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In defense of using the Japanese keyboard in the app

Hi all, Thought that I would share my thoughts on the short-lived update that pushed us into using the keyboard, rather than the word tiles.

At first, I was pretty shocked by the change, as I had been making good progress through the modules, and being asked to type out sentences using the Japanese keyboard slowed this progress dramatically, a feeling that others have shared, and I totally empathise with.

I didn't want to allow myself to be discouraged, and persevered through the lessons, taking two or three times longer to complete modules. It did also force me to go back and redo some of the earlier modules a second time through.

I found the learning process so much deeper using the Japanese keyboard than just the tiles. By being so much less forgiving, and by removing the safety net of being able to work with the set tiles provided, I felt I gained a so much greater and deeper understanding of sentence structures and composition (as well as memory of hiragana, kanji).

I hope the developers find a way to allow for users to opt in to (or out of) using the keyboard on the app going forward!

May 3, 2018



Yes, this is a great addition. I have only begun not long ago, although I have gained knowledge extremely quickly and memorised things very easily. I find that the selection of a multiple choice makes it easier for us to get the correct answer, but when typing, you have to focus and remember every single character.

Thank you for this post!


I totally agree. Even though the keyboard requirement made things a little more challenging at first, it made me slow down and think more about the words I was typing. It took a while to get the hang of the complex Hiragana keyboard, but I think using the keyboard is actually a very important skill because if you are trying to text someone in Japanese it will have been something you already practiced in Duo. I also found my Japanese reading improving because I used to rely on the tiles to read out the words and did the same for the sentences and although that's a very good way to learn proper pronunciation, when I tried to read Japanese without the TTS it took me a disappointingly long time. Now, I recognize the characters a little more quickly and easily. It really would be beneficial to mix the tile exercises with typing ones so you get the best of both worlds like in other language courses here on Duo. It would also be really nice for the Japanese course to include a guide/tutorial for how to use the keyboard somewhere or teach it simultaneously with the Hiragana lessons, but I suppose it's important to keep learning vocab until all that happens!


I fully agree, I preferred the keyboard because it forced me to learn more about sentence structure and relying less on visual memory so that I could actually learn phrases more in-depth.


I completly agree. I really like the Japanese keyboard!

<h1>Practicing Japanese using a keyboard is something sensational, a bit difficult at first, but the learning is much better, the assimilation of sentences is much greater.</h1>


Hello, this is unrelated, do you remember and how fluent are you in the languages you have got to level 25 in? I am curious to see how effective this is and if I should be using Duolingo as a tool to learn Japanese. Thank you!


Experience with other courses isn't really relevant to the Duolingo Japanese course, for it's about half their length (in general) vocab-wise.


I totally agree with this thread. I started Japanese as soon as it was released and have completed everything. I lost interest as I had reached a point where, even though the content was increasing, my link to the language was not getting any better. The keyboard change renewed my interest and I was excited to start at the beginning again. Learning the Japanese keyboard and sounding everything out in my head was hugely helpful to understanding and accuracy. I clearly don’t pay enough attention to the discussions because I was shocked to see it disappear again. Please, please could this become an account option? I can understand how this could be intimidating to a new starter but it greatly increases the learning experience. I was really disappointed to see it go.


Seeing that it is so obviously beneficial for many people and improves the learning experience, I cannot understand at all why they removed it without even retaining the option for those who want to continue using it.

I'm also sad to read that you lost interest in the higher levels. Do you mean that the complexity of the lessons doesn't increase much? I hope this is only because it is still in beta.


It does get fairly complicated at the end, though it it still limited to single sentences. I found that I had a good grasp of Duolingo Japanese but had a hard time making the leap to reading real Japanese books. Even something like Yotsubato. With the blocks I found it too easy to unintentionally cheat, but actually typing in Japanese stopped that. By cheat I mean recognize the kanji without the exact sounds, or knowing there should be usually 4 tiles left. Even just a process of elimination for selecting blocks.

