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  5. Chinese is Out of Beta!


Chinese is Out of Beta!

I just barely noticed this; I'm not sure how long the Chinese course has been out of beta. But this is a big step for the Chinese course on Duolingo. Congratulations to the Chinese team!

January 19, 2018



I'm a foreigner living in China for the past 15 years. I've studied Chinese in University, with private tutors, and various other tools in addition to using it daily.

The Chinese course contains countless errors both in Chinese and English.

The quality is really unacceptable and as such may damage Duolingo's reputation.


I sadly agree with you. I've only been studying, off and on, for a year-1/2 (U. of Peking on-line), but the amount of time I sometimes spend begging for the corrections to be implemented is a mockery of the learning system itself.

When I took the "Learning How to Learn" course on Coursera from Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski, the first thing they insist on is to learn_ properly_. One of their favorite mottos is "Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect." Their well-developed theory, proven by tens of thousands of practical tests over some 25 years, shows that learning the wrong thing first takes immensely longer to unlearn.

This course, unfortunately, could have been the brightest feather in their cap, but instead, as you are pointing out, has become unacceptable. For a true novice like me to notice that there are vocabulary, tones, and grammar omissions, where errors and inexactitudes seem to be just left in there, is more than just a disappointment: there is a dramatic curve of diminishing return every time I take the time to write, explain, point out easy fixes etc. The translations offered run roughshod over even the most important aspect of the Chinese language, the awareness of your position/rank/seniority in any given conversation (The French are like that, so I know a lot about it, being French... and it's hard to "get", unless you've lived there for a while).

I honestly think the course ought to be retired for a while so that competent English speakers and competent Chinese speakers get the chance to clean it up.


Yep, I still see the Beta label on my tree too. Which is a good thing. Just received a notification that one of my proposed English options submitted two week ago was accepted as a correct option. So may be the corrections are getting done at an accelerating pace?


This seems woefully premature, to me. Yes, they have been accepting more translations, but the deep problems remain.

Have ANY of the hover-over hints been fixed? I have yet to see a single one of my reports that has been acted on. I have reported some exercises over and over again, sometimes a month apart. Some of them are totally missing hover-over hints, in others, the given hints are totally wrong and suggest words that are not accepted in the answers.

Have the mispronounciations or missing pronunciations of characters been fixed?

And why does it still not pronounce audio on hover-over? How long would this really take to fix?

This course isn't anywhere near the level of, say, the Russian course when it was taken out of Beta. This just looks bad. It's a slap in the face to dedicated users such as myself. DuoLingo would do well to stop treating its users like utter garbage.

I cancelled my subscription some time back.

I will happily reinstate it when DuoLIngo stops patting themselves on the back and starts actually fixing bugs.


Can't agree with you more. In it's current state this course did not deserve to be taken out of beta.

I keep reporting things over and over and if I look at discussion I see other people saying that they reported the same issue a month before me.

It's simply not good enough!


broken record here, but have you tried hello chinese. super stable and flexible app. lets you toggle between pinyin/hangi within the lessons. also lets you choose from which language to study chinese. options include french, english, german, spanish and a few more. best of luck.


Yes. I actually have been using Hello Chinese for some time, and one of my reasons for being hard on DuoLingo is that I feel like they're not up to the level of that app yet.

But I think, in theory, DuoLingo could be better than Hello Chinese, and I think Hello Chinese is not really at the level of the older, more well-established DuoLingo courses like the 5 that they launched with, or Russian or Turkish which are newer. The reasons:

  • Hello Chinese (and the DuoLingo Chinese course as it stands) doesn't take you as far in the language as any of these other courses do.
  • Hello Chinese lacks open-ended translation which is important for experimenting with alternate wordings and really learning the full range of word usage, understanding grammar, etc.
  • I find Hello Chinese's spaced repetition and practice system weak relative to DuoLingo's. At least before DuoLingo dumbed things down in the recent updates, I found its algorithms were outstanding...I could just go to "Strengthen Skills" and practice what it gave me and it would do a pretty good job of managing my time for me.

So basically, I'm not satisfied with Hello Chinese...it's not enough and I think it wouldn't be THAT much more work to get DuoLingo's Chinese course up to the level of the other courses.

