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.
If you only want to speak Mandarin then you need to take a course like Pimsleur which specialises in teaching orally. It is expensive but you may find a copy in your local library.
No, there is no way to change this function.
If you want to practice speaking, I'd recommend repeating the speaker after he finishes a sentence so that you can "get a feel" for how the language is spoken.
you're going to need to supplement the lessons with talking your real life chinese friends or using other apps i'm afraid.
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.