I can definitely see starting people off with tiles but typing was like learning it all over again (in a fun way). I use the iPhone app and was starting to get quite fast with the keyboard, which was pretty fun in itself.


The bigger mystery is why the course has been out for about a year, and until a few weeks about basically no one had any option to type in Japanese on the app. That's not the case with other courses.

I'm guessing they feared it would be too tough for Japanese and decrease overall utilization. A year later, they decided to experiment more broadly to see if that was (still) the case. Particularly given the spotty acceptance of kanji, I'm not shocked they found their prior fears justified. Here's hoping they'll get a whole lot more answers accepted, reintroduce Japanese typing on the app, and see success with it. For now, there remains the web version for those wanting to type in Japanese.

An option for those that wanted it would be great, but it's clear that Duolingo simply allows very, very little user customization for whatever reason.


My theory was that Japanese typing got enabled in that one update of the app purely by accident. Looks like I was probably correct if now it has disappeared again, leaving as silently as the way it arrived.

Like you said, the app hasn't had Japanese typing this whole time since the course released in beta nearly a year ago. I've avoided the app like the plague because of it lacking what's probably the most fundamental aspect of Duolingo — i.e. typing your translation of a sentence into the language you are learning.

The apps have long been a dumbed-down child-friendly version of the site. People seem to want a nice easy time, regardless of whether they might not be learning much from it, and then complain whenever anything slightly challenging is implemented. So there's lots of rearranging preset word blocks into the correct order, playing snap with the matching word tiles, gems, treasure chests, silly motivational pep-talk owls which you can even dress up, paying money to restore streaks, bonus 5 XP giving 15 XP for completing the exact same 10 XP lesson as web,...

Web is where the more indepth learning is. Lots of typing translations of sentences completely from scratch in both directions using your own words; grammar notes, sentence discussion, progress quiz, gruelling timed practice,...

It was very bad back in October when the word tiles arrived on web, when they actually replaced Japanese typing completely. But, even though typing was restored a few weeks later, imo it's bad we still have the word bank even as an option. Grammar notes should cover the grammar, and new vocabulary should be taught at the start of the lesson. The word bank is a way for people to avoid having to think for themselves how to translate the sentence in their own words.

I was beginning to consider maybe reinstalling the app if it turned out Japanese typing was going to be a permanent addition. I guess I'll still continue with using web on my phone the occasional times when I can't get to a computer, if the app is now back to its usual self. ^^;


My theory was that Japanese typing got enabled in that one update of the app purely by accident.

Definitely also possible.

My thought was that with the crown system out, maybe they thought they'd finally give Japanese typing a bigger try (did anyone see if it was confined to the higher crown levels?).


It wasn’t just a Japanese thing. At the same time it forced native keyboards for Korean and Chinese for me as well and I think across the board. It was an unpleasant surprise that would’ve been mitigated by allowing you to toggle blocks vs keyboard entry. I am not at all ready for that on Korean or Chinese and was having weird autocorrect issues with Japanese where it was changing text after I was further into the sentence.


Other courses with non-Latin script have always (as far as I've observed) required typing in those scripts. That Japanese, Korean, and Chinese didn't was (and now is again I guess) the outlier.


ok, I just did a Japanese lesson on my phone for the first time in a while (I've been using the web version) and the inability to type in Japanese doesn't make sense. Especially considering that you CAN still type in English. We all presumably already know English, so why we can type in English but can't in Japanese sort of baffles me, when clearly the typing in Japanese is more beneficial.


I've never used the app specifically because there wasn't an option to switch to keyboard input. I might occasionally switch to tiles in my first or second run through of a skill, but typing in the answer is a more active and effective learning process because you have to actually pull the words from your own brain rather than be prompted. Which is what you're going to have to do if you're ever going to converse with someone in Japanese.

