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Timecapsule: I am sending this Japanese course to myself in 1993


Thank you Duolingo for making this course! I have decided to put it in a time capsule and send it to myself in 1993, when I was first learning Japanese.

My 1993 self says: "Woooah, look at this, it is gamified, and I can hear the sentence when I tap on it. This is so fun and easy compared to my stack of twelve textbooks, which sit glowering at me in a corner."

My 1993 self says: "Thank you! Wow! This is just such a time saving thing! I can't believe it! Motivation has never been this easy!"

My 2017 self enjoyed the recap - I haven't studied Japanese for a while, but did so years ago and did pass the old JNT4 at that time.

A note about length of Tree: I have noticed quite a lot of posts from other users of similar Japanese level to me now or higher. We all are saying roughly the same thing: It is quite quick for us to race through, and seems kinda... shorter than the European language trees here on Duo. Well, that is my experience too. I can't imagine racing through e.g. the Spanish or French trees at this speed - in fact I know I couldn't. On the other hand, I am now taking a moment to think about the sheer amount of effort involved for a beginner to learn the various alphabets, and do a mind-set-swap into thinking into a Japanese word order etc. There is a higher initial learning cost to get those basics, which we intermediates are over, and which is simply not there in, say, Spanish or Dutch. So while the already-learnt-some-Japanese people are finding this course "short", I would hazard that beginners are finding the course very much comparable in difficulty and time needed, to the other courses on Duolingo.

Thank you Duo for thinking so hard around the technical and educational issues of offering "the most difficult language for English speakers" to us.

June 20, 2017



That is a unique use of time capsules but unfortunately it would require major changes to the laws of physics to be useful.

[deactivated user]

    Or a change of perspectiiiiive...


    People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint ... it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.

    • the Doctor in episode 'Blink' of Doctor Who.


    I see your point, but because Japanese is very hard, especially to learn to read, the course must not neccessary be short and simple.

    Actually I learn Polish and because of the 7 cases, Polish is very hard to learn - regardless the course is actually long, so that also intermediate students could have a benefit from it.

    I think, the Japanese course is short, because it is the first one and there are still many, really many issues, they have to solve, before they should think about expanding the content of this tree.

    But after a while, after the issues are solved, there will surely or hopefully be more and more difficult content.

    Btw regarding 'the most difficult language for English speakers"...have you ever learned Polish? ;-) For me - as a native German speaker - Polish is hard because of the additional 3 cases. The four cases we have in German are already hard to learn, but additional three cases? In matters of grammar, for me it is much harder to learn Polish than Japanese.


    I think the only reason they say it's the most, or one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn is due to the use of Kanji, which represent whole ideas rather than simply using letters or characters to be able to form any word. We're not used to this concept in English, which is one of the main hurdles we face when learning Japanese, or any other language that utilizes this same concept.


    But this belongs to all nations outside of Japan, not only the English speaking part of the world. And this is only a part of the difficulties. In Japan the spelling of the different kanji is much harder than in Chinese, because there are so many different Chinese and Japanese readings, i. e. the simple kanji 上:

    • sino japanese: jō, shō
    • japanese: agari, agaru, agattari, ageru, -agezu, kami, nobori, noboru, noboseru, nobosu, ue, uwa-
    • additionally the 'nanori': ooi, age, i, ka, kaki, kazu, kan, kou, nobori, hotsu

    Source: H.-J. Bibiko, Kanji-Lexikon

    And there are not really rules, which spelling you have to choose when you see a kanji compound with two or more kanji.

    Additionally the meaning of a kanji compound can not necessarily be found in the meaning of the ideograms, this compound is made of and also a single kanji can have some different meanings or ideas in Japanese. These are in my experience the real difficulties in learning Japanese and they are not only for English speakers hard to learn.


    To be fair, whilst I'm no linguistic expert (I'm only 14, however I would like to go down the linguistic path when I'm older), so don't take what I say as 100% correct, I have heard that Japanese is the hardest for us native English speakers due to the alphabets and kanji + very different grammar and sentence structures. However when you compare pronunciation between Polish and Japanese - Polish is definitely harder (I tried out the Polish course for a while and died when it got to the speaking part lol).


    I would replace English with Western people ;-) All the arguments are the same for Germans and other western languages. Why English natives don't aware of this?

    And you don't know how bad your pronunciation is. Try to ask someone in Japan in Japanese the way to Asakusa ;-) Additionally there are special sounds, that make your pronunciation more natural, but you won't find any information about these in the mayority of textbooks. Next is the intonation, which changes the meaning. 鼻 and 花 are both hana but the intonation is slightly different, same for i. e. 橋 and 箸 (hashi). There are no rules for that, you have ro learn it by heart or listening to native speakers a lot.

    To get a good japanese pronunciation needs a lot of work. I would say, both languages, Polish and Japanese, have their own difficulties in pronunciation (same for other languages!)


    I suppose I agree lol. In terms of me saying English - that's really just because I can't speak for speakers of all western languages. I don't think pronunciation/speaking can ever really be considered easy anyway. I just find it easier to speak in Japanese considering it's not riddled with awkward sounds that I find hard to say (I know that's not a very good excuse, but I didn't really know how to phrase that lol). But that's not to say I don't struggle, it took me ages to get the hang of anything that had "Ryu" in it haha. And overall, my largest problem is that I'm 14 and therefore don't really have any overseas friends who I can speak with and practice. My knowledge of Japanese pronunciation comes largely from YouTube videos and anime. My pronunciation in Norwegian is even worse considering it's not a widely learnt language and therefore there aren't as many tools I can use to help my learning.


    Just thoughts: I agree with you and basically everyone else that the course is short, but I'm certain that it will grow (albeit slowly) as the other language trees have. I remember coming back to Duolingo after a year and discovering several more lessons in Spanish throughout the tree as well as seeing the vocab, translation accuracy, and accepted translations increase throughout the years. Even now, looking back, I can see changes to tons of small things that make the learning more helpful.

    As with any language here, the Japanese tree will grow and expand as they garner information on how it is/isn't working alongside to develop not only more lessons, but those that native speakers and long-time learners will agree are better. Of course things will develop differently than the western languages, but that's all to be expected.


    Re time capsule: I know right?! Only in my case it would be two years ago but man I would have gotten the basics down so much better!

    For example, I'm immensely grateful for the attention the course pays to katakana - in my continuing ed class it gets treated rather cavalierly, so I never really learned it until now. Also like the kanji - our first textbook did everything in kana, so this is a most welcome addition.

    Re difficulty: for me it is nearly perfect - not hard enough to frustrate me but I'm certainly learning new things. I've been doing this for almost a month, fairly intensely, and I'm still not done.


    I really liked this way of thinking about it! I technically only started learning Japanese about a year and a half ago as a hobby (I always thought I would speak Mandarin long before Japanese), so a time capsule probably wouldn't do me much good, but it was fun reading about what you would have thought.


    A time capsule back to 1993 wouldn't really work for me considering I was born a decade later lol.

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