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Drawing Chinese or Japanese Characters

I heard that there's a specific order that you're supposed to draw the lines in your characters, and that writing them out by hand as you're learning them is supposed to improve retention.

Any chance that we might see a new interface in the future that would let people learn how to draw them out on the screen and have the program assess how well you did it?

April 21, 2018



I don't know about here at Duolingo... that may be way off in the far far future. If at all.

However, if you want to learn how to draw characters, you can go to http://www.archchinese.com They have free features like a Chinese English dictionary and when you look up a word beneath it's character there's an icon [looks like a brush] that will take you to a screen where you can practice your handwriting skill. This is especially useful if you want to be able to read Chinese as well as speak it. They have pay services too, like customizable worksheets, flashcards, vocabulary lists for handwriting practice, quizzes [multiple choice, true false and matching] and games like Bingo, Sudoku and snakes and ladders.

I'm a hands on learner, and can't always be on the computer. I find handwriting practice soothing and it does help me remember the characters better. If it helps you learn and you enjoy it, it's NOT a waste of time.

Good luck!


While I think this would be a cool feature to add, frankly it is very low on the list of things I would like to see Duolingo work on for Chinese and Japanese courses because (1) it would take a ton of programming to implement (2) the courses are already woefully inadequate and have serious shortcomings that could be implemented much more easily.

For example, I'd prefer to see them prioritize things like:

(1) Adding full Kanji to the Japanese course

(2) Adding Pinyin (at least on hover-over or the option to click some button somewhere to show pinyin on demand) to the Chinese course, for the Chinese-to-English translation exercises.

(3) Showing meaning / translations when introducing a new character

(4) having a "character list" as well as a words list, and listing the different characters a word is found in

(5) hover-over in Japanese course on Kanji showing reading of the Kanji in the sentence, or toggle to show the reading as small kana on top of the character as many kid's books in Japan and some Japanese textbooks do

All of these would be MUCH easier to program than character-drawing exercises, and I think all of them would be more essential to the learning experience. I could probably think of a long list of other features to add to this list too, these are just a few that came to mind.

The point is...the courses as they are are pretty inadequate, and I would want them to go for the "low hanging fruit" first before trying to do something complex and elaborate. It's not like the Duolingo staff seem to have any extra time, they already seem stretched incredibly thin to where they're barely able to maintain the product in a sort-of-marginally acceptable state.


Completely agree. Writing in kanji/hanzi for non-native speakers is far down on the list of necessary skills, particularly in the age of smart phones and social media.

To consume foreign media, speaking, listening, and reading are far more important than writing IMO. In cases where you might need stroke orders (setting up a foreign bank account, for example) there are countless databases you could just pull up on your phone.

With over 2000 characters in the jouyou kanji (常用漢字) needed to read an average newspaper, limited time to study is better spent on being able to read and speak than memorize stroke orders. As a foreigner, you likely won't be expected to anyways (and in the case of Japanese, the kana make things easier).

精力善用! (Minimum effort, maximum efficiency!)


Counter example, knowing how to stroke count can sometimes be useful for unknown kanji, kanji when pronunciation is unsure and kanji when recalling the correct radical fails.

Also works fairly well with systems like Jack Halpern's SKIP.


This would be an interesting addition to Duolingo, as writing is an essential part of learning character-based languages. I personally use an app called Skritter to learn writing. It's not free, but it's absolutely amazing for teaching not only writing, but also tones, pinyin, and definitions. It uses a spaced repetition technique similar to that of Duolingo to maximize studying efficiency. I would recommend it in the highest terms as a supplement to Duolingo.


Learning to write the characters takes so much time and you'll forget them fast. You should get an understanding of how to write them, but I think it works really well on Duolingo without being required to write them by hand.
That is far more efficient. Every native speaker learns to speak the language years before writing it and Duolingo already enables you to read and type the characters if you use a Chinese input method.


Thanks for that tip


I use an android app like Skritter it's called Inkstone. it's a one time purchase instead of a subsctription based app. it's much harder to add charachter lists and i's not quite as snappy as skritter but price/value it's worth it imho.


I use HelloChinese to learn my characters & how to write them


That would be nice


On iPad you can install a third-party handwriting keyboard in which you can write (not 'draw' btw) the Japanese and Chinese characters by hand and they are then converted into text. (Actually I think iOS comes with a handwriting keyboard for Chinese already built in, but not Japanese). The one I use is called "MyScript Stack" in the Apple App Store. I'm sure there would be similar keyboards for Android.

Learning to write by hand is by far the best way to memorise characters. Today in Japan, many adults forget how to write some kanji because of the over-reliance on technology. But you can have your technology and still write the characters as if it were paper! If you're wanting to memorise characters this is the way to go.


Try using the Windows 10 app Lingvoji. You can use pen, touch, or mouse for handwriting exercises.



I think there are probably apps that help with just tracing and learning the order of the characters . It kind of seems like something that would be hard for duolingo to do at this time but maybe in the future they'd find a way .

Some people buy booklets that just show how to trace it and repeat it again and again on the page. Meant for just that purpose. You might have to find something like that for now or maybe make your own booklet. ( or an app like mentioned earlier)


I second this. I would very much appreciate character-drawing drills for the ideogrammatic languages myself.


Since there's not a way yet, here's a tip for writing them. North south (top to bottom), east west (right to left).


I think this would be a really good addition to duolingo.


Yeah, you can search them up. They are called 笔画 in Chinese btw.


https://chinese.yabla.com/chinese-english-pinyin-dictionary.php?define=Zhi+yi. This is an excellent dictionary and it will instruct you how to write Chinese characters(Hanzi) in correct stroke order! Best of luck.


I think it is a very important addition. With languages like English or Spanish, it’s not that necessary to have a drawing input because with the keyboard is enough. But with Chinese, drawing is essential to understand the Chinese character. I can tell from the years I’ve been studying a Chinese. It’s not just about learning the order of the strokes, it’s about understanding the flow and essence of the word, and therefore having a more lasting memory of it. If you don’t draw/write by hand the words in a Chinese, you can forget the words VERY EASILY.

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