Thank you Hideki, staff, and volunteers for Japanese for English speakers!!
While trying to locate some discussions about the challenges creating this course involved, I found an article I don't recall reading before. It mentions the birth of the Japanese for English speaker's course:
Out of Duolingo’s 70 employees, about half spent the last six months working exclusively on making the Japanese course a reality.
[The course's] origin story begins with just one engineer, Hideki Shima. A Japanese native speaker, Shima had already helped develop Duolingo’s English for Japanese speakers course. When Duolingo’s yearly hackathon came around, Shima realized he had nothing to lose.
“I spent the hackathon developing a prototype course,” he said. “Right after that, I got a note from a product manager to keep going.”
You can read the full article Here.
If anyone is interested in reading more about some of the challenges the team faced in creating the course, see Kippis' comment in English--first comment in the discussion Here
And, from the staff side of things, the Making Duolingo Blog posted This about the Japanese for English speakers course.
I don't know who all was in that group of staff members, but, a huge THANK YOU to Hideki, mhagiwara, and the other staff members (I don't have a list of your names, sorry!), as well as the community volunteers (moeka518, jkanero, ayakita, and ochancoco191--as of Jul 9, 2017) who brought us this much sought after course. <3
We know that the course is still in beta and even after it's full release we'll probably see more updates, so we haven't see everything this course will have to offer. But as of right now, you have already given us so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Even though I'm not an app user, and we're still waiting for the course to officially release on web with little communication of any progress, I'm still very grateful to Hideki and all the other contributors and staff. ^^
It's nice to have that link to Kippis' comment from two years ago, where he gave some detail about the challenges there would be when creating a Japanese course. I've already read that thread a few times in the past, but it's not too easy to locate whenever I try to find it again.
The biggest problem, I think, is that Japanese does not use spaces to divide words, and it's extremely difficult for making the computer recognize individual words automatically. We're kind of cheating in this course, by treating every single hiragana, katakana or kanji as an independent word, and by registering blocks of letters as idiomatic phrases when we want to add popup hints. This has to be fixed when we're creating a Japanese course, which is going to take a while.
I would really like to know more about what they came up with to deal with this problem and the other issues Kippis mentioned. Do you have any links to threads where they talk about the way they've sorted out these things?
Many thanks to everyone involved with the Japanese for English speakers course for all their hard work and dedication. I appreciate it immensely. I'm a complete beginner in Japanese and really enjoying the course. Thank you also to everyone who writes helpful things in the discussion pages, I've learned a lot here, too.
mhagiwara, and the other staff members (I don't have a list of your names, sorry!), as well as the community volunteers (moeka518, jkanero, ayakita, and ochancoco191--as of Jul 9, 2017) who brought us this much sought after course. 3
Hideki is Hideki Shima
Mhagiwara is Masato Hagiwara (also helping develop Korean)
Jkanero... you've met her before :p Junko Kanero
ayakita and ochancoco191 I don't know as of now :(
Anyway, these guys are amazing. Shima and Hagiwara have been a great help throughout and hopefully these guys will also make Korean very possible
Thank you for making and updating the Japanese course. I'm glad that there are Katakana lessons that have been added. I'm living in Japan and studying Japanese with formal classes as well, but I never get as much practice with Katakana IRL as hiragana, so my progress there has been slow. This helps a lot!