of being able to adopt an iterative development model, b/c no matter how great your QA team is it can never cover as much as your entire userbase.

That being said, in regard to the specifics of your suggestion I think that you are introducing individual elements a bit too slowly. Quantity has a quality all its own (cliche, I know) and with a 5 minute brief on particles learners can be blasting through real sentences, picking up on nuance by simple pattern recognition and getting a better sense of the "why" behind the "what". Going to your greetings example, I'd much rather know why say, おはよう is different from 今日は and 今晩は than that it simply is. And the sooner I know why, the less cognitive dissonance I'll have from my expectations and more retention I'll have long term.

Furthermore, I disagree with the notion of waiting to ease in kanji for a few reasons. First off, it implicitly propagates the notion that kanji isn't essential to knowing the language, something which we should be very pointedly trying to disabuse. Secondly, it's important to establish common convention as quickly as possible, in this case whether a word or phrase tends to be natively written in kanji or hiragana. Case in point, I've been lax on my reading study as of late and when writing the example couldn't recall whether to use kanji or hiragana for 「こんにちは」and「こんばんは」. Lastly, any difficulty in front loading the kanji this way can be almost entirely mitigated with the appropriate use of furigana.

I definitely agree that both polite and vulgar language should be taught from the beginning, so long as the level of politeness does not--at least at first--go above keigo in the realms of humble and honorific forms. If I'm only 10 lessons in and still trying to grasp the difference between は and が whether to suffix my interrogative with ~ますか or ~ませんか should be the last thing on my mind. Though I do want to add that when possible the choice of using vulgar or polite language should be explicitly stated, the last thing I want is someone making my decision for me and consequently misunderstanding or coming to the wrong conclusion.

Oh, and one final thing. I think it would be best to either use only a couple Japanese names in material or to just use katakana versions of Western names, as the issue of how to "read" an unfamiliar name can really ❤❤❤❤ you up, especially in the beginning.

P.S. Staff if you're reading this can we drop the damn upvote system this isn't reddit and mob rule doesn't work.

August 25, 2016

Just to clarify, are you suggesting a course which uses kana and kanji without explaining them, instead expecting the users to look elsewhere to learn them as they come up, or a course without kana and kanji (using instead roomaji) entirely? The former option just might work, to be sure—although I think it would still be helpful for them to develop (if it doesn't exist already) some software that would allow you to look the symbols up, if not explicitly learn them, on Duolingo itself so you don't have to keep switching back and forth mid-phrase—but I'm not much of a fan of the second option.

Aside from that, I think I am in agreement with your suggestion. And to be honest, there is always the possibility to improve and add to courses later on, as has happened previously with other trees. If Duolingo really wants to stick with the all-encompassing language learning principle, which I do not mind in itself except for the possibility of overly postponing popular languages such as Japanese, they can always add kana and kanji lessons later on if they want. Best of both worlds, really: we wouldn't have to wait for the course on the language itself (syntax, vocabulary, phonology, morphology) and yet would eventually get the full course some of us are so excited about. It might not end up that way and we might just get 'stuck' with the first tree, but at least we'd have something even at that point.

August 25, 2016

I'm advocating the former, but with caveats (never use romaji. ever). Namely, bringing the core system into public alpha/beta asap and adding any extraneous elements later. Ideally this would come with a boilerplate disclaimer of "This course currently emphasizes x. You're expected to have the prerequisite knowledge of y, z, and a. You are recommended to use supplementary materials for b, c, and d. Here's a list of recommendations:" Extrapolating from the current duolingo courses (esp. the JP→ENG course) I imagine this core would something along the lines of translating example sentences between the two languages and picking up the details through pattern recognition, then moving on to the crowdsourced document translation. Y'know, the stuff duo's really good at. Anything else (such as the writing system and particles) would fall under the prerequisite or supplementary categories until they can be properly implemented later. The most important thing is to just get something out there.

Hopefully this answers your question.

August 26, 2016

It does, and I am in agreement for the most part. I'm just not sure if I don't think the particles might also be good to cover. Duolingo courses typically assume no syntactic knowledge of the language, after all—it's true that thus far, they've assumed next to no knowledge at all, and we've already established that by this method we are describing, that would not be true for EN–JP, but that's just by necessity; I think it would still be good for it to start as close to the beginning as possible otherwise. So, get people to learn kanji (and perhaps kana, although that much might be possible to get into the course in theory, or at least I guess have a table in the tips and notes the way the Russian course does it) somewhere else, because that would just be too much to cover in Duolingo (certainly for the time being), but otherwise start at the basics of the language, because that does not come with the same difficulties in principle. That's what I would recommend.

Sure, there is the problem that those who have already learned kana and kanji are likely to also know some other elements of the langauge already, but it's difficult to estimate how much, and that will likely differ per individual learner, and anyway, that's what placement tests are for. Not to mention that repetition for consolidation is a powerful thing.

If you do really think the particles are difficult to implement (they seem to be relatively simple to explain in a couple lessons, to me, but perhaps I am missing something), then you might be right about those as well and they would be in the same category as the writing system.

