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  5. Is it just me or is Duolingo'…


Is it just me or is Duolingo's approach to learning characters really.. bad?

I find it so so much harder to learn characters when they're only taught with sounds and not meaning. Lots of Chinese characters are easier to remember when you know their meaning, e.g. they have components that have to do with water, or plants, or walking. But the only time we see the meaning of a character is in the context of sentences, where the individual characters are much less of a focus and there are a lot more of them.

I realized recently that I basically don't learn any of the characters well enough to identify them without having the "word bank" that Duolingo provides for every single exercise. For some languages (like Italian), the word bank is much more present on the mobile version so you can get a harder version of duolingo just by being in the browser instead of on the app, but this isn't true for Mandarin. Most of the characters I know well are the ones I saw in HelloChinese, which is much better about drilling in the understanding of each character and each small phrase.

I also find this to be harder because all exercises are listening AND reading, so it's easy to not develop either one fully (I've been "cheating" by either muting my computer or not looking at the screen).

Has anyone else had a similar experience? It feels like half the exercises just fly right over my head because connecting sounds to characters without meaning just makes way less sense in Mandarin than in romantic languages.

January 6, 2018



try the hellochinese app, because I agree with you about the importance of being able to relate the sound, the pinyin, the hanxi and the meaning. hellochinese does just that. plus, you can learn chinese from english, french, german, spanish and one or two other languages. they also have writing practice. best of luck


I think (I don't know for sure) that part of the pedagogical principle here is to make one's mind work a little harder, which ultimately makes one better at learning it. While I very much appreciate the ease of learning in Duolingo, I also (mostly) like the frequent adjustments to expectations that make it not entirely smooth. In general I am very impressed with this approach to learning the basics of a language (which must necessarily be only a preliminary step, since encountering actual people using the idioms and speaking the rhythms of a language constitute quite a different and necessary step.


Can you learn Traditional Chinese on the hellochinese app?


I agree with you. I don't think their approach for learning characters is very good. Actually, as a native English speaker, I've had quite a bit of trouble learning any language that doesn't use Latin characters on Duolingo. I ended up studying the Japanese alphabets separately before coming back here for practice.

If you want help learning Chinese characters with their meanings, I'd recommend trying out 'Skritter'. It teaches you to write characters individually, as well as with correct stroke order. Knowing how to write the characters makes them easier to read (obviously lol).


I also think it is easier to learn the characters when the meaning and sound are taught together.


yes indeed. without any outside help with the characters this course is pretty useless. i've been using this dictionary mdbg(dot)net, and it's really really good. check it out if this post is still relevant. it really enhances the learning experience

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