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I like Duolingo's Approach to teach Devanagari Script

Somehow, I like Duolingo's approach to teach Devangari Script.

It may seem that you are trying to beat the software to get a good score, but the game approach with few letters at a time is more likely to stick.

Plus, your brain starts to understand patterns.

Just my 2 cents.

July 21, 2018



I don't like it. I think it has numerous deficiencies. Some of my thoughts:

  • It sometimes plays a sound and asks you to pick between two characters that are indistinguishable by sound
  • It often has you matching Devanagari characters to their romanizations
  • The "match this sound with its romanization" exercises I think are particularly unhelpful. I want to be avoiding the use of romanizations as much as possible; these exercises I find unnecessary and confusing.
  • There is a complete lack of sound-to-Devanagari-character associations. These are the exercise type I would find most useful.


I don't think it ever asked you to pick between two characters that are indistinguishable by sound. There is a subtle difference a lot of the time, and it's trying to get you used to picking up on the difference.


I can understand cazort. Duo is giving me a really hard time distinguishing e.g. between ṡa and s̄a when it only plays the sound. Same for the variations of ca.


They do. There are several other posts about this problem.


But sometimes the pronnuncion is very strange

  • 1330

Agree. Especially for the third point. Pointless


Matching the Devanagari and the romanization can be handy when someone needs to have the sound turned off, or can't hear it for some other reason...

[edited because I typed the wrong word earlier and it made no sense, sorry!]


I just took a look at the first lesson and had a hard time trying to figure out how the "phonetic spelling" was supposed to be pronounced. For me, it would have been easier and less confusing to simply learn the sounds for the Devanagari script without having to also learn their phonetic spelling, as the latter was not at all intuitive.


Learning the sounds for the Devanagari script is, by definition, learning their phonetic spelling. :)


But it's not. When he says "phonetic spelling," he is referring to the romanization. Knowing a romanized version of a language is not a necessary part of learning the sounds of that language and how they correspond to the characters of another script (in this case, Devanagari). After all, native speakers of Hindi don't need to learn the Latin alphabet in order to learn to read their native language.


Whoever is teaching people that "phonetic" automatically means "romanized" is misleading them.

From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phonetic :

Definition of phonetic

1 : representing the sounds and other phenomena of speech: such as

a : constituting an alteration of ordinary spelling that better represents the spoken language, that employs only characters of the regular alphabet, and that is used in a context of conventional spelling

b : representing speech sounds by means of symbols that have one value only

c : employing for speech sounds more than the minimum number of symbols necessary to represent the significant differences in a speaker's speech

2 a : of or relating to spoken language or speech sounds

b : of or relating to the science of phonetics

The Devanagari script is mostly phonetic the same way the Latin alphabet, Hiragana syllabary, etc. are mostly phonetic. :)

In comparison the Hanzi script, Kanji script, etc. are mostly not phonetic. :)


I understand what "phonetic" generally refers to, but I was trying to assert that his comment was talking about romanization. I couldn't tell from your original comment if you were interpreting what he wrote correctly. In fact, I still can't tell.

I did not mean to actually debate the definition, although re-reading your first comment makes it seem like you might've. Apologies.


BTW, you're totally right that native speakers of Hindi don't need to learn a foreign alphabet in order to learn to read their native language! :)

They do normally speak their native language for a few years before learning to read it. :) Think of everyone who learns to talk around 1-2 years old but doesn't start going to school and learning to read that early.

An adult or older kid trying to start learning a new language and start learning a new writing system at the same time isn't exactly in the same situation...


I would have prefered if one would connect words with letters e.g. start with आ then म and then you would get आम (mango). One would learn the connection of letters and at the same time learn a new word.

Right now I am struggling a lot because I have to deal with a new script and grammar and I just keep doing the practice part to "get" all the letters

[deactivated user]

    I like it, too :)

    [deactivated user]

      I also like the approach. I started figuring things out, so it seemed like a game.


      I do, too. I'm up to the second checkpoint now and I also like the logical and straightforward way they introduce new sentences. There are fewer silly sentences than in other courses that just confuse me as a beginner and there is enough repetition of new words to make sense. Compared to Korean it's a breeze. I really hope the course gets expanded to be as long as the others.

      [deactivated user]

        I'm fine with learning it but I also am looking forward to getting through to the practical application section. It will be the first time I've tried to master another language that has a completely different but phonetic writing system.

        [deactivated user]

          To all the people commenting here, really, let's see for trying the Slavic languages. Each letter has to be learned individually before teaching words.


          I prefer how the Duolingo Russian course works, which is that it doesn't use the character-based system for teaching the alphabet. Rather, it just throws you in, but it does have extensive written notes. There are great external resources for help with Russian.

          I would love for Duolingo to teach alphabets, but I don't like the way they do it. The courses that teach phonetic writing systems in-course, including Japanese, Korean, and now Hindi, I find don't work well for me.

          I'd rather they just leave me to learn the writing system off-site on my own, at some site that does a better job of it, and stick to doing what they do best, which is whole-sentence translations.


          You can do that. You can just learn the alphabet elsewhere and then test out the first 4 skills to quickly bypass them.

          The Cyrillic or Greek alphabets are way more simpler to learn for someone who knows the latin alphabet than Devanagari, Hangul or Hiragana so they could use another method which is faster and directly introduces words.

          BTW, it's one of the reason I didn't go far in the Hebrew course. It seemed too difficult for me without first learning the alphabet elsewhere (which was not a priority for me).

          (But I have to admit that after learning some basic Hiragana with Duolingo I turned out to other resources to really master it.)


          I would have preferred starting with a roman alphabet, but I know the way I learn and am more focused on getting the speaking down quickly than the script. I'm learning primarily so that I can communicate with my coworkers better, but learning the script at the same time will be equally valuable there, I'm sure. I also use Mango, Memrise and Clozemaster, and I get my needs as a learner met all in all. I'm very excited that Duolingo has finally released this course!

          [deactivated user]

            I hear you, as I started learning Hindi and Tamil on Facebook, primarily written in the approximative Roman alphabet. I respect if Duolingo wants to offer the traditional Devanagri for a 100% Hindi experience.


            Well, I still like Duolingo's approach. Makes you have deep understanding of how sounds are formed, and how to read and write as well!


            I do too. My only problem was apparently a common one with the ष श. My Hindi speaking coworkers couldn't tell either but said one was stronger--I think the first one? The rest required serious listening.


            I was wondering if there's a way to skip the alphabet? I may be going to India shortly, and due to the lack of time want to focus on vocab, and come back to the reading later.

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