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System of teaching foreign scripts

Hello everyone,

When the Japanese course came out, I had to try it immediately. I wasn't that interested in the language, but more interested in how Duolingo would go about teaching the writing system. I really liked how Duolingo taught Hiragana. If you don't know how it's done, here's a picture:

Since the system is working out so well (I hope you guys feel the same way), why not implement it for other courses? Some of Duolingo's courses use a different (non-Latin) script, such as Russian, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Greek (also Korean and Hindi, which are not released yet). Here's an example I made with the Devanagari script (used by Hindi):

Implementing a system like this for the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets (used by Russian and Ukrainian) would be easy, since both of these function like alphabets (like English). Meanwhile, Hiragana and Devanagari are syllabaries/abugidas, which may take some more effort to implement.

What do you guys think? Do you think this system should be implemented for other languages with non-Latin scripts? Does Duolingo have any plans to do this?

June 13, 2017



Do you think this system should be implemented for other languages with non-Latin scripts? Does Duolingo have any plans to do this?

Yes, and I presume yes. Obviously I am in no position to actually know what Duolingo has up its sleeves. I know the alphabet skills are a major thorn in the side for the Greek team, even though I think that course does a good job, and that the Russian team felt unduly constrained by the need to create "sentences" to translate as the only modality available for teaching the alphabet.

Yes, a person can learn any of these things in a few hours. But that doesn't mean they're not huge psychic barriers to beginners — and the ongoing source of a very great number of questions in the relevant language discussion forums. It's obviously in Duo's best interest to make these things as easy as possible. I actually thought the hiragana section was a bit too easy for optimal learning, but that's a slightly separate discussion.


Thank you for your input! I agree with everything you said.


It does look like they would be helpful for learning those writing systems. Thanks!

There is also a series of "language games" for learning the alphabets or writings systems of several languages on a site called Glossika, which seems to offer them as a sort of loss leader to get people to their site, where they also sell audio materials. See these two Duo discussions: first, second.

Both the games and the audio materials look to be quite good and quite well thought out, but I have not used or bought any of them, as they're not suitable for what I am studying right now, and so I can't voice an opinion.


You're both welcome. The audio (w/ transcripts) materials are not inexpensive, but they are discounted once or twice a year. Purchasing a set is very tempting . . . as soon as I decide what I'll study next! Too bad they are not in Latin, which is my current thing. :) (Is there an emoji for "self-deprecating shrug"?)

. . . BTW, I have heard that the Latin American Spanish course is quite good but that the European Spanish materials are not as well translated.


Thanks for sharing!


Didn't know this site. Looks great. Thanks :)


They should include IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet, imo.


I agree. That would be a nice addition as well.


As an option that can be turned on and off.

It might be costly to do (if they'd hire somebody to do it). But the information most likely already exist somewhere for all / most languages and could be bought.

Either way, I'm guessing it will only be beneficial for a minority of people. Duolingo tends to not care all too much if it's not beneficial for a large amount of people.


I think that's a great idea! I'm not sure if duolingo would change the whole Russian course, but that would be cool.


Thanks! I don't mean changing the entire Russian course. It would be nice if the foreign script was taught before starting the lessons (like how Japanese does).


That would make a ton of sense.


YES. If each language that uses a different alphabet, syllabary or pictograph had a primer at the beginning, we could review as needed. Or perhaps before each section with added words. Anything would be helpful.


The Cyrillic and Greek alphabets are very close to the Latin alphabet - there are some letters that are exactly the same in both. Learning them, for people coming from a Latin-alphabet language, is very simple. Much simpler than Devanagari, Hiragana, or Chinese, to name a few.


I agree. It would still be nice to see a system like this for Russian, Ukrainian, and Greek. It would be more important for syllabaries like Devanagari and Hiragana, and especially important for Chinese since it utilizes characters.


Having done Cyrillic (and having had some exposure to Greek), I think it's overkill for those alphabets. The alphabets can be picked up in an hour or two, by and large; it's the conjugation that's the killer. Plenty of college students in the US learn the Greek alphabet quite quickly. This is more useful for an abugida, or perhaps an abjad, in my opinion.


I agree that this system would be useful for abugidas and abjads, but I also think it would be beneficial to have it in place for the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets. Duolingo aims to be an all-in-one, simple app for learning languages, so implementing a way to learn these alphabets (even though they are easy to study outside of Duolingo) would align with the goal.


You can learn a lot of these alphabets in TinyCards now - http://tinycards.duolingo.com


I think that's a great idea!
I have a friend learning Russian, and i bet he'd love to see something like this.


I'd love to have an alphabet/syllabary portion for those languages that don't use the Roman alphabet. I'm trying to learn Hebrew, but it's been so long since I was in Hebrew school that I've forgotten the aleph-bet.

Ditto Russian, but I don't know the Cyrillic letter system.

Same for Japanese & any other language using different alphabet, a syllabary or pictographs.

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