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Big jump in complexity between 'Intro' and 'Intro2' makes course very difficult.

  • 2362

Taking a quick look at the Japanese course on Duolingo (iPad), after previously having dabbled a little on Memrise, I find there is a huge increase in complexity once Intro2 is reached. Without any Introductory notes on the website, it is very difficult to work out what is going on. With a bit of trial-and-error I am beginning to pick up the pattern but it is still difficult.

There definitely needs to be more (at least some) explanation or there needs to be a much more gradual step between simply matching 'sounds' and having to answer sentences such as 'Yes, I am also a student' etc.

If you introduce the dreadful Health punishment feature to Japanese, it will become impossible for anyone to progress past Hiragana 4 without already possessing advanced knowledge of Japanese! Currently, the only way to make progress is by trial-and-error!

Another issue (irritation) which makes things difficult is that it is only possible to access the discussions from the website. Since Japanese isn't supported, it forces switching to another learning language. Since the normal menu isn't visible there is no way to skip this in order to access the normal menu which gives access to the Discussions. This also switches the language in the app. Even if a direct link is used, it still presents the choose language page. If in the midst of a Japanese lesson, it gets very confused and invokes the Health feature within the Japanese course!

July 11, 2017



If you introduce the dreadful Health punishment feature to Japanese, it will become impossible for anyone to progress past Hiragana 4 without already possessing advanced knowledge of Japanese! Currently, the only way to make progress is by trial-and-error!

I wouldn't say "impossible," but yes to "a whole lot harder than one can imagine anybody but the very most intrepid beginners being willing to tolerate." I'm guessing that considerations like this are behind the testing they announced of tweaking the Health system to comport with the varying demands of the different languages. Obviously, it's just tons harder with a language with word order as different as Japanese, even with the advantage of hints available even for word-box sentences, which I haven't seen for other languages (barring the introduction of new words).

Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they just can't find a way to get Health to meet whatever outcomes they desire of it for Japanese. It's just obviously designed with much easier languages implicitly in mind (and of course, people aren't exactly fond of it there either, although they put up with it apparently, given the test results).

One thing I've certainly been surprised by is having new grammar points seemingly often introduced via translation from English into Japanese. Yeah, pretty much guaranteed to get those ones wrong a time or three, something that wouldn't necessarily change much even when the hints are a whole lot better than they are now.


The course itself definitely could stand for some changes, and hopefully when the web version is 100% it will be even better.

  • 2362

For any of those, who, like me, are complete beginners and wondered what the earth was going on when it began asking to translate from hiragana to katagana and vice versa (without explanation), perhaps this may help:

Note: this is flipped left-right compared to the keyboard. In most cases. Some character positions are also swapped compared to the iOS keyboard.

These may possibly help in deciphering the iPad Japanese Kana keyboard:

These were taken as screen-shots from Wikipedia article on
kana: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kana,
hiragana: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiragana and
katakana: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana
in case anyone wants more details.


As someone who had a good grasp on Japanese getting into the program I definitely agree with everyone here. I was surprised when I got past intro two and kanji words were suddenly thrown at me, especially the whole 'naka' character being pronounced as 'chou' right off the bat. If I didn't remember that kanji have multiple meanings I'd have been very confused.

Furthermore the program doesn't address different formalities or how certain words change in sentences. I don't think anyone can learn that 'o' in front of certain words makes them more formal if it's never stated, and so far if I didn't already know 'bokuwa' I'd never know that was the male-subjective word for "I am".

Also really doesn't help that all my progress is frozen at the moment for some reason, none of the lessons will update and my xp won't go up. I'm really glad I didn't pay last time my streak was broken by this problem and now I have no reason to give money to it if it'll just break without warning and take all my progress with it!


I didn't find it to be such a big jump in complexity, I think it's just the lack of grammar explanations. I found that a quick skim of the Wikipedia article on Japanese was enough for me to make sense of most of what I've seen (I'm up to the lessons on time now). Occasionally I've had to Google a word when the Duolingo translation didn't do the job (e.g., gozaimasu), and I'm sure I'm missing all kinds of grammar nuances, but I feel OK with not understanding everything yet.

Also, I took out a copy of Japanese the Manga Way from the library, for when I feel like I need more in-depth grammar explanations. I like it so far!


If I wasn't already fluent in Japanese, I think this course would be very difficult, and really impossible without some outside tools. I like that Duolingo wants to introduce hiragana and katakana from the beginning, but it's a stretch to think someone could learn it like this. It's just a lot to learn. Even in college it took us a semester to get hiragana and katakana, it's just very complex.

I've also noticed that when doing exercises it will pronounce は as ha/wa strangely and を as wo, when in fact it's never pronounced like that, ever, even though technically it's wo.

Kudos on starting the course, but I don't think anyone without some knowledge of Japanese could really do it.


I agree, I have had some background in Japanese, and I think that jumping into Intro 2, and even the last lesson in Intro 1 was a large change in difficulty. Things like particles need more focus on what they do. Also without already knowing hiragana and katakana I think it would be very hard to learn all of them this fast.

The grammar of Japanese is very different from English and needs more explanation for beginners to learn it.


Also without already knowing hiragana and katakana I think it would be very hard to learn all of them this fast.

If you need to learn it (like I did), you just redo those lessons lots of times :) OK, this admittedly works a lot better for hiragana than katakana.

