https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

New feature for Japanese course: writing Hiragana

Hello all,

I've been using the Japanese course on my iPhone for a few days and I love it. Learning Hiragana characters is a lot easier than I had imagined. Those of you that have been struggling with this, I highly recommend Tinycards.

Anyway, I was breezing through the Hiragana lessons when it occurred to me: I can recognize all these letters but I have no clue how to write them.

My proposal is to incorporate a writing exercise system for the Japanese course. Duolingo can also show learners the stroke order of each letter. To begin, Duolingo can have learners trace letters. The way the course is now promotes reading, but not writing. I feel that if a writing system were implemented, we would be actively learning, instead of passive learners (how it is now).

This system would probably be easier to implement on mobile devices. I'm thinking of a system like Google Translate:

(I know, my handwriting is bad)

I'm no expert, but I know this system would not be easy to implement. Google Translate has no idea what letter you're going to write, so it has to be programmed to recognize every possible letter that's going to be written. On the other hand, Duolingo will be looking for only one specific letter to be written, so it will probably be easier to program. However, I feel that it will be very rewarding for learners.

That's all. Thank you for reading. Please upvote this post if you agree and leave your thoughts in the comments.

May 23, 2017

69 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PolyglotPearl

Though I'm not learning Japanese, I think that sounds like a great idea!

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thank you!

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Borbotrincess

Reminds me of when I was learning Farsi. I felt like the calligraphy was actually more difficult than learning the actual abc.

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JJCarol1

Thanks for suggesting! I hope Duo staff takes this into consideration.

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vivisaurus

That is a very cool suggestion–not super easy, but definitely something I've heard thrown around before :) Keep them coming, especially if a companion illustration is going to be attached!

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thank you! :)

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pruechelan

I have an app on my IPhone called Hanzi Kanji, it doesn't have hiragana and Katakana, but it does have kanji, and stroke order, and is great for increasing your vocabulary. With hiragana, there are probably worksheets you could print out like they have for elementary school students to trace and write the letters.

edit: typo

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thank you for sharing!

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Smalde

Hiragana and Katakana are the "Kana". Did you mean Kanji?

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pruechelan

thank you, I edited it.

May 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Smalde

No problem :)

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vivisaurus

We now have a Japanese from English forum and we are now moving Japanese-related discussions over, including this one. Please post future Japanese conversations there. =]

Announcement here

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Eli0684

You can learn how to write with something like this, or just by practicing with a handwritten stroke order chart and writing on paper:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yXwHenj-tkU (for hiragana)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XCoCnRZUL0A (for katakana)

You should note that some characters look different in text than writing, like き and さ, if you didn't already know.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PhilNolan1

Depending on the font. Some fonts connect them and some don't.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/iwc2ufan

Sincerely, there is a pretty cheap book you can get to do this. It makes the most sense to learn handwriting physically in the real world, so I can see why they have left it to books in this one case. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Kana-Workbook-Practice-Hiragana/dp/0844285323/

If anything, something that I found surprisingly easy was learning to type in Japanese. The Japanese keyboard has been written beautifully, at least on my two operating systems (I use Fedora, a version of Linux, on my laptop and I have an iPhone). I have really enjoyed learning to type in Japanese. It is so much more intuitive than I ever imagined it would be.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thank you for the resources!

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PhilNolan1

I made a YouTube video on how to type in Japanese. https://youtu.be/eVlQk8rXc2Q

Does your phone keyboard use a standard keyboard or the 12 key style? I'd love to learn the 12 key one but it takes a lot of practice. It's supposed to be faster when you get used to it. I have both options on my phone.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/iwc2ufan

Mine uses the standard keyboard, which was fine by me, as it meant the skill was very similar on my phone to on my laptop.

May 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/xSpuky9

If they could do that with kanji too, that would be just amazing.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kelsi602

I agree that learning to write Japanese scripts is important but I don't think Duolingo is the right place to do it. It's a great place to learn and practice vocabulary but I think other resources are better for learning the scripts. I'll confess I learned to read Kana on memrise before this course released so can't comment on how well it covers that.

There are many great Apps to study Kana and Kanji including the strokes. Of course, there's no substitute for a pen and paper either... actually a lot of my Kana practice was on a whiteboard and checking them against my phone (or a native Japanese speaker). Call me old school but I learned Hiragana and Katakana in just a couple of weeks that way.

I don't think writing Kana or stroke order should be included in Duolingo. It will disrupt the flow of the lessons.

Side note: it would be very tedious for someone who already knows them to test out of. Perhaps it is may be better an an elective course? Honestly though, they're better off just linking to existing Kana learning resources to refer to if you're struggling with the early lessons.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Good point. I agree that paper/pencil or marker/whiteboard will always be superior to writing on a phone screen. You're right that it would be hard to test out of. I think if the writing activity was something that you could purchase with lingots, it would address these problems. Do you agree?

