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  5. Giving up on Japanese beta fo…

Giving up on Japanese beta for now?

[deactivated user]

    I understand that the course is still in beta, and that it needs more work. But for someone who has had four years in this language, I just can't tolerate this course right now lol.

    I could go on about the things that need improving, but what's driving me the most insane is just the lack of variation with the English answers.

    I can't be the only one who is having this much trouble and frustration with the beta. What are your thoughts on it?

    And like I said, I know its still in beta and will probably improve with time, but this kind of thing should be talked about lol.

    November 16, 2017



    I agree that it can be frustrating. My Japanese level is about JLPT level 3, so I completely tested out of the Duolingo course. I took part of it just for curiosity and as a vocab refresher in some areas. So, that's the context for my criticism.

    My biggest criticism is that it needs to have better kanji integration. If the course so far is roughly equivalent to a 101 class, then by the end of the course, it's using MUCH fewer kanji than you would in a "real" class.

    So in a textbook, you normally have some vocabulary at the beginning and then go into grammar lessons/examples using that vocabulary. In duolingo, you learn the vocabulary more on the fly. This becomes an issue with kanji/hanzi, and in Japanese, there is the issue of parsing out words in kana, because there are no spaces. It can be a confusing to read a sentence, out of context. (I know the new words are shown in advance, but I don't memorize it before starting the lesson.) Maybe this is less of an issue for students who only know the vocabulary that has been taught in Duolingo.

    In any case, a lot of confusion can be eliminated by introducing more kanji earlier, with furigana. I wouldn't know what the coding/graphical limitations of the site are, but furigana all the way. After a certain point of progress, introduce basic kanji with furigana. When new kanji vocabulary has been use for a certain number of lessons, use those kanji without furigana (but make the reading visible in the mouse over definitions).

    Am I overestimating the level of the Japanese course? I recall that at the end, it was still teaching/reviewing katakana. Surely by the end of the course, the kana should be solid. If they aren't, restructuring to emphasize that far earlier in the tree might be beneficial.

    I just started the Chinese course (at which I am a total beginner), and I have similar feedback about it. It's just a design issue with adapting Duolingo's setup to logographic languages.

    Anyway, those were the biggest issues for me. Looking forward to seeing it evolve.


    You hit on a lot of good points.

    I get their reasoning behind introducing the kana slowly--they don't want to overwhelm new learners--but I agree they took it a bit too slowly. I'm getting near the end, and I was surprised to see new katakana when I hit Shopping 2.

    I definitely like your idea of putting in more kanji and putting in the furigana, which would be phased out over a few lessons. I've only been studying Japanese for about 8 months or so, and I do occasionally have the issue of not being able to tell where one word ends and another begins--and sometimes, the mouse-over function has the same problem (though it usually shows a few possibilities for where each word is).

    My biggest issue, which I concede is a bit much for an app like this, is that there's no real "lesson." Eventually it starts having you make sentences and conjugating verbs, but it doesn't tell you why things are changed the way they are. Luckily the lessons from the Genki textbook I'm using are good for that, and go in roughly the same order as the tree here does (although the vocabulary doesn't). So I've basically used my textbook to learn grammar and duo to learn/review vocabulary, and that's worked fairly well.


    I am also studying Chinese on Duolingo (I have studied these languages before though). Still I see no reason why the Japanese course should use hiragana where Kanji is normally used. If the Chinese course can work with just Hanzi, why can’t we have more Kanji?

    Also, I think there is no need to use furigana because this is a digital platform. With a printed textbook there is no way to know how a kanji is pronounced unless you look it up, but here all sentences and even individual words are pronounced so there is no need for furigana.


    > I see no reason why the Japanese course should use hiragana where Kanji is normally used. If the Chinese course can work with just Hanzi, why can’t we have more Kanji?

    ^ This.

    In my own studies I have found the most effective way to learn Kanji is to learn them immediately when I learn words. The sole exception are words with esoteric Kanji that are rarely or never written with these Kanji.


    "MUCH fewer kanji than you would have in a "real" class" - in my experience, the opposite is true. We're not talking Japanology calibre here, right (because why would a Japanology student do this here course) but on an adult-education level, this uses more kanji than any popular textbook I have encountered.


    I'd rather us not judge our success by comparing ourselves to widespread practices in mainstream education. My experience with trying to learn language in classroom environments is that it is pretty poor, and I've taken three different languages in the classroom. DuoLingo represented a breakthrough to me, and in my opinion was FAR ahead of traditional classroom instruction, in that I made much greater progress in a much shorter period of time, retained the material better, and found that the progress translated better into (a) conversational ability with native speakers and (b) reading/writing ability online.

    I know a ton of people who take 3 or 4 semesters of Japanese, Chinese, even "easier" languages like French or German, and still can't hold a conversation with native speakers. Some of these people get A's and then two years later retain next to nothing.

    DuoLingo, at least in my experience, is already way ahead of this sort of scenario, so I wouldn't want us to emulate the learning tools, such as textbooks, that are being employed in these grossly-inefficient classes.


    If you've been learning Japanese here for four years, I think it's about time to branch out a bit and find new ways to learn. Nowadays you can even talk with a native Japanese speaker over Skype and similar video chat services. And hey, once you're truly fluent in Japanese, you can help move the Duo tree forward towards completion.


    Perhaps you would find the reverse tree more useful? It's not in beta, and since you already have a good deal of facility with Japanese maybe it would suit you better.


