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Duo is in dire need of the ability to understand Kanji

Now that I'm getting to the lower parts of the lesson tree here, it is becoming more and more apparent that this system cannot understand even some of the most basic Kanji characters - and it is really dampening the learning experience here. It is almost as if we need to not learn in order to satisfy Duo's learning requirements - and that is a major flaw, and it is really hurting the experience for me, when I am now getting several questions "wrong", only because Duolingo only knows how to read the Hiragana form of a sentence.

For example...

"I played with my friend yesterday."

In order to look a lot cleaner, one would want to write this for the translation:


Only, the problem is, Duolingo marks this as wrong, even though it most certainly isn't. Instead, Duolingo wants you to write this:


And that is the core problem with these later lessons, is that the more complex sentences we will need to translate and interpret, the more we will be having to use Kanji so that the sentence doesn't get completely drawn out without their usage. And this example is still one of the smaller sentences. But, instead of being able to do that, Duolingo forces us to instead take the drawn out, messy method, of using a lot more Hiragana. And it really sucks when you get something wrong just because you know what Kanji to use. This has been happening to me quite frequently now, and I think it's something that needs their attention, rather than doing things like adding in that new male voice they brought in.

January 23, 2019


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Most sentences currently accept kanji as alternate answers even if the kanji is not included in the default answer. For instance, 昨日は友達と遊びました is accepted as an alternate answer for きのうは友だちとあそびました...in the written exercises. Also, we (the contributors) are working on a Tree 2.0, which will be adding kanji up to the N4 level.

Currently, the listening exercises are only programmed to accept one very specific answer, and that is the "default" answer for the question, which will only use the kanji taught up to that point. We (the contributors) have no ability to change this currently for listening exercises, as it involves Duo's programming and not the information that we input. Unfortunately, Duolingo just wasn't initially designed for a language like Japanese, which has multiple alphabets. Duo's actual staff is looking into this problem.

In the meantime, if you find a sentence that doesn't accept a kanji answer that you think is correct, please send a report - but please understand that we get hundreds of reports every day, and many of them are incorrect or spam, so it may take us some time to get to your reports.

Hopefully Duo's staff can find a fix for the issue of listening exercises.

January 23, 2019


Regardless of the best intentions of contributors, as you point out, this is a problem Duo staff need to fix. And it is a problem. In fact, it’s a big problem. When you type in Japanese, the IME wants to convert hiragana to kanji automatically. In order to type only in hiragana you often have to undo the conversion. I remember finishing my tree was exceedingly frustrating and i often found myself swearing at my computer and walking away.

The fact that Duo gets hundreds of these reports and does nothing is telling, and a real problem. Duo lets contributors take all the crap and make all the excuses while donating free content, which I think isn’t right. Core staff need to address these corrections and quit pretending that it’s a non-critical cosmetic issue.

I know that no system is perfect, and I personally have greatly benefited from Duo a lot, but if Duo wants to be a robust language learning app capable of technological disruption to traditional classroom language learning, the error rate needs to go way down. Anything less is simply putting lipstick on a pig.

But again, I see this as a core Duo issue, not a contributor issue. It’s the contributors who always respond to these threads and contributors who fix things. Duo core staff need to address the language errors and error reports and address programming issues that cause correct answers to be rejected, as well as grammar notes, TTS issues etc, as the error rate is still too high, especially in regards to kanji recognition.

January 24, 2019


You can go in the keyboard settings and turn off "Live Conversion". This should stop the instant-kanji-conversion problem, but you'll need to press the space bar for every kanji you want to use.

January 25, 2019


I don't know what keyboard you are using but on my iPad, converting to kanji is an option, not a must. So, like AUZAZURZ is suggesting below, I just don't. No biggie.

January 25, 2019


If I'm not mistaking, the IME keyboard is for Windows. On iOS devices you can select the kanji just like other languages with the suggested words. If you use the default Japanese keyboard on a Mac, it stays on hiragana, until you hit the space bar.

January 26, 2019


I understand the problem with listening excercises, but I have a decision for you! Why don't you write all "right answers" by hiragana only, without using any kanjies? The result gonna be a bit ugly, but very convenient. I'm sure users like me who installed the japanese keyboard layout for training will be very grateful.

