1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. Japanese needs to teach more …


Japanese needs to teach more Kanji.

After the first few lessons dedicated to Hiragana/Katakana, Kanji should be implemented full-force. It is weird for me (someone who isn't even fluent) to see わたし instead of 私... these are some of the most common words in Japanese... the Kanji is absolutely necessary to learn for words like these.

October 29, 2017



I agree that more Kanji teaching is important and for a fundamental level course higher consistency helps learning.

Nonetheless in the reality there are no absolute rules that a word must be written in Kanji or Kana and their variations. e.g. A sushi restaurant sign board may read すし, 寿司 or 鮨. Also do not expect all native Japanese are equally good at using Kanji or having the same preference to use Kanji. So it is not a bad thing to be exposed to both types of writing.


I get that, but for common Kanji there is no point in not teaching it.


eu entendi, também acho a mesma coisa...


To add to this I would suggest that the Hiragana is taught as word, as a opposed to isolated syllables


Agreed. Use it as an opportunity for more vocabulary.


I absolutely agree. Duolingo should teach the language as it is actually used, not a kindergarten version. Kanji should be selected by frequency of real-world use, not by rigid adherence to JLPT test requirements.
I hope the course will be expanded at some point and many, many more kanji added. DL really needs to come up with a better way to teach different readings of the same character, however.


I don't see why they can't just include all Kanji for which they teach the word. They can have the kana in the hover-over hints. (Incidentally, some words presented only in Kanji lack hover-over hints with kana and this is a big issue too when people are trying to learn them.)


My guess is that that's difficult to manage, technically. Remember that they already had to do a major technical overhaul to be able to teach Japanese at all.


This seems extremely implausible to me, and you're talking to an experienced web developer here who has designed things not quite as complex as DuoLingo overall, but approaching its level of complexity (and perhaps exceeding it in some ways).

I see no reason why this wouuld be difficult to manage or implement. A very easy solution would be to type BOTH into the same field in the database.

A more sophisticated solution, still very easy to implement, would be to create (an) additional or separate field(s) in the database to show either kana or kanji...perhaps also implementing a toggle button to turn on or off full kanji or kana in the hints.

There's really minimal technical challenge here...especially given relative to some of the other, very complex new features that I've seen DuoLingo launch recently.


Yes, Kanji by frequency rather than grade level would be excellent. It seems like course content has fallen in quality in recent years... (maybe with an exception being Korean, which actually seems to be a pretty well stocked course)


Japanese was the first test of such a course using the new format, so I can understand why it was shorter than Korean.
I can't possibly say anything about the length of the Chinese course, but in this thread I predicted that it would be of a similar length to the Japanese course.
On an unrelated, general note, I am sometimes wrong about things.


The Chinese course has eighty skills. It is double the length of the Japanese course. Although, I'm just a quarter way in so I can't comment on the quality. Still keep in mind that Japanese is a lot harder to teach than Chinese.


You should not comment on any specifics of an unreleased course.

I agree that Japanese is undoubtedly harder to teach than Chinese.


Foreign-language didactics would suggest otherwise. (And remember that the makers of the course spent quite some time talking to experts in the field of Japanese language teaching, so it's not some unheard-of didactical outrage they are offering here.) Also, I don't think anyone I have ever had in a class had the feeling they were fed a "kindergarten version".


The characters taught in the course are much the same as taught to Japanese children knee-high to a gnat; I don't think it is unfair of me to call it a 'kindergarten version'.
Duolingo is very unlike a language class in which learners have a very limited time in which to learn, practise and interact.
Duolingo is also an innovative platform that is capable of thinking beyond what the Japanese educational authorities consider the best way of teaching their language (counter-intuitive as it might seem, native speakers are often the worst people to devise didactic methods for teaching their own languages to non-native learners—they don't understand difficulties they have never experienced, and they often try to involve their own schooling methods, which are often of limited relevancy to speakers of other languages learning from scratch).


Yes, but learners here do not have the advantages that Japanese kindergarteners have: the latter only need to learn the writing, the former need to learn everything.

Have you ever taken a Japanese course? The attrition rate is really high because so much is new and strange, and it is a bigger challenge than people expect.

I also have Japanese textbooks that did not originate in Japan. The approach is the same: don't hit people over the head with too many kanji - go slow.


I have never taken an in-person Japanese class, but I have taken a few in Chinese, taught by a native speaker using Chinese educational methods, and they moved with such inefficiency and at so glacial a pace that I very quickly concluded that this was a waste of my time and money, which could much better be spent using books and internet to teach myself the same material far quicker. Which I did.

Granted, the pronunciation of characters is considerably less regular in Japanese than in Mandarin, but, in general, I think their difficulty is greatly exaggerated, particularly in the context of a course where one never has to write them out longhand—and all Japanese IMEs are phonetic, which further reinforces kanji and reading.
By far the most difficult aspect of Japanese for me is the grammar, and the grammar in the Duolingo course seems to be the tip of a much larger iceberg. Kanji can only be learnt by a lot of repetition, and DL's format is ideally suited to this. Grammatical elements, however, are much less obvious without kanji, so I feel that DL is making this aspect of Japanese more difficult than it need be by teaching such a paltry number of characters.