    I second this. The reverse tree is much more solid in terms of the range of alternate translations that are accepted. I've completed about half the reverse tree and it's rare I encounter alternate wordings that are not accepted. It seems to accept a broader range of wordings both in English and in Japanese.


    If you have already been learning for 4 years I don't really think that the Duo course can help you much. But just keep going on until you see the golden owl, you should be able to do it without pain. If you lose hearts don't bother, move on and tell yourself you know it. (If you use the App, like me, there is no heart system.)

    Sometimes we took the lesson, but we haven't really learned thoroughly. I am challenging myself to answer questions for the Duo course - If someone asks why I can't say it that way? or why it doesn't mean something otherwise? I ask myself if I am able to answer that question, then I know how much really I know about Japanese. It is also very effective learning for me.


    Is there a different free online program that anyone who knows Japanese really well could suggest? I don't know Japanese all that well so I can't really say if the course is good or not. If there's a better free option out there I'd love to learn from a better site! :)


    JazXyoonj, you aren't going to find a better language learning site out there. You will find sites that rehash the same stuff over and over in different ways. And, you will find some individual sites that provide a piece of a learning program, but Duolingo is fairly unique in that it actually has success rates in teaching people a language.


    Not better but maybe - lingodeer app as a supplement? Focuses a little more on kanji with some minor writing exercises and appears to be free. App also has some grammar notes.


    If you've already been learning the language for four years, i don't see why you'd bother with the language on here tbh. Also for me it has been working fine. Sure there are some bumps here and there but it's pretty dang great for a beta. Im already able to memorize hiragana characters and a few katakana. so as it develops more (for me) it's only going to get better.


    Funny how many people are commenting about "four years" as if it's a significant amount of time in the long, arduous process of learning Japanese. :D

    The OP didn't even say something like "for several hours a day, every day, for four years, and taking a Japanese class the whole time", but merely said "four years". For all we know, this could even just be something like "an hour a week, as a hobby, mostly spent on learning kanji".

    I struggle with sentence composition in Japanese, as it's not a skill I've had much practice in outside Duolingo. There are loads of websites, apps and games for learning kana, kanji and vocab. But Duolingo pretty much stands alone in the way it asks you to type the translation of sentences and marks your sentence immediately.

    I've been learning Japanese quite a bit longer than four years. I can more or less read all 2,136 jōyō kanji and thousands of vocabulary words. Yet still even this Duolingo course has helped me a little—especially the repetition of typing basic sentences helping drum a natural sense for it into my brain. (The JA→EN course has helped more though.) ^^

    To the OP: Yes, the lack of variation with the English answers is the #1 biggest frustration I have with it too. Particularly where it only accepts American speech and American words.

    I thought maybe your post was going to be about one thing I'm quite concerned about at the moment, regarding how small the contributor team is (or has become) for this course. The incubator page lists only four contributors:

    • mhagiwara (listed on at least 3 other courses: EN→KO, EN→ZH, JA→EN)
    • hideki (listed on at least 1 other course: JA→EN)
    • ayakito
    • jkanero

    The Chinese course incubator page lists nine contributors. It seems strange that the Japanese course hasn't found more contributors to help fix the thousands of things people have been reporting. Many suitable qualified people must surely have applied? The contributors are certainly doing a great job. But I sadly can't imagine the condition of English answer variation improving at a terribly efficient pace how things currently are.. ^^;


    @testmoogle: Have you tried the Marugoto courses, put out by the Japan Foundation? They're available free on a number of platforms (I have found the one for iOS a wee bit buggy but at the same time I'm grateful that they have put something out for iOS at all - which is to say the traditional web version is probably even better).

    At any rate: nicely done - all sentences, with grammar and vocab backup as needed. Certainly instant feedback. Also real-life video clips so that you have something to struggle with.

    I am currently taking a Marugoto-based course so I have the extra benefit of being able to talk to real people. But even without that, just the site is good. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.


    I came across that site some time ago, but didn't check out many of the different sections before quickly moving on.

    Since you've suggested it, I've now had a bit more of a thorough browse through all its various sections and features. It's strange how starter, elementary 1, and elementary 2 each have different layouts. There are some very neat features and interesting ways they've implemented them. It's a great site.

    However, it doesn't really fit my style of learning. I learn Japanese mostly for fun and like to always listen to loud music while doing it. That site has a lot of audio focussed content and is a bit more school-like learning than the fast-paced game-like websites and apps I'm used to.

    The grammar quiz section questions are kind of nice (although the very first question on elementary 2 has a mistake, but aside from that...) and it's always cool to have a few extra Japanese listening practice resources. The elementary 2 "conversation" videos are pretty funny and there are some surprisingly interesting topics in the "life and culture" section. But I'll probably go back to that site only on very rare occassions rather than something I'd do regularly.

    It doesn't really compare the unique way Duolingo requires you to write entire Japanese sentence from scratch—the main thing I feel I need to focus on practising right now. But that site seems like it would be very effective for people at earlier stages of their Japanese studies, who will likely benefit a lot by progressing orderly through all of its content. ^^


    i am finding myself frustrated at the limitations on ways to learn, i would love to adjust my learning program on duolingo to say only revise words as i now have a solid grasp of the characters, so it takes longer than necessary to learn the words since i have to go through 10 character exercises to do 4-5 word based practices.

    as well as this, most of the word examples are useful and great to learn, however the obscurity of some boggles me, fermented soybeans as an introductory word to learning Japanese vocabulary... why?


    The fermented soybeans, Natto, are a very distinctly Japanese food. They have a strong smell and are apparently quite an acquired taste. Some people grow to love it. But yes, without knowing that already it makes little sense.

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