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Some advice: flashcards, "colloquial" usage, etc.

Hi everyone. I'm a native Mandarin speaker who has paid close attention to this course for quite a while. I always have the feeling that, since native speakers are already familiar with all the intricacies in their native tongue, it would be hard for them to be aware of their presence, which actually prevents them from understanding their own language better. And now I finally have an "outsider view" that focuses on Mandarin!

I went through a part of the course tree. And I think there are still many things to improve. I'll try to list a few here:

  1. Character flashcards should provide choices for both reading and meaning. The current solution makes you feel that Chinese characters are representations of syllables, instead of words/morphemes. This will lead to a lot of confusion when the user learns more about Chinese.

  2. I'm not sure why the course contributors prefer some "colloquial" ways of expression over others (is it the influence of some Chinese textbooks?). For example. 1.35 yuan is always translated into 一块三毛五分 instead of 一元三角五分. You will certainly meet the first expression in everyday use, but the latter is not likely to be any less frequent (even in oral language). Actually, those who have finished this course tree will certainly be confused when they fail to find the character 块 on any menu or receipt.

If this only occurs in example Chinese translations, it is still acceptible. But when I enter 一元三角五分, Duolingo tells me that I am wrong.

And this is not the only one: 饭馆 and 餐厅(both "restrurant", but the former is more likely a "family restaurant"), 几点 and 什么时间. I think maybe the contributor is trying to imitate on "the casual way ordinary people speak in Beijing / MSM". Which he/she certainly fails, because they don't really speak like this.

  1. (I've not finished the whole tree yet, maybe this is already in the course) Mandarin has formal "you". And contrary to what Wikipedia may tell you, it is actually widely used in media, advertisement, and anywhere else that require expression of common respect. It's not the first time for me to see ads and questionnaires translating "you" in English to informal "you" in wrong circumstances, making their customers feeling uneasy. Mandarin learners should really be aware of this.
November 21, 2017



I would also like to see flash cards on Tinycards. Chinese character on one side, pinyin + meaning on the other side.

I was thinking about making the flashcards, but it is much work, it would be easier if Duolingo made an official one, like for Spanish, German, Russian etc.


The course is still in beta, so the team is constantly adding new, acceptable ways to translate the sentences. Every time you are marked as wrong for a correct translation you should hit the report button and tell them that your solution is correct. I am not a native speaker and I have already gotten several messages telling me that my reported solutions now are accepted. (Hopefully I haven't made to many erroneous reports.) Things that sound unnatural can also be reported.

I have gotten used to writing 饭馆 but 餐厅 is the word my Chinese friends and family would use. I have been thinking about starting to consistently write 餐厅 just to be able to make a report every time it is not accepted, but the hearts lost make me lose heart.


For the sake of those who come across this and don't know the formal "you" and informal "you", they are, respectively, 你 and 您。(ni3 and nin2) Also, I think that the courses here should develop to have differences between colloquial expressions and formal expressions. Maybe that should be added in Tips.

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