  • 2235

I completely agree, in fact the Duolingo Chinese course that is being developed (in which they thankfully didn't use Pinyin or - even worse - Zhuyin) proves that it is possible to teach the language AS IT IS WRITTEN right from the very beginning.


it should be by options, similar to what they did with the clickable words OR typing with keyboard. there should be a toggle display kanji option. duolingo was my only hope of learning kanji.


Suffering through without Kanji was hard. Pure Kana looks like alsdfkldsflksfklsflksdflsd to me at first glance.


Agreed! Its so unreadable!


Then, clearly, you guys are not beginners. Can you try and imagine what learning Japanese is like for someone who is?


Furigana. Problem solved. Someone who learns Japanese through Duolingo will have no ability to read real Japanese. Or simply have an option switch between hiragana and kanji like Lingodeer does.


I started learning Japanese on my own a few years ago. Right from the start I tried to learn as many Kanji as I could (which slowed down my progress considerable). I am now in a weird position that I find Kanji a lot easier to read than Kana. It takes me time to process Kana, while Kanji instantly makes sense.


Well it should add in more kanji as you go on instead of teaching things you will not see. Otherwise add an option to add kanji that you know or add bonus courses for unlocking kanji in other lessons.


They can use more but I think it's fine the way it is because there're many great kanji programs out there for those who need. If you can't make out what a sentence written entirely in kana says, then you won't understand what a Japanese speaker says because they definitely aren't talking in kanji.

  • 2235

Buttheyalsoaren'ttalkinglikethis. Youneedsomekindofworddelimiterssoasnottobecompletelyconfused.


Yeah, but they are talking in words. So if the lesson, the characters we are learning make up the word bird. Then now they is a conection to the symbols making easier to remember and helping to understand how to say the word.

I would also suggest that if the word has a Kanji it is in the same lesson but that is a different point.




I just discovered a free app that I love to study more kanji next to Duolingo.!! I indeed feel Duolingo doesn’t focus enough on the kanji! The app Is called Kanji teacher. It’s free and orders the Kanji from NLP level 5 to 1. It also offers vocab, and the possibility to practice listening and writing English Japanese and the other way around. In a week I managed to study the first 200 kanji with a lot of ease!! It’s great!!!!


Japanese could use a few things. It is still in Beta. Hopefully we see some additions to the course.

I'd like to see an option to switch between Kanji/kana/romaji if such a feature is possible.


same that would be very helpful.


That feature is available on Lingodeer. Sadly, that doesn't have a desktop version yet.


I barely recognize any Kanji myself (Besides what Duo has taught me to far), and it's still extremely weird to see a sentence full of Kana. It's confusing as well, and I have a feeling it's rather detrimental to learning the language. I've heard that it's much easier to read Japanese when there's a mix of Kana and Kanji in a sentence. Is that true?


in my opinion, yes. I know about 400 kanjis at this point and I personally find them easier to read. It's like reading your native language: you hover your eyes on it and imediatelly know what you're reading, rather than reading each kana separately and trying to figure out what words they make. I'm a beginner myself, though, and this is just my own experience with it.


Reading without kanji is really hard. They could introduce them on lesson levels 4-5, where it's all familiar and repetative.


Fully agree! I thought I was somewhat ready to understand signs and menus in Japan, but not a chance without kanji. Duolingo should, at least, provide the option to use kanji.


I strongly disagree. Try and put yourself in the shoes of a beginner: Japanese is hard to learn because there are so many things going on, and if you've only been exposed to Western languages before, you really have nothing to link things to. (Not like learning French, is it.) Take a look at your Japanese Duolingo club, if you belong to one: are people using it, or have they given up? (Mine have pretty much all given up.)

For that reason, every textbook I have ever come across introduces kanji gradually. I am taking a course under the auspices of the Japan Foundation right now, and their Marugoto textbook has even fewer kanji than what I have learned via Duolingo. Trust me, the Duolingo course introduced me to more kanji than the entire textbook of a course I took over the last two years.

So, if you want to learn more kanji, put them in your flashcards! Also, the webversion will not mark 私は as wrong, so by all means, use it if you know it. And yes, I would love to see a feature where one could "buy" more kanji via lingots - but as an option, not by decree.

But for now, don't advocate frustrating beginning learners. Vygotsky, a Russian education theorist, champions the idea of a "zone of proximal development" - something that challenges you but doesn't frustrate you to the point where you want to quit. That is a good goal.


If you learned more kanji from Duolingo, than a textbook over two years, then that textbook is not a very good one, or at least not as a general Japanese language learning textbook. If it specifically focused on grammar, then I'd understand.

