Speaking Chinese - not reading or writing
I'm trying to learn how to speak Chinese, not necessarily how to read and write. Is there any way to adjust the settings within the app to accomplish this? There seems to be a lot of focus on learning characters. Thanks!
If your ambition is just to understand and speak Chinese, then Duolingo is the wrong tool for you. Duolingo's method is (for all languages) heavily focused on reading and writing. I second sebastian.s's suggestion that you repeat after the speaker, but frankly I think the issue is that this course just isn't suitable for someone whose ambitions are focused on the things Duolingo is worst at.
For months now I have been using Duolingo in tandem with Google translate [I copy the Chinese text or type in the English] so that, even though the speech of both of these is pretty mechanical, I at least have two "voices" and different speeds which I imitate and parrot over and over again so as to learn to speak Mandarin. Duo lingo isn't good at teaching you to speak but what I am doing seems to make up for this to some extent.