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Is the Japanese reverse tree worth it?

Honestly, I rather quickly went through the Japanese tree and I am finding it also relatively easy to get everything golden again. I guess in a day or two I should have a golden Japanese tree already. So I was wondering what I could do after that? Before starting the Japanese duolingo, I was already around N5 level due to me following an intense Japanese language course while I was studying abroad in Kyoto over a year ago. That's probably the reason why the Japanese tree was relatively easy for me. Now I am thinking about starting the reverse tree when I have everything golden, but i do wonder if it is worth my time?

November 9, 2017



The current version of the JP for EN speakers is in beta and is intended to cover JLPT 5 material (for now, will likely be expanded in the future.) The EN for JP speakers course, I believe, it more difficult. I tried it a long while back and didn't make it very far. However, I completed the JP for EN course in just 33 days. It couldn't hurt to try it. :)


Way more Kanji on the reverse tree.


As someone living in Japan I find the Japanese to English class much more useful than the new one. You have to be flexible in understanding that it is geared towards Japanese speakers who learn English in a different way than we learn Japanese. So some things like conjunctions and prepositions don't really make a lot of sense since it's trying to consolidate the Japanese that would translate into instances of a particular grammar. Which means you don't get a lot of helping understanding when a particular point of Japanese is use. But overall I find it very helpful for understanding a much more natural Japanese (since that's the sort of Japanese it's intended for) and I also like that it lets me play around and see what different ways I can say something. Or even if my translation is correct I like to check the comment threads to see what the official answer is and even what other suggestions Japanese speakers give since those are likely to be more natural than mine.


But overall I find it very helpful for understanding a much more natural Japanese

You know, it’s curious, but when I tried the Japanese reverse tree, I felt that the Japanese language was sometimes a bit strange. Being non-Japanese, I didn’t trust my own judgement, so I’ve been recently searching for reviews among native Japanese speakers. On my app store (which is Japanese), I found several reviews from users who also seemed to think that the Japanese language used in the course was strange or unnatural as you can see from the underlined sentences in the images I linked. It made me wonder if, in order to teach proper English, the course had to modify the Japanese used in the course a bit, especially considering the great difference between the two languages in their sentence structure.


I would not be surprised if the course was teaching "not natural sounding" sentences.

I've taken two university courses and neither of those taught natural sounding Japanese/Spanish even though both teachers were bilingual and native speakers of the target language (one was a native speaker of both target and base language.) Language classes teach structures that people can use as a jumping off point. From what students learn in class, if they begin interacting with native speakers enough, they can adjust their language to more casual natural sounding style.


I notice all four of those reviews say "3y ago". I assume this means they were posted on a date between exactly 3 years ago up to almost 4 years ago?

The course only released in beta 3 years 8 months ago (on web only). It then arrived on the iOS app something like two months later. Those four reviews were likely posted very close to when the course first released in beta on the app (around three and a half years ago).

So I expect most of the things mentioned in those reviews have been reported and sorted out by now—especially such things as it not accepting である instead of です.

It's a little tricky to relate to what they are saying, as I didn't start the course until two and a half years ago (when the course was already halfway through its beta phase) and I have never used the iOS app. Sure, some of the Japanese is a little forced due to how the course is meant to be for learning English. But I've been doing the course every day for nearly a year and haven't really thought the Japanese used is that strange.

It would be interesting to see some more recent reviews by Japanese people from after the course came out of beta (1 year 8 months ago). ^^


Here are some more recent reviews that still think the language is strange, and one even points out that the Chinese version is strange as well (which makes me a little worried because I’m using the course and I wouldn’t notice any issues because I’m a beginner).

By the way, the sentence 水が必要である is actually one that I encountered myself few months ago (and reported repeatedly). I remember another sentence, 私は彼らが来ることを希望します (which is so strange it does not even need a native Japanese to spot), which I have also reported so many times but still find there, something that doesn’t surprise me at later stages of the course.


