1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Chinese
  4. >
  5. Making the Multiple Choice Li…


Making the Multiple Choice Listening Exercises More Useful by Picking Better Wrong Answers

I just started the Chinese course today, and it looks great overall.

One thing though that seems to me like a waste of time and missed opportunity, are the exercises where it plays a syllable and then you have to choose from multiple choice.

This seems like a great opportunity to teach things like (a) the tones (b) the nuances between hard-to-discern initial or final consonants, or vowels.

I already have studied Mandarin pronunciation a lot, so I think my pronunciation is pretty solid, but when I was starting, I actually found the pronunciation of vowels and consonants to be the toughest part of the language.

Because of the heavy aspiration, I would sometimes confuse all of "t", "p", "k", and "q", depending on context. I would confuse "r" and "zh", and I would confuse the pairs q/ch, j/zh, and x/sh. It was hard to hear the n/ng distinction. And this is just a few of the problems I had. I had to learn to hear the sounds before I could understand stuff.

The multiple choice exercises on DuoLingo seem too easy. Rather than presenting the same exercise and making people select the tone, or presenting hard-to-hear, similar-sounding consonants, vowels, or finals, the exercises seem to present a random sampling of syllables.

For example, if I were teaching the course if I were teaching a syllable like 是, pinyin "shi", i'd want the "wrong" answers to either be "shi" in the wrong tones, or to be syllables like "zhi", "ri", "si", "she", etc. I.e. "close-sounding" ones.

I think these exercises would be IMMENSELY USEFUL for teaching the toughest parts of pronunciation. Giving really random, unrelated or distant-sounding syllables, seems a waste of exercises...it makes the exercise so easy as to be meaningless. But perhaps more importantly, it's a huge missed opportunity to teach stuff that is really critical for actually mastering the pronunciation.

What do others think?

November 17, 2017

1 Comment


Yeah, totally agree. Let's hope Duolingo get onto this!

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