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I'm having a really hard time with the Chinese course...

I have absolutely no prior Chinese knowledge, so I thought it would be interesting to see how far into the Duolingo course I could get without any outside help. It turns out that the answer is not very far...

I've completed about 4 skills now and I write down every character that it teaches me. I am fine with single characters, but as soon as it asks me to translate a sentence or especially produce one, I am totally lost.

Is it possible to really even use this to learn the language. I have no idea how the grammar works.

November 23, 2017



It's still in Beta. Give it a chance. You can click on words for answers, too


I don't think enough people take this into consideration. They are currently partaking as Beta testers and not just learners.


try the ‘hello chinese’ app.


HelloChinese, Chinese Skill, and my personal favourite LingoDeer, are all great apps for learning Mandarin.

"Mandarin for English speakers." is not a graduated course. As beta testers, if we really enjoy Duolingo, we need to help the course graduate by participating in the beta testing and making use of the report button. It is also good practice to not spam the sentence discussions within the lessons with course problems; that is what the report button is for. We should only provide good learning information and ask relevant questions in the sentence discussions.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/zhongwen-chinese-english/kkmlkkjojmombglmlpbpapmhcaljjkde?hl=en is a great extension for Google Chrome. Scroll your mouse over the character and it opens a Chinese/English dictionary that explains the character.


It's the opposite for me. With no prior knowledge in the language, I think I'm doing okay.

One of the only things that still bothers me is the tones, especially (I don't remember their number, I think it was 3, but I'm going to make up a word for it) bouncing tones. It's so werid!

Another thing I'm having problems with is listening. The voice that speaks the sentences speaks very fast, so it's hard for me to catch everything they say.

Another thing I think they should change is making you actually write the characters instead of tapping them into the screen, but as far as I know, that might just be a beta thing. XD

Anyways, good luck! :)


I've noticed that. I'm a native Chinese speaker (I can't read nor write very well) and I breezed past the first ten-ish skills thanks to prior knowledge. However, without the knowledge, I could see myself having tons of difficulty with it.


Same! Need a pinyin only version. This is unlearnable the way it is now. Lessons focus almost entirely on learning the characters. Doesn't even say what anything means until the last couple questions in a lesson. Very disappointed in how it is now. Don't have the brain to learn 50,000 characters that make no sense to English eyes before instruction in vocab and grammar.


As a bit more advanced learner, living in China for years, I found this very useful. Because I learned many words through everyday life, but that does not teach you the matching hanzi. So before I'm taking HSK 3, this is a nice tool. Pinyin is nice at first, but I do advise to learn hanzi early on. Your future self will thank you.


Yeah. I can match the Chinese words to the symbol, but it doesn't seem to be focusing on learning the English word that much so far. I am still only on the third skill (names) so it may just be because of that. Chinese is a hard language to learn and since it's still in Beta, it's a work in progress so the errors will probably be fixed or caught if we give it time.


Learning Chinese characters is certainly important, but I agree that it distracts from gaining speaking knowledge. If I could offer a suggestion to the developers, I would recommend doing two separate lessons per topic; one of these lessons could utilize pinyin to focus on speaking skills, and the other lesson could use characters to teach writing skills.


I found the web version much more useful, since there is some additional and, I would say, essential information in the tips&notes. With only the app version, I'd be completely lost.


Hi TeaAndTao I understand what you mean by not getting very far without outside help. I too am a beginner, and I find the course is challenging but not impossible. (I use the app more than the website.) Just like you, I also tried to write out every character that came up. But it soon frustrated me and I thought I'll just continue without writing for now. I soon realised that it is unreasonable to just use one resource, such as Duolingo, to learn a language, especially for Chinese as it requires a lot of exposure to the writing and also the tones. Try finding a grammar book that is easy to follow. I borrowed one from the library and it is really helpful. Currently I focus on character recognition and their meaning and the grammar context rather than the act of writing. So far I am finding the grammar pattern is actually simple, more so than other languages that I have tried learning. The further I go along the tree, I am finding I can recognise characters that are coming up quite often, and can put sentences together with the matching tiles on the app without too many errors. Keep trying and you will improve. Good luck.


Although writing the characters does help with memorizing, with the way this course is formatted, it's best not to. Hovering over the words will often give you the answer, but for the tile selections, its mostly memorizing the sounds. One bad thing that I have seemed to find is that they don't really teach the words one by one, and so this makes it really confusing. Many Chinese words mean different things when used in different contexts/word groups, but still have the same base meaning. This makes it harder for outsiders to learn. For the grammar, DuoLingo seems to have you rely on getting used to the way they have it formatted, but it's not really the best way.


I just find I have to spend more time going over the lessons. I don't expect myself to pick it up anywhere near as quickly as a Romance or Germanic-based language. I'm fine with learning the characters at the same time as the tones. I'm interested in being able to read signs as soon as possible for better travel experiences anyway. No way would I be writing the characters down. There are stroke sequences that are used by the Chinese and I'm fine with learning to write separately. I suppose if you want to use hand-written flash cards that would be a good move. I personally choose to repeat lessons and skill strengthening exercises. With that, I'm finding I don't use the flash card apps or cards in other languages anyway.


It is not great for beginners, I agree... but, for someone who knows a fair amount of characters and grammar already (like me), it's really useful for practice. I hope they add some kind of tracing practice for the characters.

For grammar I rely on https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/ a lot.


Curious to see how Chinese is taught here. Is it still using the same structure as all other latin or Indo-European languages?

In my opinion, as for Chinese, the boring academic way being used in China might be the easiest and most efficient way to learn this language...

Good luck with it, guys.


I also wondered about how hard this would be for beginners with no prior knowledge. I have already been learning Chinese so I'm blowing through much of the beginning lessons, but it seems like it may be difficult for some beginners since It kind of just throws you in the bowl and starts mixing so to speak.

I think duo's plan is to have the learner get familiar with the characters and their pronunciation before introducing you to the meaning. So once you get to the meaning you won't have to focus on remembering/knowing how to pronounce it. You can just read the sentence straight away. If one can get over wanting to learn the meaning right away, I can see how it could help. I know enough Chinese to know what words they are going to soon introduce from the seemingly random characters they throw in. You will eventually encounter the characters that they've been throwing at you. I'm taking the Japanese course on Memrise and they are doing the same method for the borrowed Chinese characters, except they are giving the meaning first instead of the reading. I assume they will connect the sound to the characters in a higher level.

I suggest HelloChinese, Ninchanese (can practice online as well), and Chinese Skill apps. A combination of many sources helps a lot. I'm doing Chinese in duo for reinforcement and for sentences. I want lots more sentence practice. Right now I'm seeing how far in I can go before hitting what I haven't learned yet.

Edit: I also suggest not worrying about writing the characters for now, but both helloChinese and Chinese Skill apps have writing practice. Also, Pleco dictionary app is a really good app to have. It is a Chinese dictionary. I use it a lot and it's very helpful. There is supposedly writing practice in it as well, but I think you have to pay for that feature. (It's a free dictionary with plenty of free stuff but some advanced functions and extras you have to pay for.)


I think it is the process of learning a language, and it would be better to get through this difficult time. I take one on one Chinese lessons on https://www.echineselearning.com/ I can give some recommendations if you want to find a native Chinese teacher.

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