Try to only report a thing once. More reports equals more reports to process, equals longer wait for improvements. ;)


Having seen screenshots of the incubator, identical sentence reports just get clumped together with a higher count and move to the top of the report list for a sentence. Granted, every minute alteration (punctuation, capitalization, what have you) yields a separate report. And I have to assume all reports of "The [...base language...] sentence is unnatural or has an error" just get summed up into a total, so they don't yield any marginal workload for contributors other than helping draw their attention to an issue. Do I misunderstand something? And then there's contributors who say they think any given person can only have any given report counted once, although I haven't come across anybody who asserted certainty on this point.

EDIT: I now have come across threads with people in a position to know asserting certainty as to the last point.



I'm still feeling my way around the new NDA I signed. So, for caution's sake i'm leaving it vague: you are missing some information.


That’s bad, I didn’t consider that. I’ll keep it in mind for future reports. Thank you.


Thanks for finding some newer reviews. ^^

I read what was written in the first of those seven reviews as meaning this: I typed "水が必要である" but it wasn't accepted. The answer Duolingo wants appears to be "水が必要です".

The next part of that same review is interesting, as to me it sounds like he wanted to put 聞こえる, but the answer Duolingo wanted was "分か。"? I'm very curious about this "分か" word, which seems like it might be pronounced「ふんか」... If it means like an "I get ya" kind of thing, then it's probably a better translation of "I hear you." than 聞こえる would be.

Maybe I've understood both those round backwards though.

Of those three recent reviews... The first one sounds more like a criticism of the TTS audio misreading the words when clicking them. Also, about the Chinese course, I think he was talking about about the Chinese→English course (中英版). So the new alpha one we're doing might not have the same problem.

As for 私は彼らが来ることを希望します, I'm not sure what is strange about this. I get that the 私は part would hardly ever be said in this sentence, but is there something else? My first instinct is that しています would make more sense in this sentence, but I don't think します is too strange. Or is there something more than this? くるよう instead of くること? 望む instead of 希望する?

I'm certainly not good at noticing when Japanese is natural or not though. ^^;


@testmoogle: updating on the 分か issue
I asked two friends, they have never seen or heard of 分か as ふんか. One of them went as far as saying the word does not exist and that video could not have been made by a Japanese, then said could it be that the reviewer was complaining about seeing an incomplete 分か?.
I have no knowledge with Ibaraki dialect to recognize if the reviewer was using it, and my friends didn't seem to think in that direction either. There remains your opinion that it may have been a slang, and that the reviewer meant 分かる, which might be an answer. Otherwise, and without finding that sentence in the course, the 分か riddle remains unsolved.


I cannot answer you on 分か (ふんか) because I've never seen or heard of it before, and the video you linked kept me with my mouth wide open in a mini shock for few seconds. I can't call any of my friends in Japan out of the blue to ask (especially at this late hour), but I will soon, or pray that a native Japanese drops by this post and saves us.

The course I was worried about was exactly the reverse Chinese course the reviewer referred to, because I've been studying it for a while now and before the alpha testing started. I am currently relying completely on duolingo until I secure other material that I find easy to study (I've been spoiled by duolingo).

As for 私は彼らが来ることを希望します, it's the 希望 part. Although can be translated to "hope", it's unnatural to use it in that sentence to express the feeling of hoping for something to happen, and makes the sentence seem like the speaker is making a request. (example 何か希望がありますか = do you wish for something ? = do you request something?). 望みます or 望んでいます would be more natural. I only knew because I was lucky I heard it context before, and lucky to find a native Japanese user on the forum later to discuss it with and confirm what I thought about it.


@Arachnje - Thanks again! It's a very new Youtube channel and yet already has well over 1,000 videos all in exactly the same style. The video descriptions are all identical other than the vocabuary word and its translation. It seems like the videos are being pumped out at a rate of one every fifteen minutes, almost like a bot is creating them. Many of the videos are rather questionable looking...

