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Showing the meaning of new Chinese characters

I really wish that whenever we learn new Chinese characters, the site would also display the meaning of the new character (and not just the sound). Personally I find it a little pointless to memorize a string of characters without learning what they actually mean...

December 21, 2017



They do teach the character's meaning, just later in the lesson. Personally, I like how they teach it because I have a much bigger problem memorizing the sounds than the translation.


Let's agree we disagree. To me, the symbol-sound association is completely lost if I cannot map it to a word meaning.


I agree with you. This is my biggest request as well.


The thing is that single characters have multiple meanings, most of which are irrelevant for beginners. For example, Canada is 加拿大. 加 means “to add”, 拿 “to take” and 大 “big”. It really won’t help you learn the word.


But then let's start with simple words and next move to composite ones in later lessons. No offense to Canada, but I'd rather learn how to say "to add", "to take" and "big" first.


Totally agree with Henry... That's the way it should be!


It's not as straightforward as it sounds. For multi-character words like "week" (星期), they teach the pronunciation of each character, then teach the word. They could show the meaning of each word individually (星 - star, 期 - period), but they aren't really teaching those words in that lesson. The meanings of the individual characters are sometimes useful to knowing the meaning of the compound word, but I'm sure that's not always the case. I suppose they could just always keep the two characters together, even when teaching pronunciation.


I can't agree more. They should show the meaning of the characters. For the complex characters they should show usage and the meaning both. At time it is frustrating not to know the meaning and just memorize the sound.


It's pointless to memorize the character and the sound and having no idea of what does it actually mean.


Yeah that's a huge turn off


I just started on Chinese, and the program leaps from the basic and obvious (recognizing the sound of a word or its english-written form) to full-blown translation without even telling you what each character means.


I suspect that Duolingo has a two-phase lesson format built into it, where the first phase is learning single words and the second phase is constructing sentences. This makes sense for languages where you're not learning a new writing system, but Chinese really needs three phases so they can teach meaning and pronunciation, then move to sentences. I hope that Duolingo is working on making the lesson format more flexible.


It is important to learn hanzi in several different ways. We may need the sound (or sounds), the meaning (or meanings), the pictorial origins, variant forms, various compounds, the analysis into radicals and phonetics, the stroke order, Simplified vs. Traditional forms, and more.


Thanks to Duolingo for a great tool! I would find it helpful to have English translations automatically popup when doing the pinyin to character matches - maybe after the correct character is chosen. I am working hard on trying to make connections as part of the learning process (meaning I guess a lot still - sometimes the sound to character connections are there, but I forget the English/meaning), so why not reinforce all the elements (character-pinyin-english) at these critical moments? This is nicely available in the other sections of the lessons (hover over).

Another minor issue is that if I am on my (small) phone the speaker icon blocks the character, so again I can only match a sound with the pinyin, but sometimes miss the character connection.

Otherwise, the platform has been great in getting me to do at least a little bit every day! Thanks!

ps- I see that this issue has already been brought up quite a while ago.

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