How is Japanese going?
To those of you that have iOS and are able to use the Japanese course (you lucky stiffs), how is it going? Are you learning well? Is it set up in an easy manner? What's it like in general?
I apologize that I am unable to put this discussion into a Japanese-specific topic.
As someone who's learning Japanese outside of Duolingo, the course is quite lacking so far! ...Which is honestly not surprising considering it's still in the beta stage. The method of introducing the kana characters works quite well, but the lack of tips for sentence structuring and some of the particles definitely makes it more difficult. Some of the answers to the translation questions are a bit too specific so I've had to make a few translation suggestions, especially considering Duolingo often doesn't clearly specify whether you should use the particle に (emphasises location) or へ (emphasises how you're getting to a location)in some sentences.
In spite of some of the drawbacks—which will hopefully improve over time—the course is pretty great! But there isn't much of it and I've nearly finished it entirely in one weekend. Hopefully more lessons will come soon!
I've gone through just under half of the course. I started Japanese completely from the beginning - well, I knew a few vague things about the language (there are three writing systems, there are "grammatical particles", some characters are pronounced in different ways in different contexts, empty facts like that) and, since I've had trouble starting textbooks before, I'm using the course as my main resource and will probably continue to do so until I've completed and learned it all.
However, "main" is the keyword there, as I'd definitely find Japanese almost entirely incomprehensible if I relied on the app alone. The lack of Tips & Notes and sentence discussions means that everything is introduced completely out of the blue, and while some things - like basic word order - can be deduced from context, most of the new concepts just baffled me until I did my own research. For example, the (seemingly) random use of the particles に and へ when they both seem to convey the same meaning and the (again, seemingly) random way characters change their pronunciation. What do you mean 七時 is pronounced しちじ, not ななじ?! Earlier lessons said that 七 = なな ! Where does the しち come from??!
Considering there's nothing in the course to actually teach you grammar, I think it does an okay-ish job of introducing sentence patterns - as I said, basic word order is pretty easy to understand because the same sentence "templates" are used over and over again. (This is a big chair. That is a small book. That is a long table. This is a kitchen.) But everything else... nah.
I do like the way hiragana is taught, though - rather than having to learn them all "in order", going through the あいうえお table, you're taught how to form words instantly: the first hiragana taught in the course are いちに, and you're then shown that いち is 1 and に is 2 - having instant context for the kana helps immensely.
Kanji are taught in a relatively good way, but you're only really taught to recognise them - stroke order isn't even mentioned and honestly learning the kanji seems more like memorising little pictures than actually, you know, learning the characters. But I guess I can't really think of a way around this, so I guess it's a bit of an empty criticism, hah.
I can't stand how katakana are taught, though, they're sporadically introduced at random intervals and there's no explanation provided as to why "the US" is spelled with the new katakana symbols アメリカ, rather than with the already-known hiragana symbols あめりか.
PROS: easy to go through (as most of the exercises are either tap-the-pairs for kana/kanji or rearrange-the-words), hiragana are introduced in a simple way, you start learning some kanji almost instantly, sentence patterns are repeated over and over so you get a feel for the word order, quite a lot of conversational phrases are used, lessons are themed/grouped quite nicely (eg. rather than having a 9-lesson "Objects" skill, there's a "Home" skill that teaches a mixture of nouns, adjectives, new verbs, new sentence patterns, etc - the skills aren't as repetitive as in other courses).
CONS: some of the audio is quite buggy (a. sometimes the audio when you press on a kanji character is different to the reading you were taught, b. in the rearrange-the-words exercises, only about half of the Japanese words are read out -- although these may just be because the course has so recently entered beta), there are no grammatical explanations whatsoever (although this is an app-wide thing, but I feel this point alone drastically reduces the effectiveness and potential of the course)... and I guess that second point really covers most of my complaints, hah, as 99% of the confusion I've had could have been resolved either by a Tips & Notes section or through sentence discussions.
So, the course is fun and easy to go through, and I'd recommend it for anyone else who's interested in Japanese but has struggled with getting started through textbooks, but be prepared to do your own research into the grammar and only expect to use the course as a starting point to help you move onto a textbook.
ATM I use the site http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/ and the book "Barron's foreign language guides: Japanese grammar", I recommend them both.
Certainly adding a Japanese keyboard to iOS is no problem. Often people like doing non-Latin based languages on the app for precisely that reason, so the seeming lack of tying in Japanese even in early lessons is a bit of a surprise. In other courses, even ones using the Latin alphabet like Catalan, Duo will automatically switch the keyboard layout for you, and there are two layouts for Japanese, so I wonder if it'll use whatever you chose, point you in one direction or the other, etc.
For numbers, 4, 7 I believe 9 (if I recall my actual Japanese teacher in High-school saying) have two ways of being pronounced. 4 (yon, shi), 7 ( なな (nana), shichi (しちじ)) 9 (ku, kyu). Why the differences? Because (far as I can understand, and someone with far more knowledge of the language can correct me) when being pronounced as shi or kyu they sound like death and/or suffering, I think they are generally avoided being pronounced like that.
Hiragana - used for native words Katakana - used for foreign words (think country names, people's name . . . )
I'm still just trying to get the hiragana kind of down, and I'm a long way from done. There are four hiragana skills, and I'm only mostly comfortable with the content of the first one.
I think it would be better if there were more straight multiple choice questions than matching ones, which get too easy via the process of elimination.
It doesn't really explain directly anything about how to write characters, pronunciation, or grammar, it just helps you memorize the characters and listen to a digital voice say the words. The grammar is sort of implied when you get to the point where you start making sentences, but it is never explicitly stated how it works. You are taught all of the hiragana, but only around 10 katakana, and they get around to teaching you kanji quite quickly.
But overall, I think it works pretty well, it's just that there are some things that could be added to it. You should consider using outside resources if you think the course doesn't explain enough, when you get it, though.
I'm just about to finish up the hiragana lessons, and I'd say they're pretty easy to understand. I wish there was at least a reference for stroke order so I could learn to write them from the app, but otherwise learning them has been moderately easy. Tinycards is a big help for extra practice! Overall, learning the hiragana has been fun, especially since Japanese is one of my only courses that isn't currently in the stupid "health" beta test they're doing.
I've been hearing people are having trouble with grammar, as the app alone doesn't explain things thoroughly (if at all). This can be fixed with outside sources as lonelyghostie said, though.
I tried really really hard to like Duolingo Japanese as I've been waiting for it for years. I'm up to a 45 day streak with another 20 day streak previously and I'm afraid that it isn't working well for me.
The buggy audio is really really distracting and makes it difficult for some things to stick. The lack of grammatical context makes it particularly hard. I find that once I have grammatical rules and patterns understood, the rest is relatively straightforward.
Also, and again, this could just be personal preference - but I find the introduction to Kanji really distracting and confusing. I am having a hard enough time getting the pronunciation and memorisation down-pat as it is, without a Kanji character or six thrown into the mix (particularly when their audio is wrong!). Perhaps include the Hiragana above each one?
While I am learning its not my only use of learning as the course for japanese is barebones. you can only type in english, a lot of the time you can guess answers just by looking at the words provided to choose from, no speaking exercises and if you know completely no japanese I imagine it would be hard to start. It just kinda thrusts a test on you and you gotta fend for yourself until you got it wrong enough times to get it right. I recommend it as help but I find human japanese much better at teaching.