January 25, 2019


Clearly you’re missing the point here. If you want to do it all in hiragana, you Party on. For some of us this is a real issue. I actually use Japanese, and the IME remembers your conversions, so if you dumb down your IME and only use hiragana, the next time you actually use Japanese in real life it remembers what you did last.

But more than that, for those of us that know Japanese, it’s super annoying and frustrating to have correct answers rejected all the time. It’s just dumb. If all you know is hiragana then you might think this is a non issue. Also if you’re new to Japanese and trying to use kanji when you can, it’s also frustrating. It’s like telling the advanced students and highly motivated students to stop trying.

January 25, 2019


"For those of us who know Japanese" - aye, there's the rub. I don't think this introductory course is designed for people who know Japanese. And for those who don't know Japanese, kanji are but one of many new and difficult things to grapple with.

So I can't get too exercised about this issue. You, on the other hand, would probably be much happier with another method of learning.

January 25, 2019


I would agree except...kanji are the backbone of this language. No kanji, no Japanese, pretty much. It's like not knowing te-form or the differences between informal and informal speech...the latter of which Duolingo also doesn't teach. I'm sensing a pattern. I'm going to finish work and then read manga. :)

January 25, 2019


Which report option should we use in this case? There is no "my answer should be accepted" for listening exercises. The report options are:

The audio does not sound correct. The Japanese sentence is unnatural or has an error. The "Correct solution" is unnatural or has an error.

I suppose I could pick the last one. It is a little bit unnatural to write these words all in kana instead of kanji, but the hiragana is wrong, either.

I am a bit surprised there is no way in the system to define alternate spellings for dictation words. E.g., for people learning English, do they just always force American spelling and mark British spelling wrong?

Anyway, thank you ehartz for letting us know that the problem is known & that it is equally frustrating for those of you creating the exercises. I just wish the tech team could follow up!

July 21, 2019


I can agree with that. It does get difficult in the later parts of the current skill tree where you get a bunch of hiragana in a sentence, and it takes longer to read and interpret it. It doesn't help out at all if ambiguity takes over where you're used to seeing kanji.

At the same time, I can understand their approach of teaching Japanese, since kanji is one of the most difficult parts of learning Japanese, and it is easier to just have all learners progress with the same kanji set between checkpoints. It's a pain, but I think it's fair for all users.

January 23, 2019

[deactivated user]

    Truer words were never spoken. Especially if you end traveling to Japan. Traveling to Japan had always been one of my big dreams, as well as to understand everything that is written. But Japan uses kanji for almost everything, and the severe lack of it greatly bothers me.

    January 24, 2019


    I understand about 1000 kanji and the last skill tree is making me want to gouge my eyes out. The computerized voice doesn't put the right pauses between words either (it just sounds like one long string). Why can't we at least go up to N3? That's not unreasonable and only takes a few months to learn (on the Kanji side, at least).

    I am Jenni, submitter of incorrect reports. There have been improvements. Just...still...ack. 難しいね。全部を習っています、でも、使れていません。

    January 24, 2019


    We teach all those kanji in the next version of the tree. Have patience, and a 津波 of 漢字 will come your way.

    January 24, 2019


    Hi Luke, it's great to hear that you guys are working away. (I've also noticed you snuck quite a number of kanji in since the last time I did the lessons.)

    Fwiw, I like the new male voice!

    January 24, 2019


    This is why Duo isn't a good platform for learning Japanese from my experience. After the hiragana lessons I got lost with the sentences and words are unrecognizable without Kanji. I had to erase my progress in the course as a result.

    A good app for learning Japanese is lingodeer, which covers Kanji and goes more in depth but would require lifetime payment if you can afford it. It is $20 USD within the first 24 hours after registering last time I checked, after that the price jumps. They have discounts throughout the year though.

    January 24, 2019


    Lingodeer is for smartphone users only. I'm not so lucky. :(

    If kanji's your focus I recommend Kanshuudou. It's amazing and you can earn it free by studying (otherwise, $3/month). I haven't had to pay for it yet. 1000+ kanji in.

    January 25, 2019


    You may try the reverse Japanese to English tree - it is a bit more complicated and what is the best it uses all the kanji normally:) Being at intermidiate level in Japanese I also consider a bit funny the English to Japanese version:) Actually kanji are much better if one knows them.

    January 25, 2019


    i totally agree, this happens to me a lot too

    January 25, 2019
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