Frankly, it's probably not a bad "methodological introduction" to how to go about the Japanese course. Yeah, there's not much guidance (particularly not for iOS users who don't have access to the sentence discussions), but one can figure out a lot with repeat exposure: a time or two to allow for trial and error (emphasis on the error :) and then from then on applying the grammatical principles learned and mastering the vocabulary.

  • 2362

Trial-and-error is fine, until they introduce the Health feature, which will put a stop to that! :-(


I'm in the lucky test group that only has health for completely new lessons, i.e. I can review absolutely anything without being affected by it. Health this way would certainly make it harder, but it'd be a lot more doable than with the unadulterated original version of Health.

  • 2362

In Japanese? Health isn't (currently) applied to Japanese for me.

That seems the wrong way around to me. Surely Health shouldn't be applied to completely new lessons when one is encountering things for the first time? Preferably, it shouldn't be applied to anything. ;-)


No, not in Japanese.

The test version I have corresponds to being allowed to move on when one has reached a certain level of competence with prior material. If one makes mistakes solely confined to new material (and missing translations, which I obviously agree are a thorn in the side), then one might well make it through without exhausting one's chances. (Also, they might extend the amount of health depending on the language.) Once through, one then has unlimited opportunity to reinforce the new material. Given that I just don't think Health is going away, this version is a massive step forward, and I sure hope it is expanded.


I like that Duolingo wants to introduce hiragana and katakana from the beginning, but it's a stretch to think someone could learn it like this.

They just throw new learners at the Hebrew alphabet with nary an introduction whatsoever :) Actually trying to teach scripts is a massive step forward for Duolingo. My gripe with the Japanese hiragana lessons is actually that they're too easy, not that they're too hard.

Even in college it took us a semester to get hiragana and katakana

But you had to have gotten hiragana pretty fast, right? Otherwise how would you do much of anything? I get how katakana could be delayed.


Personally I think a lot of the problems with regards to the difficulty curve discussed in this thread will be at least partially alleviated once the web version is released and we have access to the grammar/topic info for each skill on the tree.

There are just some things that simply can't be taught in the mobile app's current format, and unless Duolingo start to add that important extra information to their mobile apps, the web version will always be better.

My hope is that once the web version is available and new learners can read a nice summation of what they're being quizzed on for each skill, the jump between Intro 1 and 2 will seem less dramatic.

The downside is that it doesn't really do much to help us now. Maybe in the interim some of the more experienced Japanese learners could kindly help us out by creating their own info posts corresponding to each of the skills? I could possibly do that for the first couple of levels, but I'm not good enough to do anything beyond that without risk of being inaccurate.


I 100% agree. The jump in complexity at Intro 2 had me feeling very discouraged.

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Yes, I found it so discouraging that I've been considering whether it is worth persisting or whether it would be better to return to Memrise. If they implement Health, I shall definitely abandon it.

I see you've nevertheless managed to progress. Does it get better beyond Intro 2?


No, it's still the same level of difficulty as Intro 2. I've just been supplementing with other online resources in order to keep up (and keeping a notebook to write rules etc down as I figure them out). Lately, I've jumped over to learning/practicing the 100 most common kanji because that's actually EASIER than Duolingo Japanese!

  • 2362

Hmm... I feared as much. Thanks.


Quite the same with me. I'm learning Kanji the Heisig method (about 500 now) and then I will take a more structured approach to Japanese. In the meantime I try to hold all reached units on gold, but this is not so easy, also with the small print of the Kana and Kanji...


I agree with this comment and would even take it a step further to say that I'd like way more time with katakana before being given a 20/80 katakana/kanji mix. Kanji is intimidating and should probably be left until much later, even at the risk of not learning some common kanji-containing phrases early.


To me as a complete beginner, the way the course introduces kanji actually isn't any more intimidating than the way it introduces katakana. Neither is reviewed much, in contrast to hiragana, so actually I feel like I've got a better handle on the kanji introduced, because to my completely notice eye they are more visually distinctive, and I can remember what they mean (even if not how to pronounce the words they represent).

Nowhere in the course have I seen anything close to 80% kanji, however. I read that the course introduces about 100 kanji, and it looks like it teaches about 1000 words.


By the Intro 2 lessons, all the newly introduced characters, post-hiragana, seem to be a 20/80 katakana/kanji mix. I've learned maybe 4 katakana characters and 14 or 16 kanji.


Yeah, I feel like the only katakana I know how to use are in the word America. Not useful, I'm Australian. Haha.


i am a beginner to Japanese language, i have a complete grasp on hiragana and know a decent handful of words, without any previous knowledge of kanji/katakana i can safely say that the japanese dup lingo really does fail to explain what it is tryng to teach, it expects me to know the answers before having even touched on new characters, word and sentence structure, there is also no real clarification if you get a question wrong why it was wrong.

im sure that eventually going over and over again on each stage you can get to grips with the answers however as im sure you will all agree, structure and breaking down what characters do in a certain order and why they are used as they are is fundamental to learning japanese. learning off words and sentences is a good start and good enough for a passive enthusiast or tourist but for those hoping to become fluent it is unnessecarily difficult


I think optimally there's a combination. Just reading lists of grammar and conjugation rules is, I think, even more confusing.

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