https://www.duolingo.com/HelpfulDuo

Japanese & Chinese Course Status

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Bonus question from the series Ask us about Duolingo, Round 1!

Thanks hughcparker!


QUESTION

We're told that the limitation on adding a Japanese or Chinese course is the writing system. Are Duolingo's software engineers working on this problem at the moment?"**

ANSWER

We know, we reeeeeally want Japanese and Chinese courses too! We asked our team for a progress update and unfortunately, there's nothing new to share.

The answer continues to be that there are some very difficult problems we need to solve in order to offer these languages, and this will take significant time.

The silver lining is that it continues to be a "when" not an "if," and it's something our team thinks of constantly. We will update you as soon as there is news to share.

2 years ago

34 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/John00625
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Could you elaborate on the very difficult problems? If it's too technical for the general public, could you at least sum it up or give a reason why you can't add Mandarin or Cantonese and Japanese?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IceAly
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I second this. While it's nice to know they are working on it, it still seems a bit like a non-answer.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Mod
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onthehype25, this is the best discussion regarding Japanese (and related) problems I've seen to date. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8640854

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JAndrzej
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As far as I know, they say that it has something to do with the fact that these languages don't use spaces. It's rather surprising, because I use their English for Chinese speakers course and it seems to work pretty well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/fuekkkk

Your answer is like no answer.....

Here is a short answer: Just use HelloChinese app - the best one for learning Chinese.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WildSage
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And Human Japanese for Japanese.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/buenotc
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Ditto!!! Or Chinese skill...

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RumiByNight

Is this the same for Arabic and Persian? Are you considering adding them at some point?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/airelibre
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I doubt that's the issue since we already have Hebrew. Persian probably just isn't requested enough right now. And with Arabic the issue might be the difference between Modern Standard Arabic, which is used only in higher, academic registers, and the various spoken dialects, which often are not mutually intelligible (a Morrocan will struggle immensely to understand an Iraqi). If they taught Egyptian Arabic, which is the mostly widely spoken, and most prevalent in culture due to the Egyptian film industry, there might be an issue with the writing system, because as far as I know there is no standard for writing in the spoken dialects.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Amgad
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I don't get how MSA can be blocking the creation of the course. Also MSA is not used "only in higher, academic registers,". Schools teach MSA and school subjects are all written in MSA, Cartoon voice overs are in MSA, subtitles are in MSA, Shop signs and publications are in MSA, pretty much everything that is written down is in MSA, including magazines, comic books, novels, newspapers, even the interface of websites like Duolingo itself. We use dialects in speech and informal communications.

Nontheless, Duo has announced that the creation of an Arabic course is a matter of when not if. Actually the CEO said he wish it could happen by the end of 2016, but a lot has been going on.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/airelibre
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It really doesn't take a lot to get a course going. They just find a few people they think will be capable and let them get started. There's some greater issue that they're not disclosing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
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I don't know why I bother because I know I won't get a response but instead of repeating what the question already said, why not share something about other highly requested languages, especially Finnish and Latin instead? The only thing we have heard from those is that a year and a half ago you hadn't forgotten Finnish. Even one of the top questions was about those.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GoldenOwlCatcher
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Thanks for the update! Maybe someday. :(

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Amgad
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Duo should consider adding technical contributors

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larisa_L
Mod
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Actually, a good point, on a very limited scale some of the contributors do contribute in the technical sense, for instance we have a guy on our team who wrote us amazing java scripts to make our life in the incubator much easier. For instance, there is a request to add a list of most problematic sentences in the course, it's been there for long long time, it has tons of votes from multiple contributors, but till today, there is no such thing. However, the script we have does just that, it wasn't too hard to write it. We would gladly share it with other teams, but Duoteam doesn't approve that.

