Finished the course: some thoughts
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.
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:
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. ^^;
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
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. :)
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
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.
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.
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!