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kelsi602

Yeah IF it needs to be included in Duolingo at all (by popular demand). Personally, I think it's better to learn Kana elsewhere before you start but hey, that's just what worked for me. You do you I guess.

PS for writing on the screen Kanji Study does pretty damn well. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mindtwisted.kanjistudy&hl=en

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thanks for sharing!

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theSun29989

I dont agree. Writin, no matter where and how is extremly important, not to mention that is also how you memorise the characters, never mind correctly drawing them. as for disrupting the flow...there can be option to practice kana or not!

February 2, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/InuzukaShino

A small hint: Because learning japanese writings needed so much paper I exercised Kana and Kanji mainly on a magnetic drawing board

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Doodle

and for calligraphy you may better use a Buddha board

http://www.buddhaboard.com/#about

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thanks for sharing :)

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jersebas

That would indeed be nice but I wouldn't count on it for the near future =)

In the meantime, another site which has character drawing - among many other useful things - is jisho.org. It also has animations about the order of the strokes if you're interested

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thanks for the resources!

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/candyraincane

Thank You! I gave you a lingot for your help :)

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theSun29989

8 month later

February 2, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kamoshi

I know it's different from learning it on duolingo, but there's a free app for android phones called Obenkyo, which you can use to learn to write kana as well as all the kanji. The app is free and you can use it side by side with duolingo, since there is a lot more than just writing. I used it before

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thanks for sharing :)

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Nimrod386674

Yes please!!! Please duolingo make this happen!

June 10, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/candyraincane

I would use a Buddha Board for Calligraphy instead of wasting all the paper. (lol Calligraphy takes ALOT of practice!)

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Woof.

I agree! I can recognize ''Good morning'' but when I try to type it or write it? My mind just goes blank! Great idea.

September 4, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theSun29989

exactly. the point.

February 3, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vc120

Good idea!

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thank you for the support!

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vc120

You're welcome!

May 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Uchideshi99

I thought that myself. While I find myself starting to recognise how Hirigana works and being able to recognise the symbols, I have no clue as to what the stroke orders are - especially since I tend to jot down in notebooks when I attempt to learn a language. So something like a writing module would be handy!

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Thank you for the support!

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carson112602

I totally agree!!

May 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SomeDuckInASuit

I agree, but my main issue is kanji. I'll probably just stick to other sources for that one anyway.

August 19, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theSun29989

I know all the hiragana, but when i write it becomes hard to remember. Strange, but actually writing them and practire would be good! Im using duolingo and im searching on other places to do this, but it would be grat to have it all in one place. i have graphical tablet for PC and a tablet android with a pen, so it would be great for me!

February 2, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aeronautix

This is EXACTLY what we need for the Japanese and Chinese and Korean courses! Learning how to write characters is so important, and it should be easy to implement touchpad-like drawing functionalities.

February 9, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LauraSchan

Just google "hiragana worksheet" and "katakana worksheet." There are TONS of free ones on the Internet already. There are even apps that do exactly what you want, both free and paid, on the app store.

For PC or Mac, it's fairly easy to install the Japanese language pack so you can type kana. I've found that the Windows version is very good at guessing possible kanji that you want based on the hiragana spelling. :)

October 8, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/iOfg2

we could just use the Japanese keyboard

August 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/garpike

Duolingo has never taught writing for any language. A computer cannot tell whether an output of a unicode character is the result of tracing on the screen of a device or pressing a pre-configured key or keys—it is irrelevant to whether or not the answer is processed as being correct.
In an age where electronic communication has superseded handwritten communication manifoldly, I quite understand why they are not trying to teach us to write.

The best way to practise writing is to write out sentences on paper, not individual characters on a screen. I think your proposal would entail a great deal of technical effort on the part of Duolingo for a rather limited reward.

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JJCarol1

This is a suggestion to improve duolingo, so it's kinda irrelevant to tell leaners to just use a piece of paper. It defeats the whole purpose of making suggestions, since you can say "you can use a piece of paper" for every suggestion.

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/garpike

When it comes to being presented with thousands of incremental sentences with audio for translation (what Duolingo does), no, I can't say 'use a piece of paper'; the Duolingo format is very well-suited to what it does, but it isn't well-suited to practising writing. Compared in terms of the ease and convenience with which the Duo method could be replicated manually, it is far better to use Duo. But in terms of the ease and convenience of practising writing things in a way that generates long-term kinaesthetic memory, it is more efficient to use a piece of paper. After all, when you're actually hand-writing something you'll be doing it on a piece of paper anyway, not a screen.
The same principle applies when people periodically suggest that Duo teach sign languages—not only is the format of the app is ill-equipped to do so, but (even if it were possible) practising this in front of a device is likely to be far inferior to other, less technological methods. The same goes for handwriting.

So no, it's not irrelevant for me to suggest that people use a piece of paper: even if Duolingo did offer this, I'd still suggest using a piece of paper because it would be more effective.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

I understand that reading is more important than writing nowadays because of computers, but writing is still one of the four parts of learning a language and needs to be more emphasized.

