Beginner at Mandarin (know some Japanese): Really liking the structure of this course
Here are some of the things I am really liking about the structure of this course.
Each lesson begins with some single Character->sound questions, where the user not seen the character before. This is not offputting, because the sound is actually played in each case. So it helps to reinforce the character<->sound bond, without making the user experience any failure. After a couple of questions, it starts to mix in more single characters from previous lessons. This is very nice, and reassuring too.
The matching pairs is also geared for learning, without failure. If I remember the character and sound, I pick the pinyin answer first. If I am not sure, I can take a guess. If I have no idea, I can click the chinese character first to hear the answer. Again, this is very gentle and so does not put me off with endless failure.
The sentences Chinese -> English come at the end of each lesson. There are usually just 3 or 4 and they are generally hard, but possible to work out, like a puzzle.
4, The sentences English -> Chinese have two options: Type pinyin with your keyboard (as a beginner I feel this is totally beyond me) or choose to use vocab cards (this is what I chose). This flexibility is ace, and hopefully pleases users who are not beginners. While at the same time making it accessible for beginners like me.
- The "hover overs" are a saviour, when I can't work it out.
I really like that the course concentrates on the sound <-> character association, while the meaning piggy backs on to that.
Good luck all, and props to all the developers and contributors to this course.
That's because many characters are introduced individually whereas words are often made up of two or more characters. When you see the words in the sentences, you should be able to hover over them and see what they mean, though.
As for the numbers, those are introduced by tones. So first you have numbers with a first tone (high tone), then second tone (rising tone), followed by third tone (low-rising), and lastly fourth tone (falling tone). The idea is to help get you used to the tone system while learning some useful words :)
I agree with all of these things, i.e. that these are all things I like about the course.
However, I have gotten far enough in the course that I've started encountered some intense frustration. The biggest problems I've had are:
- Missing / wrong hover-over hints, in many cases, such that there is not enough information in the hints to complete the exercise correctly.
- Very quickly I've gotten into some very complex sentences that are EXTREMELY PICKY about how to word the English translations. Things like being marked wrong for saying 9:00 instead of just 9. I understand that it is hard to anticipate all possible wordings, and it takes a lot of work for course contributors to anticipate and review reports of new wordings. But it's still really frustrating and in some of the sections it makes the course so frustrating that I have repeatedly given up or have only completed a section after an inordinantly long time (30-45 min. on one practice section). I personally think that if the team isn't able to cover more of the alternate wordings, it would be better to keep the sentences simple.
- The community is weak / absent. Contrast with Japanese, another very young/new couurse, where shitloads of people flooded the course, for better or worse, and left all sorts of insights on the talk pages. By the time it launched in Beta and I started going through the lessons, I found nearly all the questions I had had already been answered for me on the talk pages. In Chinese, in spite of the fact that there are WAAAAY more native Chinese speakers in the world, and WAAAAAY more of them living in the U.S. than Japanese, there is almost no presence of native speakers in the community...not even much in the way of advanced learners. I have posed lots of really basic questions that have gone totally unanswered. Like, I'll check back on some of the questions I asked shortly after the course launch, even on very early lessons, and my questions are mostly still unanswered.
I am grateful to DuoLingo for what they have done so far. It is impressive, and I agree with you that the features you reference show that people have done a great job of thinking about and designing certain aspects of the course.
But I think the course is not there yet. I think it has a myriad of problems / weaknesses that need to be addressed if it's going to be at the level of the other, established DuoLingo courses. I hope it gets there, and I have seen some strong signs of progress already, such as alternate wordings being accepted.
I think we need (a) more alternate wordings (b) more engagement in the community (c) better hover-over hints for the course to be at the level of the other courses.
I am optimistic that these things will be fixed in the long-run, but for now I am pretty frustrated and have scaled back the time I was putting into the course because I got very frustrated sinknig 30-45 minutes into practicing a single section, getting the same exercises wrong multiple times for reasons that I think could be addressed by the reasons I referenced above. Yeah no, I want to help, but I'm not going to waste my life doing something that bad.
Your point on the lack of pinyin in hints is very valid, that's something i'll bring up with the other contributors to see if there's anything we can do about it, but i think that's more something Duolingo needs to add in.
As for the Chinese community here, as far as i know the "community" features of the Chinese version (duolingo.cn) are largely disabled. And as mentioned, this is still a beta version, so we're constantly working on filling in alternative translations (so please report them!) and adding in more tips & notes, this is a common issue among new courses but we are working on them!
I'm also trying to monitor the forums and answer questions, but it's impossible to keep up with all of them. Thanks for your feedback and sorry about the issues you're having with the course now, we've been working hard these past few months to get the course prepared but obviously the work is not over yet!
I have also been enjoying the course. I really wanted to learn the characters rather than just pinyin, and here it gives me both. Yes, it is very difficult going but that is the nature of learning Chinese from English. I have been making a list of the characters, pinyin, and translation and I use them to really help solidify my knowledge. I did the same learning Greek and Russian scripts. Basically, it seems like a great course and as more users sign up hopefully the comments section will have more questions answered. I am a lot less frustrated this time around than I was trying to learn Cyrilic.
I don't like #1 because I know a bit of the sounds and less of the characters because I learned Chinese when I was young, but then lost it.
So, when I hear a sound, it's out of context for me, and I don't know if I already know the word or not. When I finally see the meaning, then I say, Aha! To add to the difficulty, sometimes I'm given a sound that only makes sense with an additional word.
I use Google Translate whenever I encounter a new sound character to see what I'm being given.