Not liking the Chinese lesson format
There is so much emphasis on learning the characters and almost none on how the language is spoken, or grammar, or what the words even mean. Literally one or two questions at the end of each lesson that even indicate what the words mean. I really hope this changes as the lessons go on, because as excited as I was to see Chinese released, I feel almost instantly defeated that Chinese will be unlearnable via Duolingo.
Do remember that this is in beta, so it's not a fully developed course yet. As for all courses on Duo, and I would think this applies even more to Mandarin as it is considered one of the hardest languages for english speakers supplements are needed.
I think they should at least develop more translation questions before launching it into beta. You see, even though you are right and Mandarin is hard to make a course on, couldn't they at least spend more time on translation? This way, the course can be super useful and quite successful even in beta.
DL is trying to primarily associate characters with sounds, which is a good thing in my opinion, as if you go to China you will not see any pinyin.
There are plenty of grammatical examples and defined words. Right at the beginning of course, however, obviously it is necessary to start by teaching enough characters to be able to make sentences that illuminate grammar, etc., just as the Japanese course starts off by teaching hiragana.
I suggest you press on slowly, thoroughly learning the most elementary characters on your way, and you'll find that you soon get to more typical Duolingo-style sentences; it is simply that the nature of the Chinese writing system means that DL can't start off with a sentence such as 'I am a man' without having first taught all the characters for 'I', 'to be', possibly 'one', possibly a numerary adjunct and 'man' (which is two characters), unlike courses like French or German that can put sentences like this in the very first lesson.
I completely understand this, but it would be nice to also be told what that word/character means in English. I'm quite happy (for the stage I'm at) to spend the whole lesson matching characters to words, but I have so far completed the numbers exercise and strengthened it many many times (I reaced level 3 just from repeating the first two lessons) but I still don't actually know the numbers from one to ten. So whilst I'm learning what a few characters look and sound like, I'm not actually learning to understand them at all.
The way I've learnt some of the numbers is from the sentences where in for example '40' whichever character is not 10 must be 4 - but duo doesn't teach us that, I have to look it up from the hint every time. And it's pure luck which sentences come up so there's no structure to my learning at the moment. If the course would ony teach us the translation at the same time as the character and word then progress would be a lot quicker and more streamlined.
I don't care about the lack of sentences, I would just like to know what words I'm learning to say - and I don't get that chance until the last 2 or 3 questions in any lesson, and then not for every word I've been 'taught'.
I wrote something about this in another thread yesterday so I'm just gonna copy and paste today: "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."
I full-heartedly agree. There is hardly any English in this. For example: I don't have a Chinese keyboard so let's just pretend "-" is the Chinese character for "one" (close enough, right?). They teach you that "yi" is pinyin for "-" but they don't teach you that "yi" and "-" are Chinese for "one" which to me defeats the whole purpose! Like sure I can say it but I have no clue what I'm saying! Someone said DL can't handle three components so they chose to focus on pinyin and characters but in my opinion it should be characters and English. Maybe they can make it so if you mouse over the characters it will show the pinyin.
Agreed. Maybe my goals are not aligned with the Duolingo goals. But I have very little interest in learning Chinese characters (especially when we don't know what they mean). I just want a starter on conversational Chinese. I imagine some basics can be taught just using phonetic Chinese (maybe cross referenced to Pinyin), but I can see the value of other approaches... I'll read up more on their blog post.