Anyway, it's a nice thought to allow a first version of such a course to be not entirely complete if having it need to be complete would require far too long a period of time, and the lack of completeness can yet be done in a clever way so as to still have a self-contained and useful course for learners in the meantime. Then just work on completeness for the second pass. I like it.

August 26, 2016

In broad strokes I agree w/ your sentiments; mind though, those were only examples.

August 27, 2016

Sure, I know :)

August 28, 2016

Great idea! I don't have time to contribute, but I'm willing to help where I can

August 11, 2016

Hello there. I have passed JLPT N5 before and although my Japanese is not as good as the others out there, I would love to help out in contributing to the course.

August 11, 2016

Awesome! I've always wanted to learn Japanese and visit Japan. Do you know any resources for learning Japanese?

August 11, 2016

I learnt some Japanese at university, and found the kanji the toughest part of the learning experience. Just yesterday I found - a site that seems to focus on just that, kanji and vocab. I can't vouch for its effectiveness yet, but their spaced repetition system that enforces memorization breaks, and emphasizes radicals as building blocks, seems sound. Anyway, it's free to try. Hope it helps!

I've also been subscribing to for a while, and the podcasts are not bad, and allow for a good listening comprehension progression. I just wish the Japanese to English ratio of their content were higher - it's usually a short Japanese conversation followed by a lengthy, in-depth explanation in English. More exposure and immersion, I believe, would go a long way to mastery.

August 12, 2016

Japanese Memrise course is decent, Strongly suggest Tae Kim's grammar guide (Which is free) and Hesiegs remembering the Kanji PDF (Also free) Use the former for grammar (Duh, it also has a full course) and the latter for learning Kanji (After you learn Kana from decks on Memrise) After you master Hesiegs Kanji you will still be effectively illiterate, but it will make the next step LEAGUES easier. And that is doing vocabulary decks (On anki or memrise) because the Kanji will be incredibly easy to pick up and memorize. And you just use the language as much as possible. Browse websites like NicoNicoDouga (Youtube for Japan), Dengekionline (An anime and games news website), buy/read books from CDJapan, 47news is good for ACTUAL news. HelloTalk is a good app for finding Japanese natives to talk to.

August 11, 2016

NicoNicoDouga... is a slightly different beast compared to YouTube in my experience. Used to be just a hosting site for YouTube (literally, videos uploaded there) until YouTube blocked them... but at least the comments section is equally cancerous :p

August 13, 2016

Just today, I learned about Ba Ba Dum. You can learn kana (hiragana and katakana) on there, as well as vocabulary (written in said kana). It has a bunch of other languages too, and learning is fun with a scoring system, accurate pronunciation, and attractive pictures. You will need other sources for grammar and kanji, mind you, but it's still a nice website.

I learned kanji originally at, and that works fairly well, but I now prefer websites with more gamification and social elements, as those tend to keep me going better. There is some of that on there, I suppose, but not like Duolingo, Memrise or Ba Ba Dum. There are some courses for kanji on Memrise as well, but you'll have to identify good ones, yourself; each tends to have at least a few issues with it, I find, unfortunately.

A wonderful source for grammar, that—to some extent—can also be used for learning various other elements of the language, is Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese, which I used many years ago. I don't know how it's changed since then, but I hear it's still excellent and comprehensive, as it already was back in the day.

If you need motivation or miscellaneous information about Japanese and how to learn it, check out All Japanese All The Time. Again, been a while since I frequented that place, but it looks like it's still around.

I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you'll have fun in the process of learning Japanese—it's a gorgeous and very interesting language.

August 13, 2016

I began using Duolingo to revisit my high school language subject(Italian) and I loved the way it was set out and worked, but being very time poor I didn't continue using the app but am now looking into language options for my daughter who will be starting yr 7 in high school next yr...anyway I was hoping she could use Duolingo for her language of choice(Japanese-as its offered at the school she will be attending). I was concerned at her choice so came looking for something to help her prior to selecting and committing to 1yr of studying Japanese. Long story short I'd really appreciate if Duolingo would offer Japanese lessons.

August 14, 2016

How do I vote to show my interest/support in Duolingo offering Japanese lessons??

August 14, 2016

Please! I am going to start learning Japanese (followed by many other languages) next year, and would like to start at Duolingo

August 18, 2016

I tried to contribute the course but still there is no emails from duolingo x(

August 26, 2016

So, has there been any response from the Duolingo staff to this?

August 29, 2016

I remember there was a glitch in the testbed and someone uncovered a Japanese for English course. It had 5 Hiragana skills, 5 Katakana, something which I don't remember, Kanji, something, something in Kanji, and that was it. Maybe you could uncover it.

August 11, 2016

It was a leak

August 12, 2016

I missed that at the time. It's heartening to see that it's at least in the works, although I suppose that was to be expected given the enthusiasm the community has for it.

August 14, 2016

Thanks for the initiative - I'd love to see a Japanese for English course! (Here, have a lingot! :-)) In fact, when I first heard of Duolingo some years ago, I've always hoped that I could soon participate in one, and been waiting ever since...