It's just aggravating because they're not fixing it...and I, as a user, can't really do anything about it other than cancelling my paid subscription and complaining and hoping other people follow suit and put pressure on DuoLingo to follow through and actually fix the shortcomings in the course.


I still think HelloChinese is more user-friendly than the Duolingo course, despite the fact that the latter probably covers more ground. In HelloChinese you see both the Pinyin and the characters at the same time which is a different learning experience.


@xislexstep Check out LingoDeer


I second that. I love Lingodeer and use it for Chinese and Japanese, and maybe soon for Korean.


Xefjord (Resident Lingodeer expert), for anyone who ever returns to this thread Lingodeer offers stories for Chinese in beta right now which help set it above other apps like HelloChinese.


Tried the story feature, I would say it's good but not impressed. I also noticed the dubbing feature of the stories was exactly copied from HelloChinese. How can this set it above HelloChinese? I have been using HelloChinese for quite a long time and it's effective and has far more amazing features like games and immersion lessons than other apps like lingodeer.


I can't imagine actually learning chinese through this course.. I'm using it as a refresher and even then it feels like a neglected product.

Additionally, where are the moderators? Entire questions are just graveyards, no mods to explain why they made decisions the way they did. Very different than my other courses I took where there were at least moderators to step in and say "no we did it this way intentionally and we think its good to be strict because <reasons>". I feel like this could be made better with communication.


Is this serious? My wife's first language is Chinese and she can't get past 25% of the placement test.


I am in the same boat, which is very frustrating. I am a native Mandarin speaker, doing the course because I'm brushing up on my working language skills and because I'm not used to the simplified characters. However, not only did I not test that well on the placement test either, I've also been really frustrated by a lot of the questionable answers and inconsistencies of the Chinese course. I've sent a lot of reports in over the past weeks, but I'm not sure how many have been addressed considering the fact that whenever I go to the discussion boards, I see a lot of much older posts pointing out the same things. Compared to other established language courses, I find the Chinese correct answers to be overly restrictive.


Oh, boy, I'm so sorry about that . . . I get so frustrated when the "correct" solution is not even correct in English and forces me to duplicate their solution, a mangling of, ... what... Chinglish? to allow me to move to the next segment. Is it the English "correct answer" she is failing? Because if that's what "fails" her, WE ARE ALL constantly begging the Duolingo team to allow for English-English alternative "correct" options to be added to the system . . . It takes the team quite a bit of time to get around reviewing those suggestions, sometimes months, sometimes only one or two weeks... I have noticed that --with my limited knowledge of Chinese-- there are also errors and omissions on the Chinese side of the app, too, including discrepancies between the audio of a character while that character, in its written form, either has a totally different meaning than the tone in the audio, or ........ is not even what the character is..... You almost need to know more Chinese than the level you are studying in Duolingo in order to take all of it with a grain of salt . . . My hope is that the Chinese version of Duolingo will get better with time . . . But I'm using other means to really learn Chinese proficiently and correctly. I would never rely on one system alone, however good it is: you dig grooves and you are not "surprised" anymore.....


I just made a reply along these lines as well, @CvonD1! Compared to other Duolingo language courses, I find the "correct solutions" for the Chinese course often very restrictive. One problem is as you mentioned, where they should accept alternate sentence structures/synonyms which are correct in English. But as a Native Mandarin speaker brushing up on my language skills through this app, another problem with the "correct" solutions that I find frustrating is that many alternate correct solutions/interpretations of the Chinese sentences are not accounted for.


Even a novice learner like me notices the errors in Chinese . . . That's not good . . . I am losing faith that it has even a genuine vocabulary-acquisition value through repetition . . . . I'll probably finish the course . . . or not. And if you, for heavens' sake, are stumped as well, I think this course ought to quietly go back to the drawing board . . . Learning is a very finicky thing: sometimes, it takes much longer to unlearn the mistakes you were taught early on . . . . because your teacher's knowledge of the language didn't match the level he/she was teaching at . . . . my five cents again . . .


May I recommend that pinyin be added to the hover hints? Some of the automated speech is impossible to interpret.


