https://www.duolingo.com/VoidEmissary

Finished the course: some thoughts

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I took one year of Japanese in high school, and the equivalent of another year in college.

I have some experience translating song lyrics and stories with the idea of dictionary tools.

I started the mobile Japanese course to see if it could teach me things I glossed over by having different instructors over the years. I finished a few weeks ago.

So here's my thoughts:

-I feel like there is a lot of hand-holding in the course with the preset sentences, and not enough room for improvising and putting that learning to good use.

-I have probably learned more kanji than the course teaches: it really needs to be more kanji-intensive.

-The lack of grammar explanations would be challenging for beginners.

-I really don't like being expected to tap and match kana after a certain level. Certain kana were introduced way too late in the course.

-It seems to be getting better but the course is way too picky about including the subject and indicator words like この、その、あの. I was taught sentence subjects aren't really necessarily depending on context.

-Please include more of the informal forms of verbs!

-Accepting Japanese keyboard input would be really helpful. It's frustrating having to tap the words to input them.

September 9, 2017

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/stephenbal4
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I really want to be able to write Japanese with a keyboard. Still, I'm glad to have the course. Thank you to the course contributors.

September 10, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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You covered all three of the main reasons why I don't use the app (your 1st, 4th, and 7th points). On the rare occasions that I do want to do some Duolingo on my phone, I still use the mobile browser instead of the app.

For your 2nd point, here is a list of all 98 kanji currently used within the words list in this course:

一二三四五六七八九十百千万日月火水木金土年週時分半毎何左右上下中外前後北南西東方天山川花田雨電車目耳口手人男女父母子犬友好生気会休学校本語入出行歩食思見読書言話聞名今間午先明来小大高長円赤白青英国

I would like to see more kanji, but I think the course has only aimed to teach N5 level initially. It looks like they've done a decent job of covering all the N5 kanji, but I'm not certain whether every single one of the kanji usually studied for N5 are included. For example, 魚 (fish) is often included in N5 kanji study lists. Conversely, 英 (as in 英語) is never listed as N5 (usually N4 instead).

For your 3rd point, what's currently been uploaded for the Japanese course on web doesn't contain any notes yet either! It's not just something the app is lacking, and it's a little worrying if the course is meant to be releasing on web any time in the near future. The Korean course, on the other hand, had grammar notes uploaded in the lessons before it was even available for alpha test applicants..

Once the course is officially on web (assuming they haven't forgotten all about doing it), then those seven points you mentioned shouldn't be much of an issue on there. At least you'll be able to type your own Japanese sentences, use other kanji, leave out subjects, and use informal verb forms. These should be accepted in the answers so long as they are correct, or can report them until accepted. I wouldn't put much hope in the situation changing for the app though. ^^;

September 10, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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I'm now curious about how many other kanji might be seen in this course that are simply outside the "words" list.

My "words" list for the completed tree contains 998 words. Quite a few of these are either duplicates or parts/forms of other words. The 98 kanji I posted earlier are the only kanji that appear on my words list page.

However, I've noticed 魚 is actually used in one of the sentences within the "Food 1" skill. Yet this kanji 100% definitely isn't in my "words" list. (The hiragana form "さかな" is in my words list though, but not the kanji.) There are other kanji I've seen too.

I think next I'll have a go at calculating how many kanji are seen in this course in total. Might take a while, but for some strange reason I enjoy compiling lists of kanji and doing statistic-y stuff. :P

September 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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I finished my re-run through all 185 lessons within the 40 skills of the tree. I don't know if this means I encountered every sentence, but I definitely encountered all 998 items from the "words" list (since my oldest "last practiced" word is now only "1 week" instead of "4 months"). ^^

The re-tally isn't very exciting I'm afraid.