As for course content, I'd actually not bother with hiragana and katakana. They are so easily learnt, and there are so many (free) resources for doing so, I feel the effort is not really worth it. Also, there should be absolutely no romaji or phonetic transcriptions - I think this would hurt the immersive quality of the course.

Slowly and gradually introducing kanji at a very early stage is probably a good idea.

August 12, 2016

There are other resources for learning kana, it's true, but I think it's still a good idea to put them in Duolingo as well. For the other languages I've tried, after all, Duolingo always functions—in principle—entirely on its own, without any external sources. I think it should aim to achieve that for all languages it adds. (Of course, it's still wise to use other sources in addition to Duolingo, I know that.)

August 13, 2016

Yes the effort is worth it, you do it once and will stay there for years while thousands will benefit from it, what's the point in a half course? There must be full coverage for the writing system, and any hints like sounds and romaji would greatly help people to catch the language faster. I do not enjoy keeping like 15 browser tabs open looking around for missing parts, I would rather have it all in one place.

August 13, 2016

As far as I am concerned the only valid place roumaji has is on signs for foreigners (although it slightly fails here as the Japanese government chose the romanisation scheme that makes sense only if you know Japanese already) and when introducing hiragana. Even katakana should be taught using hiragana - you will need to be used to reading hiragana any way so you may as well get used to it quicker. Kanji is also a must unless the desired result of the course is the ability to read childrens books (which have little if any kanji).

The biggest issue I have with the Genki textbooks is how long it takes them to stop putting roumaji under everything, and a big issue with Japanese courses is how they either take years or never stop. This is half the reason I chose to self study, I get to choose what I learn, when I learn it, and how I learn it - Duolingo just happened to be a part of it.

Ultimately roumaji is a detriment to learners as they get too used to not relying on their ability to read Japanese to read Japanese.

In addition the issue I see with including the kana at the start of the course is they are going to come up in reviews later on and waste time that could be spent reviewing something that isn't already reviewed in every single lesson.

August 13, 2016

Okay, so what I'm thinking now is,

  1. Start with intro to hiragana, which introduces all 46 hiragana in one lesson.

  2. The next lesson will start off using simple kanji. For example, words like 私 will be in kanji, but words like 今日は will be in hiragana (こんにちは). りんご will also be in hiragana (even I can't write the kanji, 林檎).

And for all lessons, including intro to hiragana, romaji will be given as hover-over hints. That means, if you want to challenge yourself and think romaji is a nuisance, then you won't be overwhelmed by it. But if you need help catching the sounds because you're a beginner, you can hover over for the romaji.

August 14, 2016

Sounds good to me. An alternative would be to have the writing switchable between romaji and kanji/kana, as the Russian course does it. That might have the downside of many people simply never looking at the Japanese writing, but I suppose that would be up to them, and at least it offers the possibility to go all Japanese, as well as the option to check if you find you can't read a particular word or phrase. Also, it has the upside of being the same system already in use for at least one other course in Duolingo.

August 14, 2016

Yes, that's exactly what I am saying too, the tools should be there for use, it doesn't matter if the learner may or may not use them. I don't think it's too hard to implement either, since the base is already there from the other languages, all that's needed is a dedicated native Japanese to make sure everything is correct, and some tweaks to accommodate the language. I would guess it would take about a month to do it.

August 14, 2016

Just in response to your final point of including kana, I would remind you that often times later lessons, to the extent that they do indeed use things from earlier lessons, will also refresh said earlier lessons. For example, doing almost any lesson tends to count as a review of Basics 1, for many languages. In the same sense, this could be true for hiragana/katakana, such that you wouldn't be wasting that much time on it. And anyway, the nature of these kinds of SRSs is such, that you don't waste that much time anyway, if you're good at something; reviews very quickly (exponentially) space themselves out further and further if you make no mistakes.

I do agree about the roomaji, for the most part. I would prefer if the actual Japanese writing of whatever you're learning gets introduced as quickly as possible, and you then no longer have the crutch of romanization or even the kana-only form of writing. I wouldn't mind offering one or both of these to those explicitly asking for them, e.g. at the press of a button or in the pop-up hints or some such, in case you forgot a kanji or, early on, a kana, or perhaps you want to show it to a beginner who starts looking over your shoulder for a bit or some such. Either way, so long as the default is to just show the Japanese as Japanese would have it written, I will be happy.

It does perhaps seem fair for some of the more difficult kanji for some of the more common words, like りんご, to be introduced a bit later, not immediately in the very early lesson where the word itself would be introduced. I think that might be a bit much in terms of overwhelming naive new learners. I wouldn't want to just never learn it, but it could be done when the word comes back at a later point.

August 14, 2016


September 14, 2016

Furigana could just be in the mouse hover to make it easier

December 2, 2016


I hope i don't come too late :)

I'm planning to live in Japan but one of the first step is to handle the language correctly (majority of the job offers specify that is mandatory to talk japanese)

I'm looking for someone that would like to teach me japanese, especially the oral part

Thank you

January 6, 2019
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