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Japanese Placement Test

I'm an advanced Japanese student that has just finished taking N2 (I need 50 percent to pass; fingers crossed). I was curious to see if there were a supplement that would help me with kanji, so I took the placement test to this program. I would like to point out that a number of the sentences used on the placement test are clunky, unnatural, or incorrect, sentences that seem to be function on a program that is better suited to roman languages, it appears.

かみがあります。There is paper/it is paper. ALSO I have hair.

I'm wondering why there is an excessive amount of pronoun usage in the 2nd person, because Japanese as a high context language does not need (rather, is unnatural with) the inclusion of many second person pronouns. For example: "Translate into English: かのじょの電話ばんごうはなんですか"

While I understand that the translation is supposed to be "What is her number?" Natural Japanese speakers would never heavily rely on 彼女or彼 because they are RUDE to use in the language.

I am wearing a skirt: スカートをはきます。Was a correct answer for one of the test questions. It is probably the most wrong of any of the questions. スカート をはいています。Is probably more accurate, as スカートを履きます means "I am putting on a skirt" not, "I am wearing a skirt."

"Translate: this test is not easy." I put "このテストは優しくないです” the correct answer was "このテストとはぜんぜんやさしくないです” which is arbitrary and kind of annoying.

"College exams are very hard" - the correct Japanese should be しけん not テスト

Some of the test questions were confusing and it was very difficult to pass the test when I wasn't able to write in Japanese. Particularly "Please borrow a pen from your friend." The Japanese used てください which was very unnatural, and the sentence itself is something you'd really never hear. -te form seems to be taught, but only in terms of てください、 and not ている。I saw at max 20 kanji in total.

So I'm just wondering what the focus of the Japanese language program on duolingo is. Short of building vocabulary and teaching hiragana, I don't think there is much more to the rest of the program, judging from the placement test. Especially not for an advanced student. If there is a place for advanced students, I do not see it in the placement test, which has a number of elementary issues with implied subject and an astounding lack of kanji.

No mention of transitive, intransitive, passive, causative, causative-passive, keigo (humble or extra modest)...Nothing past Genki/Nakama II really. And certainly nothing from Tobira, which is just intermediate Japanese.

December 13, 2017

1 Comment


I agree with you in most points and there are a lot of posts about serious issues of the Japanese course (I have written some of them).

I think, the existing system of Duolingo does not fit very well for teaching Japanese. It must be a horror for the programmers, trying to code all the possibilities and exceptions of written Japanese. But also I can´t understand some of their decisions (i. e. divide words into multiple parts, I mentioned it in one of my other posts).

So I think, this course ist just a first try and some learners may get a very small peek into this fascinating language. Sadly this peek has some disadvantages and one of them is, that due to these issues the complexity of the written Japanese seems to be more inscrutable to the learners as it should be.

I also was able to read, write and understand Japanese, before I tested the Duolingo course, so I can´t say, how difficult it feels for a absolute beginner, but I think, the course musst be really very confusing instead of clearing things up.

But how shall they improve it? Aside from solving the issues in your post and others, mentioned in other posts, they should provide informations in the Tipps and Hints area, so that the learners have some additional information about the writing system, especially the kanji.

But I hope, they will manage the issues and improve the tree over time.

And last but not least: Best wishes for your JLPT exam! :-)

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