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I think Japanese needs to be looked over and re-organized on duolingo.

I just find that the jump between Haragana 4 and Intro is very large and I end up getting the feeling like I wasn't properly lead up to it. I also feel like I'm skipping some key components as well. Almost like I'm only learning half an alphabet or something similar.

Of course since I'm no expert, I could just be misunderstanding something. But I thought I'd mention it anyway.

March 9, 2018



It's not just you. There is a ton of missing info that would be helpful to someone using DuoLingo with no prior knowledge of Japanese.

I also recommend using LingoDeer for Japanese. It introduces grammar and vocabulary in a more natural way. It's a good app.


Thanks to LingoDeer I actually knew what I was doing, I actually got to know the different adjectives and verbs for starters. And with the furigana you see the kanji as well as the hiragana. Which is nice.


Thanks for that tipp - in my first few minutes there i gained helpfull infos about hiragana and basics allready that where not mentioned on duolingo at all - but it´s still a beta here and i hope they will improve it soon.


After spending some time exploring the Japanese tree in DuoLingo, I think some of the problems are inherent to the application itself and unlikely to improve, even after it leaves beta. However, there's definitely room for improvement within the limitations imposed by the software.

For example, the earliest skills introduced simple vocabulary, like colors and numbers, to help practice the hiragana that you were being taught, using pictures to reinforce meaning. I thought that this was a nice intuitive way to teach new vocabulary to raw beginner.

Unfortunately, when I was going through other early lessons they did not use any pictures and new words were introduced without any context or supporting structure to assist in retention. For example, you learn the word for "vegetables" early in the course, but this word is added without any formal introduction. You are just asked to translate the word. Especially early in the course, it would be nice to be SHOWN what each new word means, to provide the learner with a solid foundation on which to build their vocabulary, especially when learning words that are easy to visualize in picture form. I'm now wondering if this was a bug, since later lessons have started to use more imagery lately.

I would also like to see some better arrangement of vocabulary, in general. For example, why are the words "Dirty" and "Sweet" taught where they are? I have not seen them used in any of the sample sentences that I have encountered since they were introduced as new vocabulary in an early lesson. Winter and summer are also introduced as new vocabulary in a strange spot. I don't understand why these two seasons are added in out-of-context with the skill being learned, rather than waiting for a later lesson where all four seasons could be covered at the same time. Likewise, the colors white, blue and red were taught in one of the earliest skills, but other colors were not. Why not? It might just be due to the random nature of DuoLingo's question selection, since it also didn't cover all the numbers for me the first time.


Those random words you mention were picked given the constraints of the kana taught up to the points where they were introduced, right? I think they're just there to help you see the kana in an actual word. Ukrainian, Greek, and Russian start out somewhat similarly.


You are likely correct regarding why DuoLingo adds in some random words toward the beginning of the course, but I think my point still stands, from a learning perspective.

The four seasons in Japanese are ...

はる haru spring

なつ natsu summer

あき aki autumn

ふゆ fuyu winter

Why not cover them ALL during Hirigana 1-4? Maybe not all in the same lesson, but before the end of the set. It makes no sense to stop after learning just summer/winter. None of the seasons are especially long or complicated to learn in hiragana. And learning a full set of related vocabulary feels more logical to me and easier to retain.




Learn these first. Especially the hiragana chart. Write it down and make sure you know it. Then you can advance. And start with LingoDeer for Japanese


That's pretty much just how Duolingo does things. Things get much easier with repetition, which I recommend lots and lots of in Japanese, but there's no question that Japanese is more of a challenge than other languages taught for many reasons.


yeah, i think they leave out some of the characters until later. i remember coming across a "new" katakana past the third checkpoint and being a bit confused. don't know if this was a bug or what, but duolingo does extend all the content out quite far. there's a lot of other issues with the course, especially hovering over words, giving you barely coherent clues. and it's quite short. but japanese is very hard to teach right so i trust that duolingo are doing the best they can and any learning is good learning :)


I have to agree, after watching the first lessons, i spend some time to memorize the whole hiragna alphabet - didn´t do that with katakana yet, but was expecting some vocabulary, sentences with hiragana and then progress into katacana alphabet and sentences including both.

What i was really facing though after completing hiragana 4 was sentences with hiragana + katakana + kanji, and since all of my japanese knowledge is out of that course and a few words out of animes it felt like hitting a wall.

i also liked the comment in the japanese course which was like: "it´s like as you just have learned crawling, and are supposed to do rockclimbing from now on"


I completely agree!

For anyone struggling with Japanese on Duolingo, I suggest you try the Japanese 1 Memrise course. It's far better IMO. It goes at a much slower pace and it doesn't have the massive jumps in difficulty that the Duolingo course does. One of the most frustrating things with Duolingo's course is how it unloads unknown Kanji into the lessons, when you tap the Kanji it doesn't even give you the right pronunciation.

