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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

How has your experience with the Japanese course been going?

Just reached level 8 in Japanese on Duolingo! That is 1,125 XP, so 115 lessons worth. (Each lesson is about 10 questions.) I haven't mastered all of that material. Most of it is recognition-based, rather than my ability to generate it from memory. I've also been able to test out of some of it. The Japanese course as it currently is (in limited beta Tree V. 1.0) is 1/3-ish the size of the Spanish course. So, Im more than halfway through it. I'm really hoping they expand this tree in future versions, as it is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers, according to the Foreign Services Institute.

Are you a complete beginner with Japanese and using the Duolingo app to learn it? (Or have you studied it before elsewhere?) Where are you in the course and how is your experience going? What areas in particular are you struggling with? What could be added to the Duolingo course that would help you learn it more effectively?

Just curious. Also, sorry for typos, I'm writing this on my phone.

Thanks! ^_^

July 6, 2017

70 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

Started as complete beginner (i.e. I knew "konichiwa," "sayonara," and, b/c I kind of like linguistic-y things, that Japanese has a topic-comment structure which somehow related to things called particles which drive learners up the wall). About 3/4 of the way through. Far from mastering most of it; I'm more about exploration and looking for patterns at this stage.

As the course seems to drill basic structures a good deal, it is well suited to my purposes. I think it's also pedagogically sound. Japanese works pretty differently than English, and the way to get it down is repetition.

A couple big gripes:

(1) Clicking on Japanese word boxes results in that word being pronounced much less often than in other TTS courses (where, as far as I recall the rate is 100%), this despite it being impossible to listen to whole words clicking in the Japanese sentences; kanji being, well, kanji, so associating pronunciation with written form is easily the most challenging of anything on Duolingo (if not earth); and hiragana and katakana not indicating pitch accent (oh, and the way katakana is introduced leaves me needing more than a little practice on katakana words in general).

(2) The hints for the English to Japanese translations have a lot of problems. I know to never expect much help with the "grammatical" bits: the prepositions, where particles go, even tense formation, but even content words more often than not it seems have hints none of which correspond to any of the options presented. Very often the available hints all contain kanji while we must select from boxes in hiragana. There are certainly problems with the hints in Japanese to English translations, too. Those are obviously easier to deal with, but mostly they're also just a whole lot better. The top hint for a content word is overwhelmingly the precise English word needed, and available in the word bank.

I have every confidence (2) will improve progressing through the beta phase. (1) is more mysterious; I have seen comments in other courses of late that perhaps similar things are occurring. I hope the problem will be resolved.

One big kudos: at least given my limited state of knowledge, the number of alternate answers accepted seems to be quite good (at least relative to how little time it's been available). All too often courses enter beta with only a single translation accepted when there are several obvious ones. I'm sure Japanese is still missing many valid possibilities, but it certainly entered beta in a more advanced state on this count than many other courses.

Overall, thanks to the team, I know it was a titanic amount of work!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

Major props for having come so far through the tree as a beginner! O.O May I ask what your native language(s) are?

Yes, the team really is amazing! I had the opportunity to stop by headquarters recently and Hideki was there until at least midnight, super focused on a project and seemingly oblivious to the lively game of Codename we were playing a few rows away. :)


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

Re acceptance of alternative answers: I have found this more of a problem in the later lessons. I keep having to press "My answer is also correct" and having to memorize their answers in order to progress.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Josh471483

I'm 100% new to Japanese and loving my experience with the Japanese course, which I started a few weeks ago. I'm still very early in the skill tree - I've completed the 4 Hiragana skills and just about completed the 2 Intro skills - but so far I've been quite happy.

I think introducing katagana and kanji side-by-side, and gradually, is a great decision. When I hit the first lesson with katagana, I had an OH NO reflex: I had just stumbled through Hiragana, was I really going to have to struggle through another set of characters before getting to focus on building vocabulary and grammar? Duolingo's method really motivates me, and it's a rush every time I can decode a new sentence.

In terms of useful additions, I agree with other posters: grammar popups, questions that asked me to type in Japanese, and pure speech-to-text questions would all be helpful.

Also, since I'm relatively new to Duolingo: is it typical that the "Practice" button largely pulls questions from a single skill? It would be nice to have more cumulative drills.

Looking forward to more additions to this course!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

I use the general Strengthen Skill for website courses, in order to mix up the content a bit. Once you finish the Japanese tree, I encourage you to try the reverse tree (English for Japanese speakers). A heads up though, because of the short length of the JA for EN tree, it will pose a steep challenge. But, hopefully a worthwhile and exciting one!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

is it typical that the "Practice" button largely pulls questions from a single skill?

In my experience, yes. I have seen it said that if one has all one's skill circles gold, and has been reviewing and thereby maintaining word strength diligently, then there may be a mix throughout the tree. I have yet to see much evidence to that effect for myself, however.


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

I have finished the tree without many problems, because I am not new to Japanese. I thought it was quite enjoyable (if short) but the thing I was missing most, was getting the possibility to type in Japanese. I would like it if the course could be switched between Japanese box input and directly written input. That way beginners could start the way they want to, while more advanced learners could get a more challenging experience. On another topic I noticed that a lot of times the hints are not working properly, but this is still limited beta, so I guess it will be fixed sometime. Of course I am also waiting for a more polished web version, with tips and notes and hopefully written input. A longer tree 2.0 would also be appreciated. Until then I might just try out the reverse tree...


