My issues with the Japanese course

Hi everyone. So, I was wondering if anyone else was having similar thoughts about this.

I've been studying Japanese for a year or two now, and the way in which this site teaches you is honestly really hard to grasp as of right now since it's in its beta stages. For example, figuring out Japanese grammar is no easy task. Additionally, they don't teach katakana or kanji very well or use them with enough consistency. The nuances of kun-yomi, on-yomi, stroke order, and meaning are all lost in this formatting as it pertains to kanji, and it's not like this stuff is optional. I just feel like the Japanese course does more to confuse people trying to learn Japanese than just looking around the internet for a character dictionary and using a bunch of the other free websites. It really hurts me to say that, too, since I love Duolingo.

I'm gonna edit this into the end. I am saying this as someone well into the process of Japanese who owns multiple textbooks. I think, as it is, it can help retention, reading, and translation for people who know the language briefly and need practice. That being said, it is not suitable for someone just picking up the language as other Duolingo courses are.

July 12, 2018


Sorted by top post

Yeah, I feel ya.

DuoLingo was the very first place I started learning Japanese. I was hoping it would be good, even though the course was still in beta, since a lot of people recommended DuoLingo for self-study. However, it didn't live up to my expectations.

Fortunately, I downloaded the LingoDeer app at the same time as DuoLingo and started using them together. So when the course got too confusing and frustrating, I knew it wasn't my lack of understanding or Japanese's legendary difficulty that was to blame for my struggles. This course just isn't very beginner friendly, which is really unfortunate for a program that caters to new learners.

The Japanese course has awesome contributers who are working hard to improve and expand what is offered so I have hope that it will improve over time. In the mean time, I've switch to using other options.

On the plus side, DuoLingo's community is the best :-)

July 12, 2018

The LingoDeer Japanese course is developed by experienced Japanese as second language teachers. It teaches Japanese grammar and vocabulary from JLPT N5 with interactive exercises and recordings of native speakers. More lessons up to N3 are coming soon!

Get it when it's still 100% free!

This makes me assume it will not always be free. That's so sad.

July 14, 2018

Is it though? I mean, at some point people are actually going to need to make some money in order to provide content. It's just that we've been conditioned to think that everything on the interweb needs to be free.

LingoDeer is such a good site - I would hate to see it go under because of lack of funding.

July 15, 2018

I am looking forward to when the Japanese course is expanded. Being such a nuanced language, and the hardest of the hard for most English native speakers according to the Foreign Services Institute, it is not surprising that people are struggling with it on a course still very much in its infancy.

For kanji dictionaries, I recommend Midori if one is fortunate enough to have an IOS device. (I have the app on my ipad. But, I believe there is also a version for iphone.)

Midori is hands down the most amazing Japanese app I've ever downloaded. And, I've downloaded a LOT of them. Once I downloaded it back when I was taking classes in Uni, it became my go to app for the rest of the time I was taking classes and even after.

PS Love your profile icon. :)

July 12, 2018

Just checked: you need iOS 10 or higher in order to use Midori. Dang.

July 13, 2018

i feel the same xD i think lingodeer is better in that sense i started learning japanese on duolingo but i left it by a while because i wasn't understanding so well and even the notes arent too clear so im studying in both,duolingo and lingo deer , i search songs and topics by google,i take notes on my notebok and i use a dictionary online too. i recommend you search in different ways not only duolingo. because duolingo is still beta and the exercises start like if you will have all that knowledge xD. so fight! if you want to learn japanese by yourself :3 (the korean course it's the same in that sense xD)

July 12, 2018
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For a long time, Japanese was one of a few languages that Duolingo knew everyone wanted, but wouldn't do because it just didn't fit well into the Duolingo system. Within that context, I think the team did a good job, but Duolingo was designed for teaching languages quite similar to each other, and it shows.

July 13, 2018

I totally agree with you that this course, in its present form and shape, is not suitable as an introduction to the Japanese language. However, if you already know the basics of Japanese, I find it valuable as a drilling tool.

For beginners, I recommend "Human Japanese" (beginner and intermediate) from Brak Software. It's the best learning software I've ever come across. And it is cheap - and available on all platforms.

Greetings from Oslo, Norway

July 13, 2018

One of the things that bothers me about this course is that it is aimed at new learners and only covers N5 level material, but you basically need to already have an N5 level understanding of Japanese to be comfortable using it. If you are an absolute beginner, there is not enough guidance to properly understand what you are learning and if you are an intermediate learner, the lack of kanji and higher level grammar mean that this course will likely be too easy or feel dumbed down. There's only a relatively narrow window where you know enough basic Japanese to follow along with the lessons, but not so much that you are wasting your study time on stuff that you already know.

