I’m Zan (or 金泽养 in Chinese), a Product Manager at Duolingo.
In an AMA earlier this year, our CEO and co-founder, Luis promised a Mandarin Chinese course by the end of the year. And lo and behold, here’s an official announcement that the Duolingo team is working on this as we speak! We have an Incubator page to prove it.
Other details to follow such as our exact launch date this year, how we’re going to teach tones (tones!), and more. The course page should also go live very, very soon.
 Just as was the case with Japanese and Korean, Chinese will first be released on Android and iOS, as those platforms are ready to receive the special exercise types created especially for those languages. We want to release these courses on web as well. First important step to make that possible was also announced today!
Let's not get hasty. As much as I want one too, Duolingo said they do not have immediate plans to add other Chinese languages. Plus it took us forever to get Mandarin in the works, so let's not push it.
I'm the guy who worked on the traditional extension, I am working on a Cantonese extension, the audio will take roughly 5 months to complete. traditional extension
I've begged Duolingo to allow me make a Cantonese course but they ignore me, it's stupid that I have to make a course on top of a course.
I also never stuck with Duolingo because it never had what I wanted. Once I heard about Japanese, I came running back. I am in love with the Japanese course and SUPER excited to have a Mandarin course.
Btw, I love seeing accounts where the user has every language. Good job haha. Now you just need to get most of them to higher levels.
Awesome. That was my request on the pre-release of Duolingo. It has been a long wait.
FYI, a mistake in Japanese is that sound and text do not always pop up together---since there is always sound, phonetic, character....if the question has one, the other two should show up in the answer. This would make learning much faster.
我很高兴 :D! I'm so, so, so after ten minutes i'm so happy of the news!!
I'm already studying it on my own but i cannot wait to use your course. 谢谢你！
Oh my gosh i'm lost, my level is not advanced like yours xD, i have started only 1 month ago ahahahaha xD.
...ehmm...我不知道 xD. After 15 minutes i've realised that i've used the wrong sentence (我不明白, silly me).
Honestly, I have no immediate plan to learn Chinese (and good that, because it seems the course incubating will take a while ;)) but I am very happy to hear that the opportunity will be avaliable in the future. I'll just have to see. Who knows? Maybe I will need some Chinese language skills in the future!
P.S. Will you be teaching People's Republic of China-Chinese or more Taiwan Chinese? I'm guessing the former, since it's more wide-spread, but one take both variants, doesn't one?
Great news! Will you be teaching the characters (Pinyin, I think?) ? And won't releasing it this year itself be too hectic for you? I would love this course to be out ASAP, but quality of the course shouldn't be compromised and our Special Contributors shouldn't feel pressurized with expectations, since this course was one of the most-awaited by many here. Good luck :)
It seems it will be 600+. https://www.duolingo.com/course/zh-CN/en/Learn-Chinese-Online
I'm keen to learn the language Mandarin, as opposed to the character-based writing system (ie Hanzi). This is probably a big ask, but I'm hoping that the Duolingo course will support learning the language through pinyin, as that is recognised as the best and quickest way for students to learn.
Do you not consider writing a part of language? As someone currently living in China, I can tell you that knowing characters is incredibly useful. I need them to order at a restaurant, to read signs, to read packaging in the grocery store, and to communicate with people I meet who don't speak standard Mandarin when I travel.
It takes a lot of time, and I understand why people are hesitant to get into learning characters, but if you ever want to use the language in China or read anything in Chinese other than learning materials, pinyin isn't very useful.
Learning Chinese only with pinyin makes as much sense as learning English using only the International Phonetic Alphabet or the Cyrillic Alphabet. You could do it and learn to speak the language, but you wouldn't have access to any written materials in that language. Which is a shame, since reading can be a great way to study a language.
