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Chinese course methodology

I don't understand the methodology used in the first Chinese lessons. I have just completed numbers without learning what the all the numbers mean. Is there no translation?

November 21, 2017



I don't get it either. Characters are presented without actually presenting their meaning only the way they look, sound and how they are written in pinyin. It's all well and good learning the sound and appearance of characters but where is the translation?

Other courses, such as French from English handle this very well.


go, right now, and get the app ‘hello chinese’. give it a try.


I have just started this course, and I also think that the meaning is sometimes lacking. It didn't strike me straight away because I already have a few basic notions of Chinese, but I eventually realized when I stumbled across characters unknown to me. Sometimes we do have a picture showing the number or an evocation of the meaning of the word being learnt, but it comes at random and may only show up at the end of a lesson...

Maybe it is a choice made by the course creators to focus on pronunciation and characters, but for my part I believe it is much easier to remember a word when I can associate it with its meaning. I also like knowing the meanings of different components of a multi-character word. For example, knowing that "zài" means "again", and that "jiàn" means "to see", helps you understand why "zàijiàn" means "goodbye"; it also brings light on some cultural differences.

Therefore whenever a character is being individually tested on its pronunciation, it would be helpful to show its meaning too.

On the same model as the exercise matching characters and their pronunciation, an exercise matching characters and meaning would be great.

Of course there is room for improvement, but I must say I am globally very enthusiastic with the format of this course so far, and enjoying it a lot! Thanks!


I don't think it is about methodology but rather technical limitations. The system seems to be unable to handle three components at a time (character, meaning and representation of the sound) so in the lessons the course team has to focus on two at a time. My money is on that this causes a lot of people to give up on Chinese and Japanese (same issue there) at duolingo. Others recommend starting somewhere else and only coming here when you already have a basic knowledge. So far I have not seen anyone with prior experience of studying Chinese characters endorse this. To my mind this is to be considered a bug, since it is a technical issue resulting in unwanted results, but others might call it a design flaw.

Edited to add: others seem to like it, almost militantly. (Since both this post and the comment recommending another app as a solution quickly got thumbs down.)


I totally agree with you. the combination of these three components makes it difficult. and the reason behind must be technical. I'm sure they know that it's not perfect this way


If you can, try leveling up a skill a few times before moving on to the next lesson, and use the practice.

I don't think I picked up what everything was the first time through a lesson, but by level 3-4, I was picking up a lot more words and forming connections.


I think one needs to be more open-minded. Do not always try to translate immediately. Use time to become acquainted to the sound of the character, how it looks and the pinyin first. Later (not even much later) you will understand the meaning. At that stage, try to understand meaning, not translation. I just finished the tree by the way. It can work :)


You might find this website helpful: https://www.mdbg.net/chinese/dictionary?wdqb=hello Just copy and paste the Chinese character in the search box.


I am learning french Spanish Italian and German. The first three at level 23 and above 63%. Now wanted to try chines and tried only one day and left because I was not able to follow it very well. to learn the chines letters is quiet difficult


It's frustrating. I'm having a little fun learning different vocab and tidbits on here, but I have been using HelloChinese for a while (a phone app) and use workbooks that teach radicals and stroke order, then make flash cards with those. Once you've learned enough hanzi you start to be able to guess pretty well how to draw new ones you come across, but a proper stroke order is an important foundation to get across before just memorizing a ton of them solely off looks, if you ask me. I.e., my workbook hasn't gotten to 喝 yet, so while I can recognize it on sight I don't actually think I could draw it if handed a blank paper and a pen, like I could with ones that the book has gone over, like 我, 高, and 零 just to name a few. I don't necessarily think this is Duo's fault. Similar to the Japanese course that I've only touched once or twice, it's just not the best platform for it. I think I'd like it better if it offered pinyin/romaji/what have you as well as the respective symbols. For example, I learned what all the Japanese hiragana sounded like and their stroke order years ago using other phone apps, but have since forgotten, and brushing up with Duo was immediately frustrating and I stopped. Will hafta relearn those before I try this course, probably.

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