她, 他, and 它 all sound identical (tā), but in listening exercises only one is accepted

The Chinese equivalents for he (他), she (她), and it (它) are all pronounced "tā", and yet in listening exercises, one of the three is correct, and the other two are wrong, even though native speakers have confirmed that there is in most cases no way to know which is correct without context, which obviously doesn't exist in isolated sentences as presented in Duolingo.

For me, this has been incredibly frustrating, as I tend to get literally most listening exercises with a pronoun wrong purely due to this problem, which I'm sure further causes problems with Duolingo's spaced repetition algorithm used in the "practice" feature, as constantly getting these questions wrong tells it that you don't know what you're doing when it comes to simple sentences.

This is a big problem. Not only does it greatly increase the frustration of learning Chinese, as basically any lesson will have at least a few listening exercises with these words which you're bound to get wrong about half the time (它 is used notably less than 她 and 他 in these exercises), it also breaks the "correct answer" streak in a lesson and triggers those emphatic prompts of encouragement when you get questions wrong, both of which decrease the gamification and motivation factors that keep me on Duolingo.

Further, as one can see by going through the comments on these exercises, I'm not the only one upset by this. For such a simple feature, this really needs to change. Talk about 80/20 tweaks where a small bit of additional work would yield huge improvements to Duolingo experience.

October 30, 2018


You are right, it's annoying. I wish the developers would change this problem in the Chinese course. I try to just remember the gender for that sentence so I can get it the second time around.

October 30, 2018

Listening exercises only accept a single correct solution in any language. This can also be a problem in French, where singular and plural verb forms often sound identical.
Unfortunately, I think it is a software constraint; if contributors were able to add multiple answers for audio homophones, I'm sure they would. DL needs to rewrite the software to add this facility for the issue to be fixed, and, as the vast majority of courses are not affected by it, this is probably not high on their agenda.

October 31, 2018

For some reason apparently staff can add additional responses for homophonous sentences but incubator contributors cannot. The French team has (at least mostly) sent along the additional versions, and they've (at least mostly) been added. (I cannot speak to the latest version of the French tree.)

October 31, 2018

At least in my experience with the French, you often have lots of clues. Do you hear "les" or "ces" instead of "le/la" or "ce/cet/cette"? Then you know it's plural. (Just for example). So I have problems quite rarely in the French listening exercises.

But in the Chinese ones, the use of 他/她/它 (especially the first two) is so common. And there's no grammatical change anywhere that reflects the gender (for example, adjectives are not inflected to agree with gender). So it's unfortunately very common to choose one form when the other is what was wanted, even when you hear every consonant, every vowel, every tone, correctly.

October 31, 2018

If there's a clue like those in French, then the issue doesn't arise. A valid example would be something like "Elle joue" vs. "Elles jouent" or "Il l'a vu" vs. "Il l'a vue." Obviously it comes up a lot in the French tree. It's just that it's been dealt with. It might well be even a bigger issue as a percentage of the sentences in the Chinese tree, which, means, well, they ought to do something about it ;) My point is that there's precedent for that "something" having been done in other trees.

October 31, 2018

They could at least alleviate the problem by using the male pronoun, which is the intuitively expected "default" in cases of ambiguity.

November 2, 2018

他 is acceptable for both "he" and "she" but 它 is only for "it". As a native speaker i gotta say It's really weird that only one of them is correct. At least 2 of them

December 10, 2018

When I saw this post, I hoped there might be some information here about when this problem will be fixed. It is a huge problem for the listening exercises in Chinese.

At least can we choose listening exercises that don't involve 他她它until the problem is fixed properly!?

January 26, 2019

Thanks for posting this. I generally enjoy the listening comprehension exercises and find them hugely important (after all, I would like learn to understand spoken and not just written Chinese), but this issue keeps tripping me up. It's a bit frustrating, as well as against the purpose of listening comprehension, to have to rote-learn sentences just to be able to pick the right character.

Admins, could you please modify the exercises so they accept both 他 and 她 where appropriate? And/or add a way of reporting these issues as they come up?

March 27, 2019
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