Also, a lot of words in Chinese have the same or similar pronunciation. Sometimes even native speakers have to ask each other, "Which 'shi' are you talking about?" and write down the character. There is a famous poem that plays with this. The pinyin/oral Chinese is indecipherable. The character version makes sense: « Shī Shì shí shī shǐ »
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.
No, writing is not a part of language, writing is a technology, a set of symbols that are used to arbitrarily represent some aspect of language — typically they represent sounds, but of course Hanzi often have a semantic component and a phonetic component. But I'm not saying one should not learn characters, just that one has to learn the language in order to read it and learning characters at the same time as learning the language makes the task vastly harder. On the other hand, pinyin (or similar systems with a straightforward relationship between sounds and symbols) is very easy to learn and use while learning the language. There's abundant evidence that this is the best way to learn Chinese, see my links in my post replying to Colin2202. And characters are much easier to learn once one has a reasonable command of the language.
And re the lots of words with similar pronunciation, it's often raised as a problem but it happens in English too (eg the well-known 'Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo', or 'that that is is that that is not is not is that it it is'). This is a limitation inherent in all writing systems to some degree and much less so in speaking. Anyway, to repeat, I want to learn the language (=speaking and hearing) and its well-established that the quickest and best way to do this is by hearing it and speaking it, but some means of recording is necessary and pinyin is the simplest. And this does not preclude learning some characters while learning the language, and then once the language is fairly well learnt, to then focus on learning them. But you'll know if you've ever looked at what native-speaking Chinese kids spend so much of their school day doing, drilling characters, that it takes a huge effort and much time to become truly literate in characters, which is a key reason why literacy is so poor in China.
Just a couple notes, Mandarin has ~1,200 different syllables (~400 without tone distinctions) while English has ~12,000, so the number of homophones isn't really comparable.
Also, your information about literacy is out of date. Currently the literacy rate is around 96%, and is almost 100% among young people. You can also look at Hong Kong and Taiwan which also have nearly 100% literacy.
Ok, the 4% illiteracy figure is presumably the government one from 2010, right? That's usually considered grossly wrong as large segments of the rural population (espec women and peasants) are illiterate, knowing many fewer than the government's minimum literacy standard of 1,500 characters. And re the homophony, it doesn't cause problems in speaking, right? Or are you saying that Chinese speakers can't understand each other because of the homophones? So while homophony might be a problem when dealing with isolated words, as my pinyin reading native speaking Chinese friends tell me, it's rarely a problem in actual texts
But to reiterate, I'm not saying that characters should not be learned. I'm saying that to read a text (whatever writing system it's written in) it is necessary first to have sufficient knowledge of the language to be able to understand the text; that there is substantial evidence that it's quicker to learn the language by avoiding the characters at first, and instead using a rapidly-acquired writing system such as pinyin; and that once a fair command of the language is acquired then characters can be learned more rapidly and easily.
I think I'll end my comments on this issue now, I just hope that the Duolingo people base their course on the best pedagogy.
No. Learning to speak is not the same as learning a new language in a later stage of life. As a literate human, writing and reading become an immediate way to use the new language and may or may not be more or less important than speech. As I said, social media changes the mix, and PhD programs often have a second language reading requirement.
Pinyin is a very valuable tool for providing a phonetic insight into Chinese languages, but it is no substitute for learning to read. You may be able to impress people in a bar, but functional literacy in a language requires the ability to read it. It is pointless to learn speech fluency without reading literacy. Assuming that you are an adult.
There needs to be a balanced emphasis on written language, at least for standard fonts if not necessarily calligraphy.
Not the "best" if you plan to actually read anything. Also, there seems to be some misunderstanding, but the Mandarin writing system is not some universal, Chinese writing. Writing in other dialects and classical Chinese is not the same, even though many of the characters are the same.