I don't understand the Chinese course. It doesn't tell you the meaning of anything. (?) I started trying to learn it, and all it consists of is 1) Hearing a sound and matching it to pinyin. (Um, where is the skill or learning in that?) and 2) Trying to remember which sound matches which character... without telling the meaning of either one. Then, in each less it asks you to translate something written in Chinese character, but how can one do that without ever being told the meaning? I'm supposed to just read minds or make guesses? What am I missing?

Similarly, I tried Vietnamese once, but there was no sound, so how am I supposed to know what the words sound like?


agreed -just having random characters introduced out of context for memorization with the sound isn't working for me. The lessons that ask you to pair characters with pinyin seem useless in their current form, and come up over and over again.

Having said that I have picked up a bit from the course as-is - I now have a good grasp of the basic I, we, you, they constructions, as well as "also" and the basic verb construction. But I keep getting hung up on vocabulary because it doesn't consistently attach the words to their meaning while you're learning.


You should be able to hover over the words when you get to the free text sections and there are translations to help.


I completely agree with you, this course is so weird. I couldn't get past the first two lessons because I simply don't see any purpose in the tasks. They just don't help me memorize any characters.


Is the hint system completely not working on the Chinese course?


I started lessons 1 and 2 yesterday and I'm excited to finaly learn Chinese with Duolingo method :-) I love to play Mahjong and now I know the meaning of some tiles: they are numbers!!! Amazing. :-D


Are the audio problems fixed then? I had been taking a break, because a lack of audio on mouse over was hampering my progress.


This is a systemic problem that applies to quite a few other courses, rather than something specific to Chinese, so all that can be said is that DL will fix it when they fix it. You can still hear audio for individual characters on the app, however.


They'd do well to fix it before labeling this course as out of beta. IMHO it makes them look really bad to do otherwise. We all know the Chinese course has some very deep deficiencies...it's not anywhere near the level of the established courses like German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, or even later courses like Russian or Turkish. The audio is an important part of why the Chinese course is so inadequate, because it plays into the other weaknesses of the course (lack of pinyin or any way to look up the pronunciation of characters...at least with working audio it provides a way of doing this).

Even just as a PR move, holding off on removing the beta label until they fix the audio issue, is a decision or choice I would make if I were in charge of things.


They'd do well to fix it before labeling this course as out of beta. IMHO it makes them look really bad to do otherwise. We all know the Chinese course has some very deep deficiencies...it's not anywhere near the level of the established courses like German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, or even later courses like Russian or Turkish.

The hover-audio bug also applies to many courses long out of beta, including both Russian and Turkish (and Norwegian, Welsh, Greek, etc.).
From what I understood, graduating from beta merely requires reaching a certain lower-bound average of reports per question per unit number of users within some unit time period. Swahili managed to graduate in this way without having any audio at all. It is only a meaningful signifier of accepted alternative answers (by far the leading cause of reports), not a general guarantee of uniform quality and not much to do with audio.

I agree that this audio was particularly useful in Chinese, and I hope it is soon fixed. However, DL was designed from the outset to teach the likes of German and Spanish, so it is no surprise that trying to fit a square Chinese peg into this round hole will result in something less than optimal, at least at first. The Spanish course really isn't that great, anyway—the German course is far better because volunteers have extensively re-worked and expanded it and added copious notes, whereas Spanish has barely changed in five years.


All those little flags!!! Wow! The problem with your kind approach is that these errors, because it is Chinese, not German or Finnish, or . . any other Western language, has deeper consequences than you know. So making an error by repeating trustingly what the audio is telling you might lead to really unwelcome outcomes . . .


I still see the label Beta on my tree.


Same. I am also still seeing a Beta flag on my tree.

EDIT: Sadly, Mandarin has graduated from beta. It is not ready.


Oof... there's still plenty of work to be done before it catches up to the other languages offered on the site. I keep reporting stuff but the middle of the course starts getting pretty hairy. It's also discouraging to see people complaining about the same issues 3 weeks ago. A hop over to /r/chineselanguage shows that the only defense the course had was that it was in beta. Well, good luck to the DL chinese team, but it as it is now I can't recommend it to non-chinese speaking friends.


The course still says "drink soup." It is not ready.


hi, my name is kiki i am 10 and new here, please help me.

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