It says the country of the channel is "Japan". But I too don't think these videos could have been made by a Japanese person. I don't even believe he could be English either after that "gamba" one! The audio is probably all TTS. Likely either a speaker of neither language making the videos or a bot, purely in the hope of making money from views. I doubt I'll ever get a reply to that comment I left on the video. So I'll just forget I ever saw that 英語でサル channel.

One last thing I think is interesting is how る and are both on the same key if using kana input on a full-size keyboard. To type you have to press the shift key at the same time. However, I doubt the reviewer would have accidentally pressed shift with the る key. (It's unlikely enough that the reviewer would even have used kana input mode). I'm a kana input user myself (though I don't use the standard layout anymore but had used it for four years), so this is just something that's been on my mind.

I still think the reviewer was saying "分か。" was what Duolingo displayed as the 正解, not what he himself tried using. Oftentimes the 正解 box doesn't show the default answer but rather a slight correction to your own answer, and sometimes this correction is grammatically incorrect. Also, it could have simply been a typo in the alternative answer database at that time 3 years ago.

So I think I'm content with just forgetting about this 分か thing completely now. The word 分か doesn't exist. Thanks for helping solve this mystery~ ^^


@Arachnje - I hope you do get the chance to ask a Japanese friend about 分か. This mystery is really bugging me! ^^;

Initially, I immediately assumed it would be pronounced わか, likely as a dialectical slang version of 分かる (わかる). However I noticed Microsoft IME only converts directly to 分か if I type it as ふんか. And then I found that Youtube video...

I didn't have much luck finding anything about this strange "ふんか" expression, since it just gives results about volcano erruptions instead (噴火)...

Eventually I found an interesting page about Ibaraki dialect in the '60s, where it lists "ふんか" as being a word in Shizuoka dialect related to Ibaraki's ふが. It says this ふんか means そうか. Not sure this really get us anywhere? xD

I have my doubts about that Youtube channel anyway. You might have noticed my comment on that video? If I ever get a reply, I'll be sure to post it on here. (That is, if you haven't already solved the mystery by asking a native long before then.) ^^


If you're really interested in Japanese language which I see you are, I'd strongly advice you to read www.tofugu.com blog!


Thank you. I know about Tofugu, and I used to read it back when I did more active learning then I do now. Currently, I only have time (and energy) for passive methods, like reading short novels and listening to audiobooks, to keep myself from forgetting what I learned.


I mean I'm not gonna begin to say it's perfect by any stretch. What I mean is more like these are more likely to rely on Japanese that is familiar to Japanese speakers as opposed to Japanese that is morphed into something more comprehensible for English speakers despite the fact that such Japanese is also strange. I would still expect it to sound strange such is the nature of translating between these two languages in general but I also find textbook Japanese strange for Japanese students of English as well and have seen similar constructions used in this course. I would say I've also noticed plenty of improvements over the past three years that I've used the course. Indeed three years ago while it was still deep in beta I wouldn't have given the same advice.

And again that's why little by little I also started checking the comments from Japanese learners to see what their thoughts on the subject was. I still think it's definitely a useful resource, more so than the English to Japanese course imo but nothing on duo is perfect to be sure.


I think you are right. The issue of the unnatural language is only something I needed to put out there because I thought it would be useful to bring it to the attention of other users considering the course, especially beginners who just finished the Japanese from English tree. Other than that, I agree with you and with testmoogle that the course must have been improved a lot over these years, and I too would recommend taking it to enrich one's knowledge in Japanese, because it does offer more advanced content, and would definitely be beneficial to the learner.


I highly recommend the reverse tree. I did it for quite some time before the forward tree was released. I think I got a great deal out of it.

There are also numerous ways in which it's a lot less frustrating...there are no silly matching exercises, and it accepts a much wider range of alternate wordings both in English and Japanese.


Since you have been studying in Kyoto I don't think that you need this course at all! Although I very like it and it's a great starter for beginners!

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