Thank you for creating the Chinese course. I appreciate all the hard work. I would like to offer two comments. One is that in the lessons, we spend a certain amount of time matching a character to a sound. Yet I feel an opportunity to learn vocabulary is really being missed. Why is there no translation of the word that we are matching to the character? Since there is not, this is learning without context, in a void. I would really appreciate seeing the word defined as I work to match it to a character, and in fact I would find it much easier to memorize the character and the Chinese word if I had meaning to help me and also to interest and motivate me. I find rote learning of limited use as an adult learner.
I also worry that in the beginning lessons, sometimes the sentences are very long for us beginners - and the 'voice' speaks them very fast. Sometimes it is quite overwhelming.
Thank you for you time and consideration.
Why is there no translation of the word that we are matching to the character?
Old Chinese had a far more extensive set of initials and finals, and was largely monosyllabic. Over time, the phonology became greatly simplified, and more and more polysyllabic words came into use to differentiate the between the increasing number of homophones. Many such modern Mandarin words are formed of two characters that have the same or very similar meanings; e.g. '幫助', the common word for 'help', consists of two characters both of which themselves also mean 'help'.
Giving individual character definitions for words like this would probably confuse more learners than it would benefit, because, despite having individual 'meanings', many characters cannot be used in isolation and be readily understood in speech, so it is more useful to start by learning the whole compound as a unit.
I recommend (in general) you install an add-on like Tong Wen Tang (Chrome, Firefox), which will allow you to convert between character sets in all online situations (not just here) at the click of a button.
In the case of 幫/帮, the visual similarity is not very hard to intuit, so I did not think it necessary to wade into my IME settings to get it to produce the simplified variant, particularly considering that '助' is invariant in both sets.
Ⅰ highly recommend using these two extensions for Google Chrome:
https://www.duolingo.com/comment/25805627 an amazing user RobinCard made a pretty good extension that shows the character meanings in practice, it play the audio is slow, lets you save characters in a vocabulary bank, and also shows all the characters in the course for review. He updates it often.
Zhongwen pop-up Chinese dictionary. Shows dictionary meaning of characters as you scroll over them.
I have been eagerly awaiting the Chinese from English course for the last almost two years. I am glad it is here and it suits my situation quite well, but my situation is different than most. Fifty years ago I studied Chinese for a year, and since then I have had almost no exposure to the Chinese language. Now I have completed the Chinese from English and the English from Chinese trees on Duolingo. One of the trees is golden, but the other needs work. So I already had a shaky foundation when I started the courses. Every Chinese character gains its meaning from the context of the surrounding characters, and sometimes the pronunciation also varies with context. I think presenting the full range of meanings and pronunciations for each character as the character is introduced would be more confusing than the current presentation. Chinese children have the advantage of being immersed in the spoken language before being formally introduced to Chinese characters. I am pretty sure there isn't one ideal method of instruction that fits everyone's needs. YouTube is a source for listening to spoken Chinese, and DramaFever is a source for TV shows and movies for intermediate more challenging listening. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and the patience to continue walking.