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When do we learn the MEANING of words?

I just started this course and am confused by one major thing: When Duolingo asks me to translate a word or phrase before it has ever taught me the meaning of the word or phrase.

How am I supposed to do this?

I can see that by hovering over the words, I can "cheat"... but is that the point? To learn the meaning after learning the sound and character, but with no coaching?

Am I missing something?

December 26, 2017



People saying Duolingo always does it like this... Smh. He has a point with this course. When it's a voice and you need to guess the pinyin it really isn't hard. He says lìu and you can choose between mian, si, hao. I mean c'mon a kid can do this, and when you choose the correct answer (which isn't hard) you do not see the translation or what it means, just putting the voice with the pinyin. So you are practicing listening in general?

So something they can do better is show what it means at some questions, like in other courses ;)

As some say, this challenging you to think is useful indeed, but there is a limit to where it is challenging and where you just combine sounds with pinyin which is exactly the sound.


Agreed completely.

Matching sound/pinyin couldn't be simpler.

Doing a translation when I don't know what any of the words mean is kinda silly.


Hovering over a character/word to reveal its meaning is the way duolingo's always taught vocabulary for all languages.


But for all other languages it does that when it introduces a word, and the matching exercises are matching the new vocabulary to its English equivalent. For Chinese, and Chinese alone, it only introduces a character and its pronunciation (but not its meaning), and the matching involves matching a character to its pronunciation (but not meeting). The vocabulary exercises, for Chinese alone, ask you what sound a character makes, but not what meaning it has.

The way Duolingo deals with Chinese characters is still imperfect and needs to be totally revamped. The contributors to the Chinese course did a great job, but the Duolingo architecture just doesn't handle Chinese well.

Try HelloChinese or ChineseSkill in the meantime. They actually reinforce the threefold unity between character, pinyin, and meaning, and they (optionally) teach stroke order.


Sometimes this is a useful way to learn languages. There are times I was introduced to new words and I figured out the meaning of the words from context. A lot of people want things spoonfed but I personally like this method as it challenges me to think and guess things I think I don’t know but I do. I imagine a lot of people have left duolingo because of this though. Lol


It's a good method for anything but Chinese. In the current course, it's possible to do a lesson review that reinforces that 见 is pronounced 'jian,' without mentioning at all what that character means. Instead, you'll just have several exercises asking you to match 见 to 'jian.'


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YES! I feel this way exactly. I already have some spoken putonghois, but because my characters are so weak, it's been a fight. I couldn't do any of the placement test, even though I have a vocabulary of close to 800 words.

I have said from the first time I encountered Chinese, that languages with non-phonetic scripts are a bit like learning 3 in one. There is the character, its meaning and the vocalization for the sound. Right now, I feel like only the character and the sound are being addressed, and the meaning is falling by the wayside entirely.

There needs to be elements matching each of theses three components to each other: Character to meaning, character to sound, sound to meaning.

That said, to everyone who has worked on and is currently improving this new course, kudos to you. Creating a usable online system for Chinese is a monster undertaking. The voice recordings are clear (though don't yet have a 'slower please' function) and I'm excited to see this course develop as the kinks get ironed out.

I would love to help in anyway I can, although I confess my strengths are with teaching in general rather than with putonghois specifically.


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the way duolingo teaches the words meaning isnt great and its rather easy and kind of useless. so i'd suggest using duolingo only for sentence structure and getting use to reading and hearing the language and go to another app that would help learn new words.


you have to click on the word what you dont know

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