I do agree that it should not be forced upon learners right away, but towards the end of the current course, the example 私 should always be in kanji form, not hiragana, because that is one of the most basic kanji that needs to be known, and is used heavily, not only in Duolingo, but in real life as well. And, if at the end of the course, someone sees it in kanji form, but doesn't recognize it? That person just didn't study hard enough, plain and simple, because it's used so often in previous lessons. I'm not saying this in a judgmental kind of way, as if to call those people "lazy" or anything, as they might have circumstances that affect the amount of time they can put into learning, among other things. But no matter the circumstances, and however unfortunate, it's factual that the person is not qualified to move past this Duolingo course if they do not know something as commonly used as that.

Now, for kanji introduced much, much later in the course? Like towards the end? Yeah, it should be entirely optional throughout the rest of the course, whether or not the learner wants to see them in kanji form or not. However, if the course gets expanded considerably, then those kanji should be forcibly presented in kanji form, as well, in the later lessons, after the learners have had more than enough time to learn them well.

Kanji used in the place of kana (once the kanji has been taught, through hints and whatnot, and for a while, there should be the reading above the kanji), will not only better prepare learners for actual real life experiences, it will lessen confusion, it will lessen the incorrect answering of questions due to said confusion, and it will therefore lesson frustration. It'll make things quicker for most as well, since you won't have to unnecessarily spend time to try and figure out the specific meaning from kana, when the meaning would be clear, had it been written in kanji.

The fact is, Japanese is an extremely difficult language to learn, especially if you only know Western languages (as you said), but that does not mean people can get away with having to learn less, just because it's harder.


Maybe the reason learning Japanese is difficult is due to all the textbooks taking forever to teach people the language...

I'm in a Chinese class right now and have been exposed to well over 150 characters at this point. There are various types of learners, and yet everyone is able to use the characters pretty well for the limited amount of language we can actually write. At the end of the class, we are supposed to know 300 characters but it should get closer to 400. Sure, the class's attrition rate was half of what started (and maybe one more student in a week), but every language gets those learners that do not want to go through the rigors of repetitive learning.

I've been studying German off and on for over 10 years, and the most difficult thing for me was the similarity to English. It just looked like scrambled English to me. ...Learning Japanese, I had the kana down within two weeks and over a period of 3 years I had been able to read a lot, converse a lot, and get around rather well by myself in Japan.

People can say I'm good at learning languages or smart, but I don't think that's the case. ...I think it's about pushing oneself through learning the "hard" parts whether one is motivated or not.

It doesn't matter much if Duolingo adds in more learning for the Kanji, as it seems fine the way it is now. Any serious learner of Japanese should pick up a copy of Heisig's Kanji Volume 1 and go through the whole thing by one section a day. The Heisig method creates a mental container for the Kanji, which can be filled with meanings and pronunciations later. Without a container (the Japanese rote memorize their characters from the beginning in addition to first language acquisition), people are throwing their time away.


Why would you want it to be based on Lingots? Just give an option to turn it on or off. It's a simple mapping from kanji to the hiragana reading that could be done largely programatically.


Honestly, I'd love for it to be based on Lingots, as I have 111 of them right now with nothing to use them on.


Absolutely agree. It makes the learning curve steeper initially, but once you start learning them, it's much easier to read and learn new vocab. with kanji. They serve as natural breaks, rather than just having a huge string of kana that run together. It's far easy to break it down "this is what I know" and "this is what I need to learn" as a result.


I see duolingo as a to-start thing. You can easily learn hiragana, katakana, probably some words, but you'll never be advanced using duolingo only.

The problem of duo is that there are lots of people [who can't remember much]/[who want only the feeling of learning] and duo doesn't want to loose that part of users.

The solution is to learn them somewhere else.


Here are my reasons for agreeing with this post, though I know a very small number of kanji so far (~200). 1. Given the lack of spaces, it can be very difficult to separate words without kanji. Since kanji always occur at the beginnings of words, with the endings in hiragana, kanji make separation of words easier. (This is the primary reason that pure hiragana looks like jibberish.) 2. There are so many homonyms. Does にほん mean "japan" or "two long things"? If I have the kanji, it's immediately clear, but it's more difficult without them. 3. If you know even a few of the kanji, you can get the gist of a sentence even if you don't know most of the grammar/vocabulary. Also, like knowing the roots of words in English, you can intuit the meanings of words you don't know. What is a 外人? Well, parsing the kanji, those are "outside" and "person". What is an "outside person"? A foreigner. 4. I have a systematic method for studying kanji. If you try to just memorize them by rote, you're going to have a very difficult time! There are too many compounds and readings for that to make sense. This is why you can't use Duolingo as your only resource if you want to learn Japanese. It's too unlike any Western language. (Here's a post on my blog where I discuss my comprehensive list of resources for everything from kanji to grammar to pitch accent. http://www.jenyalestina.com/blog/2018/12/30/japanese-journal-3-resources/) Ideally, if you really want to become fluent, you need to learn the kanji. Using Duolingo is great, but you need it in combination with something that will teach you kanji. I recommended a resource in that post that will really help: Remembering the Kanji. That's what I use, and I've never forgotten one!


While this is true, I think that the Kanji should also actually be taught.


I agree. I think that Kanji should be taught because it's commonly used in Japan (that includes restaurants, shops, subway systems, etc). I find Hiragana easier than Kanji.

Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.