https://www.duolingo.com/june_x

Some Criticisms / Feature Requests (Furigana, Kanji Recognition)

june_x
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I'm not sure where to write this as I'm new to the Duolingo community, but here I go.

I've been using other Japanese resources for a while, and I wanted to brach out and find a more streamlined course like what you might find in a Japanese textbook (Genki comes to mind), except online. Duolingo has been perfect for this. However, there are a few things which I find are complicating my learning experience with Duolingo, so far.

FURIGANA

It's very difficult to read a long string of hiragana, especially in Japanese sentences, and I'm sure many people would agree. Real Japanese just doesn't look like that in 99% of cases, because, like it or not, Kanji is partly there to make the language more legible. It's essential, and Duolingo choses not to use them for some of what I've seen so far.

Fluent reading of a language involves recognising the shape of a word rather than reading every letter. Even right now, you're recognising the shape of English words rather than really reading them. It's the same in Japanese, and so learning and recognising e.g. 私 as "わたし" in Japanese sentences means you are learning to recognise a different shape to what is actually used. The longer you choose to ignore the Kanji for a word, the more surprising it will be when you finally take a look.

So... Replace all the hiragana words with their Kanji? No, that would be unreasonable. It's obvious why Duolingo chose to do this - it's for beginners. Going into Japanese with Kanji and all would be really impractical without readings. So perhaps a good solution for all parties would be to use Kanji + furigana!

With furigana you can satisfy...

  • People who don't know any Kanji: They can keep learning new words in hiragana, while also acknowledging the Kanji. As I touched on before, that acknowledgement goes a long way in recognising the word in the long run.
  • Intermediates and veterans who know some or all Kanji, and want to study more, or just remember them better: The Kanji they already know will be there for them, with the furigana present as a quick reminder if they need it. It doesn't matter much why veterans would necessarily be here - it's just a bonus point - but there's got to be plenty of intermediates here who have tried different methods of learning Japanese that only got them halfway, and they need to start over or try out something else.

KANJI RECOGNITION

Some of the answers I have given in Duolingo lessons have been marked wrong because of the use of Kanji. When it happens, it's quite disheartening. I use Duolingo primarily on a laptop, and so I use a Japanese keyboard which automatically writes Kanji in place of hiragana. I'm always having to press the arrow keys to switch words back into hiragana just in case Duolingo marks me wrong, and that means my keyboard starts auto-correcting to Kanji less elsewhere. This is another big issue, at least for me.

I have little doubt the devs are aware of this, and are probably working hard to add all the Kanji answers in so that they aren't marked wrong, but I still want to address it, as it is a problem I've faced.

Everyone is of course welcome to disagree with me on these things. I am new after all, and possibly ignorant of why things are the way they are here (as far as you're concerned).

Other than these things, this is a great site and the Japanese content is solid. I've started learning Danish too because of Duolingo. There aren't many Danish resources out there. Thank you for a great experience.

2 weeks ago

15 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Swisidniak
Swisidniak
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While I'd love furigana, it has been addressed a while back that due to the way that Duo itself is set up it's currently just not doable. Japanese has been one of the most time-consuming expensive languages to program on here because of the multiple writing systems as it is and adding furigana (as well as making multiple answers acceptable in the listening exercises) is out of the course contributor's abilities. While they'd be great things to have, they're pretty low on the overall site's priority list.

For the kanji - Up until earlier this year almost no kanji at all were accepted, but now I very rarely run into a question that still marks it wrong. If it doesn't, make sure you hit the report button on the question to have your answer put up for review and added to the list of acceptable answers. As I mentioned though, due to Duo's programming the listening questions specifically are only designed to accept one very specific answer as it doesn't take into account the many ways something can be written in Japanese specifically. This has been reported to staff by the contributors but there's currently no timeline for if/when this error will be fixed.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/june_x
june_x
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Thank you for your reply, and to everyone else for theirs. That makes a lot of sense. The course contributors are doing a great job and I just want to give my thanks again to everyone involved.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Esen.
Esen.
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Currently, Luke is working on the Japanese Tree V2 with his team. The content will be of N4 level with about 400-500 kanji, so we'll see if they add Furigana or not.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PotatoSanta
PotatoSanta
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N4 is pretty low I think they could aim for N2 at the highest. I wish Duolingo would attempt teaching people to a decent level rather than just adding introductory language and basic phrases.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Paul.II
Paul.II
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Being fluent in both passive and active part of the language, even if it's still at the N4*) level, is actually pretty good, IMO.

