Japan Beta needs significant revision
Its incredibly perplexing that the Japanese program goes from 0 to brick wall at the "intro" section. The hiragana sections were a great learning resource, but then in the "intro" section it goes straight into an expectation that you know a bunch of kanji meanings and pronunciations that have not even been taught, without even the slightest bit of contextual clues....
Very disappointing. Switching to a different app.
As you pointed out in your title, it's in "Beta". In the past, courses in beta were not accessible, save to a small group of testers. But, the community asked permission to use the courses, even though they were not finished or polished. So, Duolingo started giving us access to beta courses. These courses are not complete, have many errors, and are varying levels of rough around the edges.
The good news is that these courses will be improved upon based on user-feedback as they report sentences with errors, submit viable alternative translations, and the volunteer (and in this case also staff) teams have time and energy to improve it. So, don't despair. It will just take time. And more good news, once it graduates from beta, it will continued to be improved over the years. The Spanish course, which is nearly 6 years old continues to be improved and new content has been added several times. :)
Recently in another thread, another mod said that the Japanese beta is 99% complete, and that as soon as error reports go below a certain threshold, that it will automatically go live. It was said in that thread that the course itself won't change at all from now to going out of beta, except for fixing some errors.
Currently the Japanese is so full of errors that I have trouble understanding how anyone can really learn from it. There is a profound lack of tips and grammar notes. Introduction to new concepts seems abrupt, and at times out of order. The lessons are also pretty lacking in content. The numbers section teaches you "zero" about a million times, as if that's the only number. Many words are mispronounced by the TTS. If you type your answer, many questions won't let you use kanji, so you have to purposefully switch to kana only. The course is really in need of some help, and I've seen a lot of people in threads like this offer to become contributors. Almost all of the threads I've seen like this have experienced Japanese speakers not just complaining, but offering to help.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love Duolingo, and I applaud the effort of Duo and its Japanese team, which I understand is largely volunteer. I'm sure it's a thankless job. I also know that Japanese is incredibly difficult from a programming perspective, so it's a monumental task.
But Japanese has been in Beta for over a year now, and I see many errors that were reported 9 months ago. Simple errors. And every time I see a thread like this, the lack of finish on the Japanese course is dismissed. And nobody from the Japanese contribution team or Duo is talking. Crickets. With all due respect, I think it's a fair question from users, as to where the course stands, and why it is in limbo. It's clear to everyone that the course is in limbo. People see it consistently, and are offering help.
99% completed for what is referred to as Tree 1.0. Once the error rate goes down, Tree 1.0 leaves beta. A staff member who contributed to this course has said they want to add more content such as more kanji in the future. If they do that, it will be another tree version, such as Tree 2.0 or 3.0. (Which I am very much looking forward to.)
Japanese has so far been the most expensive course Duolingo has produce. It involved 50% of the staff and a full team of volunteers. It has produced a lot of technical and conceptual challenges for Duolingo. Before they could even work with the language, Duolingo had to go through some major updates to the interface learners use as well as the interface of where staff and volunteers build courses.
Japanese is the course Luis mentioned wanting the most back in 2013. The slow pace has definitely not been due to lack of desire for the course to exist and improved on Duolingo's part. They've put a ton of resources into it.
I don't know what the current state of the volunteer team is. And throughout the year staff hours are allocated for various projects. If a project runs out of allocated hours for whatever reason, it has to wait in line to get more because the rest of staff's hours have already been allocated elsewhere. The company sets benchmarks it has to meet every quarter and every year. So, unexpected obstacles can cause long wait times so their other projects aren't held up.
(It is always possible that I've gotten a detail wrong. I am not a staff member and I cannot speak officially for staff or the company on this matter. But, from what I've gathered this is how things work.)
Wow, I didn't know you were an artist, Seattle_scott! I love the style on paintings 1, 7 and 8!
Yeah I think I may have seen that thread Scott, and I was concerned as well. I agree with your assessment here.
Its a bummer because this project has a great deal of promise.... but in its current form its a non-starter.
Usagiboy7's explanation was very helpful. As I imagined, the programming is a nightmare. But it's still more structured than something like Memrise. In the end I think Japanese requires diverse resources. The barrier to entry is pretty high both learning it and teaching it.
I understand it is in beta, and I appreciate being able to use it in that format. However, when I report "my answer should be accepted" or post a comment in the "discussion" section, I wonder if either makes any difference. What is the best way to provide constructive feedback that actually gets to someone working on the beta?
Reporting sentences will work exactly as fast as it can and is the option available. Does it work? Yes. What doesn't work are people's expectations of how fast it should work.
Here are screenshots of some of the sentences the course teams have updated after I reported them via the "Report error" option attached to sentences: Screenshot.
Yes, I agree totally with you. I'm enjoying so far, but it has some flaws, we need more kanji and a longer tree, it's ridiculously short. It's in beta for too long also.
I started going through it a week ago and i agree. The hiragana courses make sense, then when you hit intro they start throwing katakana at you and there's no explanation as to what those characters are or why they're used. The tips section is just blank where that information would normally be. There were also sections where it would ask you to write out a sentence in japanese like "maria is from america" and the word bank just did not have the characters to write it. Thinking i was crazy or missed something i just guessed and it says "wrong it should be [thing]" and [thing] was nowhere on the screen.
There's also a voice...i think its an old lady? The audio for their pronunciation is terribly confusing compared to the others.
Well that happens, I recommend Lingodeer (it has only Asian languages), as I find Duolingo a bit weird for the Japanese grammar structure.
Lingodeer looks pretty good. I just wish they had a proper website for it or something, instead of just an app. The phone I have right now isn't very good so using it for anything kinda sucks.
I can confirm that Lingodeer is amazing. Its basically everything I'd hoped that Duolingo Japanese would be in terms of progressions and organization. I've been using it the past three days or so.
I think LD is going to be my path forward for the time being, at least until DL gets their act together in the Japanese section.
(sidenote: Been using an app called "Kana Drill" too thats kind of like Tiny Cards. I have both, but find myself using KD more.)