The Sinologists I know agree that the best way to learn the language is to leave learning characters until a fair degree of fluency has been achieved. There's no point trying to read things if you don't know the language! In case you're interested, here's a nice discussion of this issue by Victor Mair at Languagelog: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=10554
My personal experience visiting China is that the language is not terribly hard for English speakers, but learning the writing system is a huge task... here's a bit of discussion of that: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=189
BTW sorry if it's not clear, but I'm referring throughout to Standard Mandarin, ie Putonghua. I'm not sure what your point is re other Chinese languages or Classical Chinese, I mentioned neither.
Don't get me wrong. I think the characters are best in small doses and writing is probably not too important in the modern era. However, the wait-until-they're-verbally-fluent approach meantioned in your link smacks too much of the grammar teaching of my school days. I think it's key to get people learning things they can actually use early, and speaking in genuine contexts is usually much harder than reading where you're not rushed. If you don't use the language, it's very easy to lose motivation.
From personal experience, I learned some characters first, then learned speaking, listening, and reading together. Admittedly, it's hard to conclude stuff from personal experience, but learning the characters definitely felt like it helped me distinguish between the ungodly number of homophones, and learn new words which were made out of characters I knew.
Regarding other dialects: I think I misunderstood you. It sounded like you were saying that "Hanzi" was a writing system (disconnected from Mandarin), when it's really just a way of writing (not unlike the Roman alphabet) used by many different languages.
This is great news for all of us who waited so damn long. But knowing Duolingo, I'm not going to risk disappointing myself by expecting a perfect Chinese course delivered promptly. Duolingo's Korean and Japanese courses turned out to be hasty and patchy. It's just adding a language for the sake of adding. In comparison, even a really new app, LingoDeer, which has been recommended by many on reddit, beats Duolingo easily. If you want to learn Chinese, your needs can be and, for a pretty long time, will continue to be satisfied by apps/sites like LingoDeer, ChineseSkill, The Chairman Bao, Yoyo Chinese etc.. Good luck, Duolingo!
LingoDeer looks interesting, but, unfortunately, it does not appear to exist on iOS so I am unable to try it out.
Anyone will be disappointed who expects a 'perfect' course from the outset. The existence of rival apps teaching any of these languages is good as it gives Duolingo an incentive to continually improve rather than atrophy.
In all fairness, I think the Japanese course is still in beta. I think a lot of people saw that they could start the Japanese course and thought it was finished, but beta testing is still part of the development stage.
Thanks for the tip about LingoDeer, I want to try it.
Well, this is good news, sorta. I completed the Italian course a little while back, and struggled with it. Since I got back from Italy I have switched to HelloChinese, and after months with Duolingo, it is a breath of fresh air. The big issue is downloading lessons. Duolingo only seems to be able to download one at a time, while HelloChinese apparently downloads the ENTIRE course. This is not trivial. My learning time is during my 90 minute daily subway commute (I know, it sucks, right?), and I lose about 50% or more of my available time waiting for Duolingo to download the next lesson which it can't do if it doesn't have a data connection. Until Duolingo fixes its connectivity issues it is only marginally useful to me. (I could give you more feedback, but all the evidence is that Duolingo doesn't really listen, and is more intent on pushing more products out the door than fixing its fundamental architectural issues that cripple its usability. I won't waste my time repeating those issues yet again.)
This will be Android/iOS for the same reasons as Japanese and Korean (the exercise types). The post will be updated. We of course want to release it on web as well, just like Japanese and Korean. We know it sucks we can't make it available on all platforms at once. =[ The new exercise design change karint announced today should take us closer to these languages being available on web though!
Thanks for the update. Just wondering: I think Duolingo promised Japanese would be on the web this year. If Chinese, which according to the incubator page is planned for mid december, will be app-only as well, does that mean you don't expect the courses for web to be ready this year after all?
