Does anyone else find it annoying how they always give such complicated sentences and then only accept one answer, so something perfectly right would be wrong according to Duolingo... I know it's just in Beta, but it's very frustrating and will take a long time to correct. Sigh
I think the sentences ramp up in complexity in the Chinese course much faster than in other courses and I don't like this. I knew quite a bit of Mandarin prior to starting the course, so I'm doing just fine, but this would have been frustrating probably to the point of me abandoning the course, had I had no prior background.
I think they could introduce more vocabulary and keep the sentences simple at the beginning, and then ramp up the complexity of the sentences more gradually.
I actually have a complaint in other courses that the sentences are often too short, later in the courses, where I want to get more practice with long, complex sentences and thoughts. But Chinese seems to be the other way around.
It's like, just because the language is concise on the screen, i.e. you can pack 15 characters into one line and it doesn't even go the whole way across, doesn't mean it's constructive to throw these beastly constructions at total beginners.
I do think the course could benefit from some input from native English speakers. Many of the given solutions are very unnatural or even grammatically incorrect. I've been hitting 'report' a lot, and I only report what I know to be an acceptable answer - just alternate/colloquial/more natural ways of stating a given answer - but I've only been notified of accepted answers a handful of times.
It's just part of the process with beta courses. I've become pretty used to it over the years (though this is a new account). Depending on how many of those who access the course actually take the extra two seconds to report issues and suggestions as they see them, the course can be improved quicker than you think.
I received emails a few days ago from the errors I sent in the first day I started using the course (I went through about 15 or so skills), so they seem to be at a good pace for corrections so far.
We are literally adding thousands of alternative translations a day, we do appreciate it when you report correct answers, unfortunately it's not always possible for us to anticipate all alternative answers (and sometimes we've just let a mistake or two slip through) but we are doing our best to make the course less "frustrating". Sorry about the frustration but i assure you we are constantly working on filling in all the gaps!
I agree that Mandarin often takes more work for Westerners because the structure is less familiar and there are fewer "free" words like cognates, but I'm not convinced it's a hard language overall.
For me, the hardest thing was the pronunciation and phonology. Once I got past this, it started to feel fairly accessible. Yes, the grammar and logic / structure of it is very different from English, but I find it is very intuitive. Often, I hear a new grammatical construction and understand exactly what it means the first time, without having it explained to me, because it's so intuitive. Contrast this with Japanese, another non-Western language, where the grammar, to me, feels like a really tough logic puzzle.
I agree that pronunciation and phonology is the hardest part. Especially the tones are killing me. If it's just a small single word, I can manage pronouncing the word or recognizing the tones. However, If I have to say a whole sentence, I have to think about how to construct the sentence AND how I have to adjust the tone for every single syllable at the same time. For me (I have never learned a tonal language before), this is extremely difficult to do simultaneously. I wonder if the tones will ever come naturally without having to put a conscious effort into it.