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Romanization of non-Latin alphabets?

I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I couldn't find anywhere to submit suggestions to Duolingo.

Is there any chance Duolingo will add Romanized forms of words to courses that use non-Latin scripts (Russian, Japanese, Korean, etc.)? As it is, when a word is written only in Cyrillic, hiragana/kanji, hangul, etc., I've found I have to more or less guess how it's Romanized based on its pronunciation, or find a site that Romanizes that script. Am I the only one who has this problem?

January 4, 2018



I can only speak for my experiences with Cyrillic, but the quicker you learn that alphabet the better; Ukrainian/Russian/Bulgarian ... don't natively use the Latin alphabet, and the sooner that you can read Cyrillic (which is very, very close to the Latin alphabet, much closer than Korean or Japanese are) the more you'll understand. Learning the alphabet is one of the easiest things to do. Dealing with cases isn't.


I agree with what @wombatua says above. You will only be doing yourself a disservice learning a language in a script that is not authentic. You will be restricting your learning to only what you hear and can say excluding writing and reading while with a bit more effort you can learn the complete language.


Based on my experiences learning Hindi, I agree 100%. Best to just pull off the band-aid and do it quickly at the start.


I got the impression that NerissaMcCormick already does want to learn the written form of the language, she just wants to learn the romanized form in addition.

This would be especially useful for Duolingo courses like Chinese for English speakers.

  • Typing methods like https://chinese.yabla.com/type-chinese-characters.php?platform=win7 require typing in pinyin in order to make hanzi appear on the screen. If you don't have handwriting recognition on your device then you can know all about what a word looks like in hanzi but not prove it to Duolingo unless it's either a multiple-choice question or you type that word in pinyin.

  • Sometimes a Duolingo user needs to turn the sound off. Learning what a word looks like in hanzi often won't help the user learns what it sounds like, but also learning what it looking like in pinyin will help.

Meanwhile, sometimes there's more than one way to romanize a word originally in another alphabet, but there's also a romanization standard for the language and the user can't necessarily know it from reading the other script first (especially for English speakers given how we use the Roman alphabet for vowels).


Wombatua and Jaye16 are right: tackle non-Latin alphabets right away, ideographic languages like Japanese and Chinese aside. It pays off in the long run. Here's a site that offers to teach several non-latin writing systems.

There have been literally hundreds of discussions of this in the forums. Do searches that combine "alphabet," or "keyboard" and the language or writing system that interests you (for instance, Cyrillic AND alphabet AND keyboard) and you'll find plenty.


They took off the romanization of Cyrilic (called transliteration) when they updated the website last year. I run into the problem that my computer doesn't move back and forth between the 2 keyboards easily. Otherwise I agree with wombatua's comments.


>my computer doesn't move back and forth between the 2 keyboards easily

That's a very odd problem to have, which OS are you using?


a 11 year old Apple which to be able to use old apps, not updated to the latest OS. It types the keys but I am a typist that still looks at the keys when I type.


I think I'd recommend a dual-labeled keyboard, maybe? (like this) People often recommend stickers, but if you still have to look at the English letters, probably best to leave your original keyboard uncluttered. This way you can just unplug it when not in use.

I found I pretty much learned the Russian layout in only a few hours of typing without any particular exercises (I just did skills on the reverse tree so actually had to type in Russian). Who knows, could maybe even be an entry point into touchtyping English.


Yeah, I known I should try more touch typing. I've been doing Russian exclusively on the app, and now I have a tablet which shows me the keyboard.


Instead of transliteration, I think it would be better to have near the start of the lessons a section dedicated to how the different letters (or characters) are pronounced. The Russian has this in their tips and notes, but written down only, not with a button to hear the pronunciation. Japanese in Beta doesn't have the Tips and Notes section. BTW transliteration was very helpful for new students before computers had the capability to switch keyboards like they do today, and before learners learned how to hand-write Cyrillic.


before learners learned how to hand-write Cyrillic

When do you suppose this was? Handwriting Cyrillic was literally the first order of business in my first college Russian class. In fact, we were chewed out for not having mastered cursive by the time of the first quiz, which was held in the third class meeting, four days after the first one. Print (which we'd mostly gotten down) wasn't good enough because Russians don't print.

The only thing approaching transliteration I ever saw was the approximate sound values for the letters as they were introduced. Everything in Russian was in, well, Russian.

Links to sound snipped for the vowels and both palatized and unpalatized versions of the consonants indeed would be a valuable edition to the Russian T and N.


It was the 80's. We had Apple 2 or Vax available. It was the way our professors taught it. I believe it was wasn't very long into the first course that writing in Cyrillic was taught so I think it was an adjustment period. And yes Cyrillic script was what we were taught. Printing was for kids.


Interesting. I wonder if the Russian as a foreign language teaching world moved away from transliteration even at the very beginning stages in part because Cyrillic eventually attained its due place in the digital realm. I didn't do a whole on the computer at all early in my Russian learning.

Incidentally, I have a supposition that eventually the Russian / Greek / Ukrainian courses will begin with lessons that look something like the hiragana ones for Japanese. Probably a good deal better than sticking it in Tips and Notes, where only a few will ever see it.


Don't know why that was the approach. Both our Russian professors were immigrants, one a Hungarian translator and the other a Finn. I'm sure the method of teaching changed as times changed, finding better ways to introduce the language.


The Chinese course teaches pinyin. Undoubtedly, that's the course where transliteration is most necessary. It would be useful in Japanese, too, given that it's how Japanese people generally type in practice, but I guess you can largely back it out through the romaji versions of the hiragana and katakana. That said, I've had trouble getting it to work sometimes and wouldn't mind a bit more help in the domain.

For the Russians, etc, I don't think transliteration is of much use to learners unless your sole intent is to be able to sort of, kind of pronounce things out of a phrase book, in which case, as anomalousjack mentioned, Duolingo probably isn't the platform you're looking for, anyway.

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