Parabéns Vivisaurus! I see the new exercise design on the web is really faster. Thanks for the adding of all these languages. This is the best year of Duolingo indeed!!! I need to say the Team work is... スーパーカリフラジリスティックエクスピアリドーシャス。 =))) (Sorry, I wanted to find a translation in Chinese of this incredible word!!!) ;)
You can use both with duolingo here
I have made an extension for chrome that can be installed here that will show traditional instead of simplified characters so if you want to learn traditional as I did, now you can!
You can use traditional with this Chrome Extension here
Judging from the language of this post and the flag icon they chose, I'll assume simplified characters are guaranteed, but I'll be very disappointed if they don't at least present the user with the option to switch to traditional. Since this seems to be an official Duolingo project, it should be a simple programming task for them to enable both, or at the very least accept keyboard input from either system.
PS: Traditional would be easier for all the students coming from the Japanese course... just sayin' ;-)
You can switch between traditional and simplified with this extension, even mid-lesson.
I have also written an extension for chrome that can be installed here that will show traditional instead of simplified characters :)
Your wish, is my command :) I have made an extension for chrome that can be installed here that will show traditional instead of simplified characters :)
I'm glad to hear that Chinese is finally on the way!
I would very much appreciate if right from the start you could provide both the simplified and traditional characters.
It shouldn't be too difficult to implement a functionality to toggle between them since you have done something similar for Latin and Cyrillic characters in the Ukrainian and Russian courses in the past (now discontinued).
Entering either simplified or traditional characters should work since this is already possible to do so in the corresponding course for learning Chinese from English.
Traditional characters would be a great help for all the people who want to be able to read Chinese characters outside of China i.e. Taiwan, Hongkong, Southeast Asia, etc. or who want to combine their learning experience with learning Kanji in the Japanese course.
Moreover knowing traditional characters lowers the bar a little if you ever want to have a look at Classical Chinese.
Last but not least already knowing the traditional versions of characters makes it much easier to also understand their simplified versions than the other way round.
I am a fan of Chinese etymology so for me, Traditional Chinese is really more important to me, so I have written an extension for Chrome that will turn the existing simplified Chinese course into traditional. Please install it and let me know what you think :)
Wow! I'm so excited about all of this!
As an Asian, I'm so glad to see more languages from Asia coming to Duolingo. Although I'm Filipino, any Asian culture is usually something I advocate for. With Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Hindi, all in the incubator, it makes me so excited for Duolingo and the Asian communities on here and outside of here.
I also love how these languages are also LARGE, POPULAR languages. I mean, sure, Klingon and High Valyrian aren't exactly 10/10 around the world, but alongside them were languages like Japanese and Chinese and Korean, etc. I'm hoping to see Arabic soon, that'd be really cool as well! Then Duolingo would really be close to having the Top Ten Spoken Languages in the world.
Thank you so much for this Duolingo! Very exciting things coming! Woot!
As a relative "newbie" on DL, can someone take a moment to explain just what "in incubator" means please? Can we go somewhere to give it a trial for our own benefit, or is it restricted to folk who have been involved in working it out or ? ? ? - - I'm a bit lost on this side of things. Thanks, Gracias, Shi,Shi for any help! :-}
Traditional has arrived (if you install my Chrome extension). Let me know if it works for you.
Hello, Zan! I'm a Duolingo User of Spanish learner, and I am also a Chinese teacher in Mexico. Well i have to say the Spanish course helps me a lot! I went to the language school in Mexico before, but as a Mandarin/Cantonese mother language speaker, studied with some English speakers or European makes me a really slow learner. but Duolingo saved me! As a Chinese teacher i want to find some apps to help my students, but i am sorry to say that the Chinese course in Duolingo is not as easy as Spanish course for learners. For my experience, i got my own way to teach my students easier to speak Chinese, if you are interesting, you are welcome to contact with me!
I have taken the Chinese lessons since the new year. I have many friends, many from Xi'an and they tell me that some of the material is archaic and not well understood . I always understood bathroom as tse shuo but they use wei shang dian (clean room) Otherwise I enjoy the course and thanks to Duo.