And I'm proposing a whole new activity, not just an option to write letters on the screen. Just like the type-what-you-hear activity, I want writing/tracing letters to be another activity, so there will be no keyboard displayed :)

May 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/garpike

That is fair enough. However, in my experience of two apps that teach mandarin—ChineseSkill and Hello Chinese—this approach to learning characters and stroke order is far inferior to simply writing them out on paper. The stroke-recognition is very limited to a particular, regular font; the characters are far too large to generate any useful muscle memory; and no attempt is made to teach the semi-cursive way in which people actually write.
To actually decipher normal handwriting one needs to develop an intrinsic feeling for stroke-order, which, in my experience, only comes from lots of writing things out with pen and paper.
Tracing out handwriting on a mobile device is a very poor substitute for actually writing, and tracing with a mouse on the web is really no substitute at all. Of course writing by hand is important, but hardly anyone writes by hand using electronic devices, and so practising it using electronic devices will be a very inefficient way of doing it.

Clearly, this is an unpopular opinion, but I think that Duolingo should concentrate on what it can do well, rather than expending considerable resources on things it will only ever (at least in the near to medium-term future, technologically-speaking) be able to do badly.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

You make a good point. However, Duolingo aims to teach the basics of a language, so showing stroke order and having users write letters/characters wouldn't hurt. More serious learners can certainly use a paper and pencil (like how serious learners right now use outside resources to learn more about their target language). I'd just like to see Duolingo teaching the basics of the four categories (reading, writing, listening, and speaking).

I agree that a computer mouse is a terrible way to learn to write. This feature would only work out on mobile devices.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PhilNolan1

A mouse would be terrible but many people now have wacom tablets or pens for laptops or phones with a pen or stylus.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/goosefield

Yeah, I agree. A mouse would be terrible for this activity. It would only work out on touchscreen devices.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kelsi602

Fair point but I'm honestly more concerned that Speaking isn't emphasised at the moment.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/iwc2ufan

I have used ChineseSkill and I agree that it was way less good than doing it the old fashioned way. Writing is a non-digital skill for the most part. I can see why Duolingo hasn't bothered and I fully agree with you.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ryanmaneo

Couldn't have said it better :) @garpike

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ryanmaneo

Gonna re-write my response since it obviously offended a few people. As garpike pointed out, the opinion that writing is better kept off-app is very unpopular. People want an easy way to learn to write. Let me explain our rational for feeling the way we do about this proposal however:

1. You won't remember it long-term If you are using your finger to write (or even a stylus) You won't remember long-term. If you don't believe me, try using one of the many apps out there that already exist and have this feature, such as HelloChinese. At the end of the day, you will need to write it with pen and paper to remember it.

2. It won't get you far Duolingo is not designed to make you fluent, and currently (from what I read) only covers about 100 Kanji. So it doesn't make sense to implement a system of learning for only 4% of the Kanji you'll need to actually read/write proficiently.

3. Hiragana/Katakana is easy These two are syllable-based alphabets, they can easily be learned through rote (writing it over and over). Unlike Kanji, if you learn to write these, you will also be able to read these.

4. Reading and writing are different. Reading Kanji and writing Kanji are completely different ball parks (Unlike learning Kana). When you learn to read Kanji, you learn it in a practical way, by learning compound words, mixed with other Kanji and Kana. This is because Kanji has many readings, and it would make no sense to learn the readings individually.


note: - I deleted my old posts because they didn't reflect what I was trying to explain properly

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JJCarol1

You won't remember it long-term

This suggestion is to teach the basics. Right now, Duolingo does not teach learners how to write at all. Showing a letter/character's stroke order and having a user trace it will be helpful. This system isn't meant to develop writing fluency. Duolingo currently does not teach any of the four parts (reading, writing, listening, speaking) to fluency; it only teaches the basics. Just like that, this system will teach the basics.

Hiragana/Katakana is easy

That is an extremely subjective statement.

Unlike Kanji, if you learn to write these, you will also be able to read these.

You said it yourself. If you learn to write it, you will learn to read it. However, you will not necessarily learn to write it if you read it, which is why this system is useful.

This is because Kanji has many readings, and it would make no sense to learn the readings individually.

Stop assuming that this system is only for Kanji. It can also be used for Hiragana.

May 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ryanmaneo

I suppose if DL were to implement it in a way other than the way HelloChinese/ChineseSkill has done it, then it could work. But based off of those two examples, learning to write any writing system in that way is inherently flawed unless you can't use a pencil and paper.

May 26, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PhilNolan1

I used a marker and a small white board to learn my kana I'm not sure how that's different from using a pen on a screen.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ryanmaneo

Same, it worked fine that way for me.

May 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theSun29989

no you don't need a paper, a stylus can do and a capacitive screen or tablet

February 3, 2018
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