I know some other contributors do similar things as well, write their own scripts, track some statistics and so on, helping us to develop courses.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Amgad
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Yeah, I noticed that many of the contributors are actually in the computer engineering field. Many of them must have developed code for their own native language (I had to write code that lightly handles Arabic in many college projects). We can help a lot in accelerating the progress of courses with challenging languages. Also if I were a student I would have contributed to just gain experience from coding for Duo!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PlumeJaune

It would be nice if you also answered the question about Native American languages.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PlumeJaune

That answer seems like BS to me. There are plenty of organizations trying to save Native languages so it could be done without the help of the White House.

If this is all about money they should simply state that. Which is what I suspect it is.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
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Wouldn't be the first such answer though I do wonder whether these other organisations would get enough media attention or would it be limited to local news which wouldn't help Duo as much.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PlumeJaune

It depends how good they are with social media. Also, they could get the attention of the Tribes whose languages they are working on. Which would not only connect them to people who could help create the course but also those people most likely to be interested in it.

And once the language is actually on Duolingo it will be visible to the millions of people using the program. From there who knows what happens if you have a bunch of kids on facebook bragging about learning some random Native American language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
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And once the language is actually on Duolingo it will be visible to the millions of people using the program.

I don't think that's their goal. The fact is, a small Native language is not going to bring millions of users by itself, because most of the potential new students are tribe members and people around them. Of course there are people already here who will learn it but I would be very surprised if say Ojibwe got more learners than Welsh which is also aimed at local people.

I think that's why they hope to get a big entity like the White House involved, so they will say: "We're supporting the addition of Ojibwe to this site called Duolingo. Have you heard of it? It's great, you can learn dozens of languages for free there." That will bring millions of new users to learn Spanish, French, English etc. and help the site grow.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
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Yah, as others have said, this seems like a non-answer.

I could understand programatic issues, except that the English for Chinese speakers course is fully functional. What's different about the Chinese for English speakers course that prevents it from being released?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larisa_L
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There is a big difference, the current tree is the English tree, it has just translations to Chinese, but translations are not what the system actually works with. While the opposite tree needs to be Chinese in its core, in the way words are added and handled by the system. Handling any new script is a new challenge for the developers, having the English to X tree doesn't help that much.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
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So even though Chinese words never change, it's basically just because there are no spaces between the words?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larisa_L
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It's a bit more complicated than just that, as much as I understand, it has to do with how the data is storred and retrieved from the database when required to define the appropriate place of the word or sentence on the tree, to give assigments or assess assignments, or show hints. As I've never seen the database itself and don't know its architecure, I don't know exactly what creates the issues, but just the issues I've observed with Russian-English courses tell me that it's more complicated than an external observer might think. I also know that users have tendency to understimate the amount of work done by moderators, as well as we have tendency to understimate the amount of work done by the development team.

In any case, everything is the matter of priority. What seems very important and urgent to some people, may not be a priority for someone else. There are plenty of requests to do this or that for Russian speakers, but we can't just do everything, so we choose what we see as doable and important, and motivating. I bet the same is true for the Duo devs.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/soedori
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How to teach the script?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
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People bring this up as the main issue, but honestly no other course worries about teaching the script, so I don't know why this one should. There are endless resources out there for teaching characters, and I understand that they want to have a course that teaches everything to new learners, but not letting progress start because of this issue is extremely frustrating.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rappelke

Memrise has a good course for learning to type Japanese. A lot more useful than calligraphy lessons.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bumbleandtumble
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There is no solution in your post, but why can Korean be developed and not Mandarin, Arabic, or Japanese? Maybe it is time for Duo to be refurbished. It is not very flexible, and redesigning it so that it can accommodate Mandarin and other ideogram languages would be great.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SpaceX23

There is this app my teacher showed me. It is called "Tinycards" by Duolingo. I saw a Chinese deck on the app. It is only available on IOS (As of Nov 24, 2016).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GeorgeBit
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Do you have any news about the Chinese course ?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CaptainCIarky

for typing asian characters you should type out the character phonetically in english. thats how most systems work. in fact in china the keyboard are english and they use this method to type their own characters!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Woof.
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11 months later: Japanese has recently been released into Beta and Mandarin is in the Incubator, flying at full speed into the Beta phase!

1 year ago
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