[Feature request] Grammar rules not explained? Chinese being taught wrong?

I like Duolingo and I have learned multiple languages mainly as a test. I am already learning Chinese for more than a year now on my own and with my language partner(s) and am going back to Duolingo because I want to give it a try again.

I used Duolingo at the beginning of my Chinese studying and I do find that it does not explain any grammar rules at all, which is definitely the most important thing in a language. I do find this with multiple languages. For example, one of the most common rules in the Chinese language is when the character "bù" 不 is followed by another character with the same tone, a fourth tone (falling tone), then "bù" 不 is pronounced "bú" 不 second tone (rising tone). Example: "bù shì 不是" is pronounced as "bú shì 不是".

In the beginning I thought I could trust one of the most popular language apps for explaining rules like this but I had to find out about all these rules by language partners mentioning this to me when I pronounced them wrong in conversations. I've had it with many rules, not just this one.

My language partner is learning Dutch and the Dutch language has really difficult grammar, yet she is experiencing the same thing: No grammar is explained so she has to ask me or do research on the grammar.

As a software engineer myself I know the amount of work it takes for this to be made and I could assume the time it takes for this to be done, yet I would like to request here by this as an upcoming feature. Now that I've studied more than a year and have knowledge of a lot of rules within the Chinese language I am doing well in the app, but as a beginner you want an app that helps you getting over that first threshold to start a language. I do think Duolingo is a wonderful way to get to this threshold, but going to an intermediate level is not an option at all because grammar is simply not explained here.

A second issue that is in the app that is linked to this issue is (only and specifically the Chinese language) the pinyin in the app is written as the pronunciation. In your first lesson you will learn how to say "Hello" in Chinese which is written in the app as "níhǎo" and this is correct when it comes to pronunciation but in China you have pronunciation being a completely different thing than writing, so when writing you should still write "nǐ hǎo" and when pronouncing you apply grammar rules to this word and you will end up pronouncing this correctly. This part is being done wrong in many apps and it annoys me a lot, because in the beginning I had a really hard time figuring out the Chinese language via Duolingo. I thought there were multiple versions of saying "Hello" because in Duolingo I would see "níhǎo" but on other language platform I would see "nǐ hǎo" which confused me so much so I had to ask my language partner again who explained the rule of the "third tone" within the Chinese language, which is: When having two characters next to each other with both being the 3rd tone, the first one becomes (in pronunciation) the second tone.

But again, because there is no grammar explained in Duolingo I sort of understand the reason for writing "ní hǎo" (where "ní" is marked a second tone) instead of "nǐ hǎo" (where "nǐ" is marked as a third tone), because if a student would pronounce this and knows about the tones in the language, they would pronounce it correctly, yet they would maybe think like me that there are multiple versions/meanings because a different tone means a different meaning when speaking Chinese.

I asked Chinese friends this as well and they do say this is something you have naturally as a native speaker to understand that "ní hǎo" is the same as "nǐ hǎo" but it's written in its pronunciation form. Because this comes naturally for Chinese people it doesn't get explained at schools that much. However, people use Duolingo to learn a different language besides their native language and I'm pretty sure this is the main target audience for Duolingo. Because of this target audience you should not learn languages in a way that native speakers learn it.

My Chinese friends pointed out the following, I quote: "In Chinese you write words separately in pinyin and when pronouncing them the combination of words will tell the actual meaning."

So, to recap, what I would suggest as upcoming features: - [any language] Implement "grammar explanation" within the app. I think this would be very useful when learning a new thing in the language or a word you know in a new context to explain why things are being done in this way instead of the way you used to know in the app. - [Chinese language] Write pinyin as the original word(s) including spaces. Write "nǐ hǎo" in the original written form with spaces and not as the pronunciation without spaces as in "níhǎo" like it is now. Foreigners learning the language will be confused by the grammar rules in the language reading in books or the internet versus the things they get taught in the Duolingo app. In combination with the "grammar explanation" feature you can take care of explaining rules. For example: clicking on the "nǐ hǎo" word/characters (or maybe a separate "show grammar" or "show pronunciation" button) in the app will show a popup explaining the pronunciation rules.

Thanks for your patience if you made it all the way to this part. I support Duolingo a lot so that's why I gave this feedback. I'd love to see something that no app is providing yet, as far as I've seen for the Chinese language.

October 28, 2018


A couple of examples from Duolingo Tips and Notes (make sure to click the lightbulb icon next to key icon):

Occupation Level


While 不 (bù) is usually pronounced with a 4th tone (like 骂 mà), it becomes a 2nd tone (like 麻 má) before another 4th tone.

不 + 4th tone

我不认识他们。 Wǒ bú rènshi tāmen. I don’t know them.

他们不是医生。 Tāmen bú shì yīshēng. They are not doctors.

不 + other tones

她不喝咖啡。 Tā bù hē kāfēi. She doesn’t drink coffee.

Nationality Level

When a 3rd tone is on its own, it dips and then rises again (for example, 马 mǎ). But when a 3rd tone is followed by anything other than another 3rd tone, the sound dips but doesn’t rise.

我是Duo。 Wǒ shì Duo. I am Duo.

五元 wǔ yuán five Yuan

October 28, 2018

Ah, thanks. This helped a lot!

October 28, 2018

Are you reffering to the app? There are tipps and notes on the desktop version.

October 28, 2018

I only see this on desktop when going into the first course of Chinese:

Besides that, there is still no grammar explained.

October 28, 2018

You don't access the grammar tips there. You find them by clicking on a skill and choosing the light bulb. You should find the explanations there.

October 28, 2018

In addition to the light bulb information, which I have to be honest I often forget in my hurry in to the task, and I agree a little more could go into duo, in the mean time I have found this an excellent grammar resource

October 30, 2018
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