IMO Duolingo is better in general if you already know the alphabet for the course that your taking (or if it's a relatively easy-to-learn alphabet like Cyrillic). I can't speak for Chinese, but the Japanese course on here is only for intermediate and above Japanese speakers....and this is coming from someone who took Turkish beforehand, so I'm completely used to the SOV sentence structure.


Totally agree! I actually was just looking on the discussion forums to bring up the exact same point. I've only just started learning 2 weeks ago, and have been using a few different apps, youtube videos and websites to help me with the basics. I thought Duolingo was excellent at teaching me hiragana at a pace that really ingrained the symbols into my mind (thanks to doing the whole visual memory learning, i had hiragana down in under 2 days), but when I went on to Katakana, I realised Duolingo didn't have the same approach, and just threw a few symbols in at the intro. To make matters worse, the Intro starts introducing totally unfamiliar Kanji and full sentences that I'm unable to read or understand what they mean without constantly getting them wrong. It's really put me off continuing with Duolingo, honestly. :(

Perhaps it's just my style of learning but I've found the Intro to be a very negative and frustrating experience as a whole. The whole Hiragana section was so well formed (although it did have a few trial by error moments of asking you to translate a word before even teaching you what it meant), that suddenly stepping into the Intro and having so much new stuff thrown at you was just far too overwhelming. Hiragana is taught over 4 separate lessons, and yet the single Intro lesson is trying to throw some katakana, totally unfamiliar kanji AND full sentences at you.

For total beginners to the language, I actually recommend an app called Drops that teaches hiragana in a slow repetitive method, and then katakana in the same way. It then gives you multiple subjects to learn such as food and drink, where it gives you images, along with the romanji and hiragana/katakana versions of the words. Only downside to drops is the free functions only gives you 5mins every 10hrs to cram everything in :P I've also had a lot of luck with the Japanese 101 youtube channel that really helped with visual memory for gana and kana. Gonna try this lingodeer someone else recommended :)


Yeah, I'd recommend buying a Kana work book. It'll help your handwriting anyway. The Japanese course also never explains the formality of sentences it teaches either. I hope no one goes around making an @$$ of themselves. I'd love to contribute, but I'm just not that fluent as to pass the essay.


I’ve completed the course and even though katakana is taught (few here and there, can’t remember where really) as well, I barely remember them. I think an additional katakana skill or few would have been cool.

Btw I think the way Duo introduces new words is fine.


I do really hope they are able to flesh it out more. I really like the look and feel of this website and the way they handle the lessons is interesting and fun. But missing chunks of information just makes it unpleasant to use.


I also agree. I just started learning Japanese and it seamed pretty simple, but once you get into introductions, it becomes pretty complicated. It started putting in symbols and words that they never taught, and you have to partly teach yourself some of them to understand it. I think the farther I get in, the easier it will get, but it would be nice if they taught those words before asking you to translate them, or match the sounds of one symbol to a few others. Again, it'll probably get easier for me later in learning though.


Just wait until DuoLingo starts asking you to translate entire sentences without teaching you any grammar rules ....

It doesn't get that much easier, unless you seek outside resources to fill in the knowledge gaps.


I haven't gotten to the katakana yet and I do have some knowledge of Hiragana and Katakana. I'd say that so far it's been really easy to retain what they've been teaching. I might update this post to see if it gets any harder for me.


Yeah, the hiragana section is very well done thanks to its repetitive nature. The issue with most people lie, from what I gather reading this, is once all the hiragana lessons are done and you hit the Intro. The Intro section goes from introducing you to a few katakana to very suddenly giving you full sentences, including kanji that it's not introduced you to, using words it's not yet taught you. It goes from teaching you hiragana and some basic vocabulary to compliment said hiragana, to asking you to write out things like "Nice to meet you, my name is x, i'm from x" somehow expecting to know kanji and grammar for those sentences. It's probably fine if you have a base knowledge of Japanese already, but as a beginner it's a lot to throw down at once.


Out of curiosity, did you understand that if you put the cursor (or clicked on a phone) over the words, there would be a hint as to what that part of the sentence means?

The "hint" given for "はじめまして。" is "Nice to meet you," which, well, it's not just a hint ;) The hints given for "ジョジです。" are respectively "John" and "I am." I don't find it a hard leap to work out what the whole sentence means. I don't think any kanji are used in sentences without having been introduced first. The pronunciation issue with 中 (it doesn't match the hiragana), that's certainly a point of confusion, and the fill-in-the-blank exercises can obviously be a bit more difficult because they require recognizing newly-learned words, but I think they kind of encourage the beginning learner that, no, just being able to click on words and assemble the hints doesn't reflect all that much learning, so do the lesson until you can an least recognize the Japanese words you've come across.


Yeah I noticed the 中 thing. Wasn't sure if it was MEANT to be totally different or if that was a mistake but I reported it like a clueless newbie.