Sure it's a bit slower at first, especially as you have to learn the layout of a new keyboard and type like your 80 year old grandma trying to send a text, but in the long run it's better for your memory. After sticking with it, now I can type many of the sentences just as fast, if not faster than looking through and selecting all the tiles like a wordsearch puzzle.


I completely agree! I understand some being frustrated with it, but I really think it's helping me.


Completely. I was using it with the keyboard and loved it and suddenly I'm back to the word bank and I hate it.


Yeah, it's really hard to retain things just clicking tiles.

However, actually typing in Japanese tends to result in kanji, the acceptance of which seems to be dragging (although I'd be curious if others' experience differs on this point).


I find the kanji acceptance rate on the early modules is pretty high, same with the simpler sentences on some of the later ones. More complex sentences are a bit hit and miss and some particular modules are an absolute nightmare that you shouldn't even bother trying with.


I definitely agree with this! Using the Japanese keyboard made me have to remember the words and the exact hiragana for them, and it really helped me retain more information.

I hope Duolingo brings this update back, or at least partially (with an option to switch between them).


I'd really like to be able to use the keyboard too. Though I've finished the tree, having to use the keyboard showed me just how much I didn't know. I was having to start all over from the beginning. Unfortunately this made it impossible to use the practise feature, but great for the crown features as I actually felt I was learning something again.


The japanese keyboard was fantastic for learning the kanji too, because of the suggestions it gave. I really hope we’ll get it back!


Conceptually yes, but any time I used the kanji it marked my answer as wrong, because very often there is one hardcoded answer for a given question.


Exactly, and I assume they have not added sufficient Kanji to the databank. Although, most of the time the simpler Kanji which were already appearing in questions before were always accepted for me...


Thank you for this comment. The moment I was actually shocked was when the next update removed the keyboards again, even for level 3 lessons!


Putting it in as a feature of reaching level 3 is a great idea. You would have time to learn the meaning and structure, then polish it with the specific typing.


I've been avoiding the most recent update because I don't want to lose the keyboard option.


I think it should be toggle-able like on the web version.


I went ahead and updated, but do most my stuff on the website. It's pretty mobile friendly and still supports keyboard.


I would like to be able to use the keyboard as well! It was immensely helpful with learning the characters! The lessons took a little longer, but it was worth every minute! Much deeper learning than just using the tiles.


I use a japanese keyboard configuration. Otherwise it would be too easy. #hardmode


Thanks everyone for the supportive responses!

I feel for the developers who might be feeling like the community is impossible to please, haha!


and it's an amaizing idea i always wanted that we will learn the language better even if it's hard a bit i suport that very much


@1GBu7 I can see you are learning English so I just want to offer my support. Here is the corrected version of your brilliant comment "It's an amazing idea! I always wanted to learn the language better even if it's a bit hard. I support that very much!"


Yes please! I really hope they'll add that. I just recently found out, that you can't change it in the app and I was a little surprised tbh.


I completely agree!

There was also a nice "side effect" of using the keyboard. I was able to input my answers in Japanese with the voice to text option of my phone.


I totally agree, and hope it is reinstated. I was disappointed I was when Duo Japanese changed back this week and no longer had the Japanese alphabet input questions. It was hard but so interesting and I felt I was learning so much and so quickly - and remembering it better too.

I finished the course a while ago, and it allowed me to start again and really get a deeper benefit from the early lessons.


By being so much less forgiving, and by removing the safety net of working being able to work with the set tiles provided, I felt I gained a so much greater deeper understanding of sentence structures and composition (as well as memory of hiragana, kanji).



I agree 100%. why not just have an option like the other languages to switch between yiles and keyboards. This is the future!