So there are the 98 kanji shown among the 998 items on the "words" page. Here are those 98 kanji again, but this time listed in standard A→Z sort order rather than that creative order I made up last time:

一右雨英円下何火花会外学間気休金九月犬見言五午後語口好校行高国今左三山四子思耳七車手週十出書女小上食人水生西青赤先千川前大男中長天田電土東読南二日入年白八半百父分聞歩母方北本毎万名明木目友来六話時

Now for the kanji seen in all the sentences I encountered going through all 185 lessons. Through doing this, I found 101 kanji:

一右雨英円下何火花会外学間気休魚金九月犬見言五午後語口好校行高国今左三山四子思私耳七車手週十出書女小少上食人水生西青赤先千川前大男中長天田電土東読南二日入年白八半百父分聞歩母方北本毎万名明木目友来六話時

All 98 kanji from the "words" page are obviously in this list again. And, as I've used the same sort order, it should be easy to spot the three additional kanji, but here they are anyway:

  • 魚 (さかな) - fish
  • 私 (わたくし) - me
  • 少 (しょう) - few

So all that work didn't really reap much of a reward at all! And I don't even know if I can be 100% certain I encountered every sentence, since maybe I'd get more sentences from repeating the same lesson multiple times? Idk. XD

However! I also counted all the kanji I typed within my own sentence answers. Here are all the ones from within only the sentences that were accepted:

愛意椅違医一飲院右運映泳英駅円鉛塩汚屋俺音下何可夏家果歌火花荷画会海絵外覚学楽鞄寒漢甘簡間机機帰気規起休魚供強狭業局近金銀九空靴兄計月嫌建犬献見鍵鹸元言五午後語交口好校港紅行高国今左差再菜財昨雑三山使司四始姉子思私紙誌字持次耳自七社者車邪弱手酒寿授秋終習週十宿出処初所緒書女小少焼照上丈乗食寝新申親身進人図水性生西青石赤切先千川洗前祖窓足族体台大題沢濯達単短誕弾男知地置茶着中昼朝聴長頂鳥痛低定弟鉄天店転点田電渡登冬東当豆働動道読曇難二肉日入猫熱年納背買白八半晩番彼飛筆百描病夫布父符部風物分文米返便勉弁歩母忙北僕本磨妹毎末万漫味名明面木目勿夜野薬友有郵曜葉欲羅来立留両良緑冷零練六論話麩晴羽飯館時服

Exactly 300 kanji. However, it looks like I didn't type 5 of the 101 kanji from the previous list (雨土南聞方). Many sentences only gave me the opportunity to translate from JA→EN but not the other way round, which might explain this? So the grand total would actually be 305 kanji, of which only 101 make an appearance in the course's own sentences.

Some pretty rare kanji were accepted in my answers, including three that aren't even among the 2,136 characters in the "common use" (jōyō) kanji list: 鹸, 勿, and 麩. ^^

September 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Mod
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Thank you for taking the time and expending the energy to do this giant review!

September 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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I've found out that I really didn't encounter every single sentence when I went through all 185 lessons one-by-one. Today I encountered a sentence which I don't remember ever seeing in the course before:

こうえんにかわいいねこが五ひきいました。
"There were five cute cats in the park."
https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23192627

I don't understand how I can make it give me different sentences. Really wish I could figure this out. But I guess this means my kanji list might not yet be 100% complete. ^^;

However, here is an additional interesting statistic I've calculated. Here's how many unique sentences I encountered when doing that run through all 185 lessons:

  • 日本語: 1,418 unique sentences
  • English: 479 unique sentences
  • total unique sentences = 1,897
September 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/stephenbal4
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Can you program? Might be faster.

September 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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Woo, I'd be curious about the re-tally too.

September 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Jeremy2392

How do you view your learned words for japanese?

