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Japanese course too noob?

I was wondering what JLPT levels could we get through if we're done with the whole Japanese course.. I am already done with more than half the course and attempted JLPTn5 but i failed.. So what do you guys think? What is the current level of this Japanese course?? And in what places does it fall short??

October 16, 2017



First of all, merely completing a course only gives you a tiny fraction of what you can get out of a DuoLingo course. In my experience, by the time I get a language tree fully complete, I am only about 25% done with the work, or possibly less. For example, a couple years ago I started learning Portuguese and I completed the tree in maybe around 6 months...but...it was a struggle to keep it practiced.

I only now got to where I can consistently keep it practiced, and it still takes work. I'm still getting something out of doing the practices.

Also, you often need time away from a language, for the knowledge to solidify. Just learning it all at once isn't going to make all of it stick.

All of this said, the Japanese course launched very recently and I think it is severely deficient relative to the other courses on DuoLingo. It's still in Beta and I also think it has some additional problems even beyond what other Beta courses had in the past. In particular:

  • It is much shorter and covers less material than any of the other courses. If anything, I think a course would need to be LONGER than say for other Indo-European languages, because Japanese is so different, to take you to a comparable level.

  • The lack of open-ended typing exercises, in my opinion, is a severe deficiency. Not only do these help you with open-ended word recall, but they allow you to experiment and play with the language and then be marked wrong and corrected. This is where I think people often learn the most...not by picking a single "correct" translation. We need to really work with a language to work with it, and currently, DuoLingo's Japanese course doesn't allow you to do this.

  • The lack of full Kanji is another huge deficiency. Many of the words they write out in Hiragana are ones where people usually use the Kanji, and where you absolutely need to know these Kanji in order to reach basic literacy or even semi-functional online conversational ability.

The course is still in Beta. I am hopeful that these deficiencies will be addressed in the future. I am personally amazed at how quickly they launched Japanese. But yeah...I hope this explains some of your experiences. Basically, the course is a great start but it's not there yet, in my opinion, nowhere near where it needs to be, to be at the level of other DuoLingo courses.


I agree with your points, and hope that we get some kind of official comment at some point regarding plans for the Japanese course. Does Duolingo want less intensive courses? Are the responding to A/B tests showing that users quit if they get too many translation-into-target-language exercises?

It will interesting to see what Mandarin looks like when it comes out. Naturally, that course won't have everything written in hiragana, but I wonder if it will lack translation-into-target exercises as well.


FWIW, I love translating into a target language. It forces me to look into those craggy recesses of my mind and present what I've learned.


The course claims to teach 88 kanjis, and all the vocabulary and grammar required to pass the JLPT N5. More details here.


Oh! I didn't notice that page mentioned the number of kanji the course will teach! That's useful to know.

However, I'm now confused about how that number of kanji tallies with my findings? I went through all 185 lessons recording all the kanji I found in Duolingo's own default sentences, which are the following 101 kanji:


Not every single one of these 101 kanji are even normally listed as being N5. 英 and 私, for example, are listed as N4 on Jisho.org.

I'm guessing the course has "character challenge" teaching quizzes for only 88 kanji, but also uses at least 13 extra "untaught" kanji in its own sentences. Slightly odd. ^^


You made it way easier to analyze the course information by summarizing the kanji. お疲れ様です. I should also thank you for making me realize something: In the explanation page, Dr. Hagiwara never said anything about the 88 kanjis being taken from the N5 kanji list (and he cannot really specify as I’ll explain below). Dr. Hagiwara’s exact statement was:

In our Japanese course, you can learn the shapes, pronunciations, …….., and 88 basic Kanji (Chinese) characters that you need to know in order to reach basic proficiency.

Assuming the connection between the kanji in course with the N5 material was therefore a misunderstanding on my part, so I apologize and will edit my OR. I think that the course developers selected 88 kanjis that they judged necessary for what they defined as basic proficiency.

In a later paragraph, he says:

Importantly, our course teaches all of the vocabulary and grammar needed to pass JLPT N5, the most popular Japanese language proficiency test in the world.

But apparently, that statement too cannot be considered precise, because I just reviewed the official test information, and discovered that as of 2010, the exact content of the test is no longer made official. So, any kanji list we find online or in apps is only an estimate based on the test history.
That said, it is obvious (from your list) that there are more kanjis than the developers stated, and I don’t know whether or not those will be encountered individually if one works through the tree multiple times.


oh is it?! 88 kanjis are waaaay to low though ..they should've at least put out 200 kanjis.. but hey its still in beta so i'm being optimistic about it that it will change for the better.


Another thing that's way too noob-ish is that it assumes that you are going to "forget" how to read kana, so if you spend any time at all away from the course, and then do a generic "skill strengthen" lesson, it will pick one of those from the very top of the tree.

(Russian, for example, doesn't do this with the Cyrillic alphabet. It assumes that you can read it and starts off with basic sentence structure for skill strengthening.)

I would like there to be a way for the course to "know" that you know the kana and will never "forget" them, and that refresher lessoins should start with something "real".


What? Just 88 (or 101) kanji? I am hoping for lots more. Then again, I suppose we can always get an additional kanji learning book, but that kind of defeats the purpose of duolingo. I'd also like to see more tips etc.

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