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

When I was much younger (10-12-ish years old), I would study very basic things like "Good Night" and "How Are You" and watch a whole bunch of animes; so I was basically a beginner at the beginning of the course. Now, I am 16, almost 17, and I am studying it purely for pleasure and school. I don't watch anime anymore, so now it's all for the culture of it, the food, the people, etc.

I decided to jump right into Japanese II in my local community college. They say that that class is when they start actually using Kanji, so I was assuming that because I'm already learning Kanji, pretty much a master at Hiragana and exceptional at Katakana, I thought I could just skip that whole snooze of a quarter for Japanese I. But now I'm stressed about how good I have to be sentence-making-wise or introductory-wise, etc. etc.

Because I'm not the best and quite lazy, I love listening to the audio and actually understand a lot of it. Of course, for anomalies, I have to take a look, I usually always take a look just to make sure anyways, but in terms of listening, I feel kind of happy I get to somewhat learn more by ear than by eye.

I'm most disappointed by the lack of information. I would love to have some kind of Tips Notes page. The comments for each sentence helps at times, but I love in-depth explanations that just shows how everything works (especially particles and different pronunciation instances). I would even enjoy just a list of possibilities on how to say things, how verbs work, the actual translations, etc. I usually use the app for any language anyway, so really I'm just waiting for the Tips Notes to come to the app in general.

On another note, context, without it, is so hard to learn Japanese. You always just assume the context and although I can do it, it just isn't ideal. You could be asking about yourself, them self, yourselves, or etc.

I've heard others struggling with Kanji as well, how Kanji likes to become Hiragana again later on in the course, and that the Kanji, although present, is still at a minuscule amount. I feel like with this course in beta alone, the farthest a person can get is A2 or N5 with their Japanese. Honestly, okay with that, especially because it is in Beta, but I would love to have a Japanese Course as long as the German course someday. Sorry for the long post, just wanted to post most of my thoughts. :'))


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

I am not a beginner to Japanese however, I do not like the lack of kanji and lack of explanation of what is happening to the beginners. It seems that people are expected to attempt to learn by patterns or recognition or something. I don't think this is effective at all and the beginners deserve proper explanations.

In addition, I am not happy with how short the course is. Im about halfway through but comparing it to other courses like German, French even newer ones like Russian - which also teaches a new writing system - and Norwegian. I don't think it's as in depth as it can be, than it should be. I just hope more skills are added in the future.

I also disagree with the fact that it doesn't teach how to write kanji the hiragana and katakana letters. I just imagine people attempting to do so on their own and the results being unsettling. I don't how duo can teach such a thing but its something I personally find important. There is another app that can teach such a thing but I haven't seen it boosted and recommended as much as it should've. (I'll make a post for this app soon maybe but its called "Kanji Study" and can be found on both Google Play and Apple app store.) Is there a masterpost somewhere with recommended supplementary resources for Japanese?

Overall, I applaud the contributors for making this course. There are many others out there and I have to say this one is one of the most accurate. However, it will probably be more useful for those who want to learn Japanese more seriously, to try and get a Japanese teacher and to complete the Japanese N levels.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

Thanks for the resource recommendations! :)

One of the reasons I posted this discussion was out of curiosity for how first time learners are experiencing the course. It is certainly going about things very differently from the lesson set up I was introduced when I was taking Japanese classes offline. Duolingo doesn't always follow the standard path and I've come to expect that after so many years. So, I'm mostly just waiting to see what kind of data user interaction produces. The users who are being introduced to Japanese here are going to have a different experience than I did. And, I want to know what it looks like before assuming it is a failure because Duolingo has gone about things differently than my own sensei did. If it flops, Duolingo will collect data and make adjustments. :)


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

I have never studied the language before, so I am coming at it with no experience in the language, but with a lot of experience as a language learner (studied French for the past 8 years).
After a month, I've just reached the first checkpoint. I've been going ultra-slow because it took some a long time to learn the hiragana and some of the katakana. At first, I felt like a baby learning the alphabet again, which was really cool. But then when the katakana showed up, I got really confused and had to go to other ressources to figure out what was going on. After this, I was satisfied until particles came in, and then I had to go research again. I appreciate this sort of natural learning method, but I like how the other languages in Duolingo have random grammar popups to help explain a concept instead of just deserting you to figure it out on your own.
I also feel a lack of experience in typing the characters myself as it is only rearranging them (I've seen this mentioned in other comments on here). I also wish there was a way to test your speaking and listening, as there is with the other duo languages. That may be a bit of an excessive feature though since Japanese is already overwhelming itself.
Other than these things, I think it has been rewarding so far. I like that I am becoming a tiny bit literate (very tiny, but it's cool!) in a challenging language.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

I am coming at it with no experience in the language, with a lot of experience as a language learner (studied French for the past 8 years)...At first, I felt like a baby learning the alphabet again, which was really cool.

Your mindset heading into an unfamiliar language is so great! I imagine it goes a long way helping you through the new complexities.

When I started learning Spanish as a second language, I experienced a lot of performance anxiety. Every bit of ambiguity or confusion was a wall that I needed to bludgeon my head against and get frustrated about. I've since had more experience with other languages. I've chilled out, increased my tolerance for ambiguity, gotten more comfortable with not having all of the answers right now, and started enjoying the process more. Sounds like you've also reached that point. :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

random grammar popups

What does this refer to out of curiosity?


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