It's not the translating into English I have issue with, because yeah, you can tap on things. The things I take issue with is more the overall amount of times it was asking me things in Japanese without teaching it first. Plus as a total newbie I found the introduction of two totally new alphabets AND new words AND full sentence structures (that it didn't explain) to be supremely overwhelming to see in one 5min lesson. It's not how I like to learn as it's basically negative reinforcement, constantly setting you up to be wrong. You can learn this way by trial of error, as you'll know for next time, but not all of us enjoy that method, especially considering I'm merely learning out of a vague interest and just want to do something relaxing in my downtime. (I will point out, I recommended Duolingo to my mother who is trying to learn Swedish, she tried it twice and immediately came to the conclusion she didn't like it for the same "guess this word we've not taught you" set up, so she just uses Drops. She's easily frustrated and discouraged like I am ;P).

I understand it's restricted by the fact it's just an app, but you wouldn't go to a class, for instance, and have your lessons constructed where they just repeat a foreign word at you and ask you to guess what it means, then reply with "wrong" if you even attempt it. LingoDeer is a good example of how to do an app for total newbies correctly, where the format is teach the word and sentence structure FIRST then ask to repeat it back. It's likely my own fault for trying duolingo when I'm far too fresh to it all, I'll probably have a better experience when I come back to it in a few weeks/months after knowing a bit more :)


The things I take issue with is more the overall amount of times it was asking me things in Japanese without teaching it first.

It's not immediately clear what this is referring to if it's not the translations from Japanese to English, which you said are ok b/c there are hints.

Are you referring to the fill in the blank questions primarily? I don't think those ever ask you about something you haven't seen. Of course, recognizing that you've seen it is a different matter, and I certainly understand why someone might prefer the LingoDeer set-up.

Did you mom know about the hints when trying Swedish? Once in a blue moon it seems to me that I've been asked to translate a word into the language I'm learning at the beginning of a lesson before the word has been introduced, but I would be surprised if that particular phenomenon (which I've considered a bug, one that should obviously be on the priority list to fix) popped up in the very first lesson. If it did, I certainly understand why Duolingo wouldn't look like a sensible system.

Drops looks like it just teaches vocab? That's great, but it's not enough to learn a language, unfortunately.


Hey, if you like Duolingo- which judging by how much you've used it, you do- then great stuff. It seems like a really good app and a great way for people to learn a language.

It appears you're used to the app and it's inner workings, but for me personally (and some others who replied) the Japanese course just didn't satisfy and got very confusing and overwhelming very quickly. It's just opinion, we've all got one.


It's just opinion, we've all got one.

Indeed, just trying to understand those of others. Maybe I'm unusually curious that way.

Duolingo is also constantly running many different tests, so there's every possibility what you've seen isn't what I see, which could of course lead to differing assessments.


So, after Katherine recommended LingoDeer, I dropped duolingo for a few days and took a look, and I'm also going to fully recommend LingoDeer too. It has full lessons on learning both Hira and Kata (you can switch between the two in the top right) which I quickly breezed through just to see as I already knew both. The selling point for me is the lessons themselves. They're structured in subjects such as "Nationality" "Profession" "Gender" etc and have 2 to 4 lessons under each topic. Each section also has "Learning Tips" as the first port of call which explains in writing what you'll be covering, and what things mean. Duolingo needs something like this desperately. For example the learning tips of Nationality tell you how wa and desu are used within a sentence, gives examples of where they are placed, and the difference in pronunciations (ha being wa, desu being des etc). It also teaches you about negatives and where they fall in a sentence, particles, sentence structures etc. All in a page of writing with informative tables that'll take you less than 5mins to read through.

From that, you then go into a lesson which will initially teach you some basic words, reinforced with images and soundbites, and later ask you to spell them with drag and drop options. Next lesson starts to cover basic sentences. You've learned how to say "Japanese" for instance, so now it will give you a soundbite of "watashi wa nihonjin desu", first couple of slides are purely listening and looking, and then it'll start asking you to do things like fill in blanks, translate from a selection of words given etc, all drag and drop (which i personally prefer from the text typing of duolingo). It repeats everything thoroughly and progresses very slowly and I personally have so far found it much more informative.

Also, for those like me who are casually learning and don't want to dip their toes into kanji just yet, there's multiple options in the top right to change from Japanese (which includes kanji), hiragana, romaji, or a mix of them. I'm personally just using the combo of hiragana and romaji right now.

So yeah, fully recommend giving LingoDeer a go. (Also I still recommend Drops too). I think once I've done this a bit, I'll be able to then go back to duolingo with my newfound knowledge and have a better time. :3


I've been learning Japanese for a couple of years in school and i must say some of these sentences are needlessly complicated and sometimes come of as weird things to say, might just be me. They also think they need to check their use of particles, some of the sentences are a bit clumsy because of it. Also their choice of what should be put into kanji and what shouldn't is weird but idk cause its a beta.

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