I would mainly just like some way to implement a japanese keyboard into the site itself as having to toggle between language settings on my desktop every other question is incredibly tedious. Linguti uses a system like this and it's wonderful so I know it's not an impossible task. I like being able to type in japanese but ugh, really kills your pace when you have to keep adjusting your settings


If you're using Firefox on your desktop, I think the following thread might be of interest to you:

Even if you don't use Firefox (I prefer Chrome), you could just do what I do and use Firefox only for doing the Japanese course on Duo while using your normal browser for everything else. ^^


I'm on a mac, and there is an option to switch input with a key command. I imagine something similar exists in Windows also. On the Mac go to system preferences>shortcuts and choose the "input sources" key command. I believe the default is "control-space" which is what I'm using. It's so much faster than manually changing keyboards...


yeah, i have a lot of issues with using different language keyboards on my devices and constant switching between english and japanese keyboards would be incredibly annoying but i know there's a lot of benefit in having to type it all out so i'm a bit torn ;(


I think it should be tied into the crown system. Opt in / out when learning towards 1 or 2 crowns, but once you're working towards 3, 4, or 5, switch you over and make you use the keyboard. It's slower, but like you said, it provides a deeper understanding in learning, in my opinion. Which if the higher crowns are supposed to represent a better mastery of that lesson, I think that being able to type it into the keyboard shows that much better than picking the right tiles. It's just like multiple choice vs essay questions in school. Multiple choice is easier / faster, but sometimes you don't know the right choice, you just recognize the ones that aren't right. Essay forces you to actually know it.


I think this is a really good suggestion!


This is a great idea!


I agree typing is better. My only complaint is that it switches back and forth from typing in English and Japanese. I'd like them not to switch so often, so I'm not constantly switching my keyboard settings multiple times per lesson.


Really? Mine automatically switched the keyboards which was nice, but if mine didn't that would be very infuriating.


how do I change from tiles to needing the keyboard?


For some reason that's not possible for the app anymore.


We need more katakana and kanji


I jut started learning Japanese on Duolingo recently and i'm really confused because there's no Japanese keyboard in my course like you all are saying. Does this mean the keyboard feature is no longer available?


They've adjusted it so when you're at the low levels you just use the tiles but as you get up to 3 or 4 at a skill it starts making you use the keyboard. If you're using the Duolingo app on your phone/tablet, you might also need to enable the Japanese keyboard in the system settings.


I wish this were true. For a few glorious weeks it was, then the keyboard on the ios version disappeared for me again. Never to return.


It's true for me, but Duolingo also A/B tests the crap out of everything. My wife and I often have radically different UX experiences with ostensibly the same version.


Yes! I miss it!!!!


私 思う Dulingo は その ベスト!


Are you trying to say "I think Duolingo is the best!"?

That would be something like:  Duolingoは一番だと思います! (Duolingoはいちばんだとおもいます!)


can you help me to dwonload a japanese keyboard in my camputer ? onigai shimasu


On a Mac, go to system preferences -> Keyboard -> input sources and add the language you want. On a PC, it's not much different but I don't remember. It's easy to find if you google it.


I tried in my mac but it's not hiragana ...


Probably the most common input method used by native Japanese speakers on a computer is a qwerty keyboard layout and converting to hiragana automatically then kanji. It's super fast in practice and any modern input system has smart kanji suggestions. If you're on a Mac and follow the suggestion in the comment you're replying to, pick Japanese and select (at minimum) Hiragana (and optionally Katakana). The default is that shift does Katakana anyway though. If you really want to use a Japanese kana layout keyboard, it's under "Typing Method" (default is Romaji).


thanks a lot that was verry from you i did it ! i am so happy thanks again


I use the keyboard where I can but so far I cannot seem to get it to change from the hiragana to also include the kanji and katakana that is needed. So frustrating having to type only in hiragana. Or have I missed something?


What OS, etc. are you using? Every Japanese IME I've ever encountered at least suggests, if not automatically converts to kanji when possible. Katakana sometimes requires hitting shift.

I have an iPhone at hand, and on it the IME inputs in hiragana and automatically suggests possible kanji conversions as well as the katakana for the currently active text.


One year later and here we are again... Discussing japanese keyboard availability... =/

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