*) Comparing DL to JLPT is kind of pointless as on DL there are types of questions that you will never be given on the JLPT exams.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chaos_Hawk

I agree with pretty much everything you posted. Furigana would be amazing, and full Kanji recognition is a must.

This course got out of beta somewhat recently (I was there for beta) and it has made some progress so far, but I agree that further development is needed. I wonder how much they can "break" the way Duolingo works to customize the Japanese course, as I feel the format needs to be presented perhaps a bit differently than some other languages. (Furigana would be a good example)

Looking forward to the next version of the tree, which should come out "soon". Also have been seeing posts requesting more contributors to join in working on the Japanese course, so I suppose we'll see.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PotatoSanta
PotatoSanta
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First year elementary school students know more Kanji than what Duolingo is teaching, the users here are definitely capable of learning more. I think they should add a more reasonable amount if they don't it could actually make things harder as people will be used to hiragana and katakana and will struggle when overloaded with unfamiliar kanji. Japanese is fourth on the list now so I think it is important that they extend the course a lot as I don't think the level and amount of language is currently sufficient.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ehartz
ehartz
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Our current purview is adding kanji and grammar up to the N4 level for the new tree. It's certainly possible that later iterations of the tree might go up to higher JLPT levels, but currently we're following the recommendations of the JLPT regarding what are and are not acceptable kanji for the N4 level. If you have issues with that, perhaps you should take it up with the Japanese Ministry of Education? That's really outside our level of influence at this time.

There are certainly limits to an automated grading system, but once you've gotten a good foundation in hiragana and basic Japanese grammar and kanji, there are tons of textbooks out there that can help you achieve higher JLPT levels. Happy studying!

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Esen.
Esen.
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Or, you know, they could also get TEXTBOOKS if they are taking this language seriously.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PotatoSanta
PotatoSanta
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So in other words "go elsewhere if you want to learn Japanese"? Duolingo has the potential to teach a lot of language to people who want to learn seriously but is gradually simplifying everything. The Japanese course so far only covers the very basics and not really enough to be useful.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ehartz
ehartz
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You say that as though it's a bad thing, but I don't think that's true. Even for its most developed languages, Duolingo can't be a singular source for learning a language if you want to attain fluency. An automated system with language courses created by volunteers has limitations, just as all kinds of different sources have advantages and disadvantages. But I think that the fact that Duolingo can give you a taste of a lot of different languages and let you know what you might want to pursue further in a more rigorous setting (and perhaps pay for formal courses in!), especially since Duolingo is free, is such an amazing advantage of Duolingo's service. None of Duolingo's courses are perfect, and of course there's room for criticism of basically every course, but to say that you'll have to consult other sources to attain a high level of proficiency in a language as if it's a bad thing really overestimates what you can expect from a free website, in my opinion.

Also, Duo's Japanese language course is growing as are so many other language courses on this site. None of the courses have been perfect or comprehensive right out of the gate, but even some of the more basic courses have been adding more material and getting better all the time.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chaos_Hawk

Thank you so much for helping out with the Japanese course, ehartz!

All I can offer back is a simple Lingot.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Paul.II
Paul.II
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So in other words "go elsewhere if you want to learn Japanese"?

To be brief, yes.

To be less brief, you are living a dream if you think that one source/place is sufficient for you to attain good language skills.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PotatoSanta
PotatoSanta
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I don't know what's wrong with my comments, unless people are misunderstanding them.

I never meant to sound rude about the Japanese course, I am glad it is there. I also never meant to say that Duolingo should be the only place to learn from. I use several other resources for each language I study. But look at Hawaiian and Navajo. If Duolingo stops where they are now people will be disappointed as they so far only give the very basics. I would just like to see Japanese complete and teaching as much as possible and not going in the direction of only giving introductory language. I think most people would want to get as much as possible out of whichever resource they are using.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ehartz
ehartz
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Why would you think Duo plans to keep Hawaiian and Navajo at their current length? The length of the Hawaiian course has already doubled since it was first introduced, and I'm fairly certain there are plans to expand the Navajo course as well. Japanese also has a new tree in the works, and I don't doubt that there will be room for further improvement even after the new tree is released.

We all want the courses here to be as good as they can be, but perhaps it's a matter of phrasing? Most of us are here, I hope, because we love Duolingo and what it has to offer, but I'm sure we all have our own criticisms of the different courses. But when your comments can be read as overly negative or snarky - which may not be your intention, but remember that people have to infer your tone on the internet! - not everyone is going to appreciate what you have to say, even if they may agree with your sentiments.

2 weeks ago
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