September 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23046587
↑ "How to see learned Japanese words" ^^

September 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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The current Japanese course is a limited beta release. Presently, it is one of the shortest courses on Duolingo. Being the most difficult course Duolingo has developed up to this point (from a technical/programming standpoint), I'm not surprised it is so rough. From conception to release, it took half of staff members plus a team of volunteers to get it to this stage. I'm not sure if any other course received this many resources, beyond the very first courses when Duolingo was still designing the interface, that is. All things considered, I imagine the Japanese for English speakers course will see more material added over the next four years, if it follows the pattern of several other courses. So, I recommend checking back in periodically. Also, I'm certain the reverse (English for Japanese speakers) tree will present a steeper challenge if you're looking for one. :)

September 11, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/3Rton

I sure hope so..

October 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/betarage
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I cant remember anything i learn on Japanse the grammar confuses me there is no explanation i have no idea how it works and if i get something wrong 3 times it just auto completes i really need to find a different way to learn Japanese because this is just too frustrating i almost smashed my phone when i forgot the thing that i learned 2 seconds ago

September 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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Hi betrarage,

I agree there is plenty of room for Duolingo to improve the course. It is in limited beta and the point of beta is to collect user reports so that the course building team can flesh things out over time.

Here is a discussion where several people have recommended their very favorite Japanese learning resources.

That being said, if you're looking to learn Japanese at the same pace as Spanish or Portuguese, etc. it is most likely to be an unrealistic goal and a super frustrating experience.

FSI rates Japanese as the very hardest of the hard languages for native English speakers to learn. (I'm assuming that FSI is referring to English speakers who were raised monolingual. But, I'm not certain.) If you are not a native English speaker, I'd check the net for an adjusted timline. However, if you are a native English speaker, the average time FSI estimates to become proficient (not fluent) is 2,200 hours of actual study time. That would be around 92 days of studying all day, every day, without sleeping. While some people will learn a bit faster, and others a bit slower, it's a good figure to keep in mind.

I'm not saying this to discourage you from learning Japanese. Instead, the goal is to help you adjust your learning expectations. If you do that, it should help reduce some of the frustration you're feeling. Japanese is a language to be savored, to let steep in the cup of your mind like a slow brewing tea. And hopefully, the resource discussion I linked here will help the steeping on its way.

:)

September 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/3Rton

DOES the duolingo team plan to add features, adjust the content and bring more sections to the tree, though? Most of the discussion I've been seeing is month/months in past but I haven't really seen much on actual plans of implementing fixes/enhancements.

October 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/narkop___
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They really need to have grammar notes on mobile.

September 11, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Ultorex
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For me, Duolingo was the first contact with the Japanese language. I like the first part of the course (let's say the first third) and regard it as valuable as other courses. But as I made progress I encountered the most frustrating drawback for me: the missing translations. Either they are in Kanji when you just have Kana options or they show words that aren't in the options at all. Even worse: In Japanese sentences, Duo can't figure out where the single words start and end, offering completely mixed up and useless translations.

Also, since there are no grammar notes yet, I think there are many unnecissarily long and complex sentences in the earlier lessons.

I am looking forward to the improvements which will doubtlessly come, but at the moment I wouldn't recommend the course for rookies like me.

October 7, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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Utlorex,

I've been super impressed by the complete beginners tackling the Japanese tree. Even without all of the beta quirks you've listed above, and once tips and notes are added, it will be a good challenge for (especially monolingual English learners), simply because it is Japanese. So, major kudos to you and others who are jumping in while it is still in beta!

October 7, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/LQoSZv69

The web version allows you to type your responses, and will (usually) accept kanji. I've also used the plain form a few times and had it accepted. Though not the plainest of the plain forms...

April 3, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Eddkenjiro

Yes, they need to introduce the kana at a faster rate. Perhaps even have in a special section, so for those that already know Hiragana and Katakana, where can at least take the test and jump over that section. You should check out Human Japanese Intermediate it has fantastic explanations and teaches you a lot about informal verbs. However be warned, Human Japanese grammar is way more advanced what I'm finding here on Duolingo.

September 21, 2018
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