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Too Few Kanji in Course

Hi guys! Can someone explain to me why there're very few kanji in the Japanese course? You won't be able to actually read based on the course, and it actually makes the course harder because it's more difficult to tell the difference between 防止 and 帽子, as an example. I have my JLPT2, so maybe it's just me, but I personally think that it's honestly harder to read and write without the kanji. Thoughts? And can if anyone in the dev team wants to add the kanji in, that'd be much appreciated!

October 13, 2017



I agree. I think best practice in teaching Japanese, especially online, is to introduce ALL Kanji whenever a new word is introduced, except for the few simple words and expressions where the words are usually written in hiragana alone. If the Kanji is in widespread use, then I want it to be taught when the word is taught.

If the DuoLingo team wants to make it easier to learn, they could do what virtually all textbooks do, which is to have little mini-hiragana over or under the Kanji, spelling them out phonetically. They could display these by default when words are introduced, or they could put them in the hover-over hints. Alternatively, they could do something like what Russian used to do with the toggle between Cyrillic and Romanization, and have a toggle to turn on or off full Kanji.

Either way it seems like it would be relatively easy for them to implement....the way it's set up now is really awful, it puts extra burden on the learners of the course, to look up the Kanji and then share them on the discussion page. This has been done for virtually all exercises but like...now we have to click through to the discussion pages (which are often slow to load), and it's not there by default. This slows down learning.

To add insult to injury, we get no practice typing out the Kanji, because there are no open-ended typing exercises. I think this is perhaps the hugest weak point of the course, a problem bigger than just the partial lack of Kanji alone. If typing were allowed, at least we could teach ourselves the Kanji and practice typing them out, but no, we don't even get the dignity of being allowed to do that.

It seems to me like DuoLingo is orienting the course towards people who lack initiative and are less serious about the language, and taking those of us like you and me who are serious about wanting to learn the language the way it is actually used in Japan, and throwing us under the bus by cutting us off from the sorts of exercises that would be most useful for us.

In my opinion, it's such a big omission that it's worth holding off on doing the course until they implement these features. But I want us to continue putting pressure on the team. I have heard nothing from them addressing these issues...no communication, no addressing of my concerns, no commitment to add more Kanji or to add open-ended typing exercises in the near future, nothing. Until I get that I'm uninterested in lending my energy to doing this course, and I would encourage others to hold off as well, to put additional pressure on them.



↑ I think you might find this comment interesting. Scroll down a couple of comments below that one and there are some extra statistics of kanji usage in this course. ^^


Duolingo is not meant, in any language, to get you to fluency. It teaches a fair amount of vocabulary with a focus on grammar. Adding in additional kanji makes learning for beginners more intimidating and slows down their progress as they not only have to wade through the complexities of verb forms and particles but arbitrary-looking characters that are likely at first memorized by brute force.

That said, I'm over half way through the course and there's maybe 20 instances I can think of where they could replace vocabulary words with kanji. At the rate things are going, I doubt they cover even 20% of the joyo kanji by the end of the course. At which point, 20-50 more kanji aren't going to make a big difference. Learning kanji is a constant, ongoing endeavor. Duolingo is better served focusing on grammar to push users to a point where they are able to efficiently self-study.

Also, in what context are you mixing up 防止 and 帽? :P I do get your point there, but maybe not a great example. I think they've done a pretty decent job of not introducing conflicting vocabulary.


I mean, I kind of get what you mean, however, it is incredibly obvious that the Japanese course is way smaller and covers less ground than most other courses, even Korean. It almost seems like they skimped a little bit. French for example gets you to about B1 level, where as Japanese barely finishes JLPT N5.


Oh, it definitely is shorter. Can't argue there. I had to check my progress my progress to make that "over half way through the course" statement and was really surprised by the fact. I was MAYBE a quarter to a fifth of the way through the dutch course around the same level.

I don't think it makes the point any less valid though. We are still in beta and honestly, as long as grammar is taught("taught") sufficiently, I don't feel like it's a big a problem. I obviously don't know what the rest of the course holds, but if it's just vocabulary that's lacking, then I think there are more fun and effective way to learn outside of Duo. One of my biggest gripes with Duo has always been that it doesn't really do a good job with spaced repetition, so it's incredibly easy to forget new vocab.


This is related both to the course being shorter, and to it lacking full Kanji and open-ended typing exercises.

I have a strong suspicion that the Japanese course in its current incarnation will be WOEFULLY inadequate to get learners up to the level of being able to go the rest of the way by immersion...contrasting with the other courses.

I've finished the Spanish, German, and Portuguese courses and Portuguese was a language I learned entirely from DuoLingo...and I found all were adequate to get me to the point of being able to have a basic conversation, and understand enough of news radio and videos and stuff that I can start learning new words from context, looking things up, etc. I feel confident that DuoLingo is good enough that I could use it as a primary tool, and then go the rest of the way through consuming media in the language and just going to a place where I could be surrounded by native speakers.

I've been going part way through Russian and Turkish courses (Turkish being relevant because it is not an Indo-European language and is about as different from English grammatically and structurally as Japanese is, and Russian being relevant because it has a different writing system and is a generally very hard languages) and both of those courses seem good enough that if I stuck with them to the end and kept them practiced, I have faith that I'd be about at that same level too.

With Japanese, I don't have this sense at all. I would want to use Japanese online, and the lack of open-ended typing exercises are a HUGE issue for me. But like, it's not just typing ability...it's the way those exercises allow you to experiment with alternate grammatical constructions, word choice, etc. It's that process of experimenting and then being repeatedly marked wrong, in my opinion, where I gain the most from DuoLingo. It seems to really emulate the experience I had as a kid, learning my native tongue and then having my parents and other adults repeatedly correct me.

The Japanese course in its current form seems a shadow of the other courses, and I have little faith that completing it, even pouring energy into it diligently, would get me to that point of being able to go the rest of the way by immersion. I also am not sure it would be an efficient use of my time the way the other courses have been for me. It feels tedious as I go through it, like I'm just playing a game idly and not being challenged.

I want DuoLingo to address the shortcomings and particularly I want them to add open-ended typing exercises, but, as the OP has pointed out, full Kanji would be important too.


Either way, it doesn't affect me. I just think that it'd me more useful to newcomers to the language. I don't think they need to be able to read at the level of 人間失格, but maybe just middle school, so around 400 Kanji or so.


Hello! Here you can find more kanji to learn. Enjoy! https://www.wanikani.com/


Glad I'm not the only one who noticed this--and that the course is very short in general (compared to the other language courses I'm taking here). I majored in Japanese in college but have lost a lot over the years, so I was hoping the Duolingo course would be a good refresher and maybe fill in some holes in my knowledge.

Even with all I've forgotten (and it's a ton), I learned maybe five or so new words and absolutely zero new kanji after completing the tree. Surprising and disappointing. Hopefully there will at least be some purchasable bonus skills in the future...


I wish they would add the kanji but allow newcomers to "turn it off", kinda like how you could change the script in the russian course.


Agreed that they should show all kanji and let you tweak how many are shown. (All, some, none). Once you start learning a few and recognizing them, going back to Duolingo and being shown their hiragana versions is counterproductive to learning kanji, since you are presented a different written version of the word that conflicts with the real one. I feel that I weakens my ability to recognize words in real-world text. I think that Kanji also helps with grammar, since it lets you differentiate particles and word modifiers from roots more easily.

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