That being said, DuoLingo does work quite well as a drilling tool to practice your reading and grammar comprehension in a fun way. Just be sure to look elsewhere for the basics and more advanced grammar. And kanji.

July 13, 2018

I agree with both of you. I'd still consider myself a beginner, but I think using DuoLingo as a place to learn the hiragana/katakana characters (and associate them with their sounds of course) alongside another resource for more complex issues like grammar, kanji etc. has proved useful for me. For example, I'm using LinguaLift for Japanese lessons over there which explain everything wonderfully (and there are real teachers I can message if I have a problem) but instead of having to write out the kana to learn it (which of course can be useful but not always convenient) I like to go here as an alternative. It's not really about relying on one place to learn but rather a variety of places, and using each resource in a way most appropriate.

August 1, 2018

I read a post from an admin a few days ago that the Japanese course was being improved to be more beginner friendly as well as being expanded to cover N4 material. They are also looking for two more people to work on the Japanese course so they can come out with more content quicker.

July 14, 2018

I am an experienced Duolinguist, studied French, Latin and Russian at high school and finished the German and Swedish trees on Duolingo. I am new to Japanese apart from a few words picked up from Aikido and Japanese restaurants. I could not read any Japanese before Duolingo. I joined the Japanese beta as soon as it was available. I agree that it has flaws, and I frequently had to research topics that it did not explain. I used Google Translate to "cheat" and Wikipedia and Wasabi to figure out grammar issues that I didn't understand. I used a web flash app to learn hiragana and an iOS app (Kanji Teacher) to practice hiragana. I'm still learning Katakana and I recognise some Kanji in context. I see Japanese on Duolingo as a kind of puzzle, (and also find it a bit like reverse polish notation in a calculator - if anyone remembers that!). I have managed to get about 60-80% through the tree but I did run aground at one point and had to go back a ways and start over. My main issue is still when I ask for hover help and get a kanji that I don't recognise when the only words on offer are in kana. I think this has become a bit better now that there are kana in parentheses. I also know that I have to learn to write in order to remember, but people advise not to just try to copy as the stroke order will be wrong. I use the Kanji Teacher iOS app which teaches stroke order for all 3 alphabets. I will say that I got further with Duolingo than any other method, simply because I can work with it at odd times on iOS and it records progress. I had the Human Japanese app and did not get far with it - I may go back to it now.

July 14, 2018

When is it supposed to be really confusing? I have just completed time 3, and i haven't had too big problems yet. When there's something I don't understand, then I look at the discussion for that question, and usually someone from the community has explained it :)

July 13, 2018

Do you use any other resources beyond DuoLingo? If not, you might want to branch out a little, especially for learning more about grammar. Even with the updated lesson notes and discussion threads, grammar is a weak point of this course,

Japanese grammar is logical, but fairly complex and it differs quite a bit from English. Short simple practice sentences are not too difficult to work out at first, but the deeper you go in Japanese, the more you need to understand about what's really going on "behind the scenes", if you take my meaning. The English translations provided by DuoLingo are usually natural, rather than literal, and can frequently mask the underlying grammar in the Japanese sentence, even if they convey the same overall meaning.

One of the dangers with relying on DuoLingo to learn the basics is you may think you know a lot more than you actually do about how it all fits together. The discussion sections do help with the obvious pitfalls, but sometimes you don't know enough yet to ask the right question .. or even realize that you should be asking a question!

July 13, 2018

I also use lingodeer besides Duolingo. I heard lingodeer explains those things pretty well, right? :)

July 14, 2018

Ah, yes. I'm not saying this as someone using it to learn Japanese by itself as much as I am someone who is well into learning Japanese. I already know a lot about the language and own many textbookstudents on it.

July 13, 2018

Have some lingots for your troubles

July 13, 2018

I'm still in the early stages of learning Japanese, however my strategy for this website is to use it for both revising the kana scripts and to learn some new vocabulary along the way. Alongside this, I'm paying for lessons from LinguaLift (which explains everything wonderfully - I recommend it) and gathering various other free resources along the way. Maybe some recommended textbooks I'll buy at some point.

I noticed rather quickly that the DuoLingo Japanese course was not going to be beginner friendly. It's not really their fault, but the platform just isn't designed for more complex languages such as Japanese. There are many things that are confusing if not explained and whilst this is the case in European languages as well it's just not to the extent of a language like Japanese. For example - stroke order, and tenten + maru explanations.

August 1, 2018
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