For Tips and Notes, We Need Your Input!

As some of you may be aware, the Japanese team is in the preparation stages of releasing a second version of the Japanese-for-English-speakers course. We would like your help to improve our Tips and Notes so that they're extremely good upon release.

Here's what you can do to help:

  • Check out our existing Tips and Notes. On the website only, click on the lightbulb shown here:


  • Please review the existing material for clarity and tell us how it can be improved.
  • Please let us know if there are any grammatical points that we introduce but do not explain in sufficient detail.
  • Please let us know if anything else (in the Tips and Notes) is awkward, aesthetically unappealing, or otherwise can be improved.

Please write your comments in the space below.

Thank you for your help in this! We're looking forward to the release as much as you are!


〜 The Japanese-for-English Team

February 10, 2019


My two cents:

A few generalities:
-I would keep the "Kanji in this skill" section throughout the course. I think it's very useful.
-Kanji compounds show up quite early in the course, but the concept of how they work isn't ever really explained.
-The verb system needs a better explanation. Maybe an overview over the basic structure of it early in the course and go into depth once the specific forms are introduced. For example, the past tense skill speaks about the negation -masen that is mentioned before, but not explained. The "Health" skill introduces the short past form, but no skill explains the short present/dictionary form. Or even what that is. Or what the short past tense is in contrast to the "long" past tense (-mashita).

On individual skills:
-Is it an option to show the Kana in the 50 sounds table? It might be helpful if learners are used to that from early on.
-Maybe make it clearer that the descriptions of the sounds are approximate and not a one-to-one match with English.
-Maybe add that the IPA [j] matches the English y
-The dakuten table should include “chi” to “ji” as an exception in the “T-row”.
-In the Kanji-section, readings are shown including the endings the verb would take, separated by a dot. The idea that a kanji only represents the stem of the word, but that endings have to be added for verbs and adjectives hasn’t been introduced at all and should probably be explained before teaching signs to which it applies.
-With so many possible meanings, you might want to include some examples for how to use the particle “de”.
-Nitpick: “…the phrase meaning “not” is added…” implies that the reader knows what this phrase is. Not a big thing, but confusing for a second.

Hope that helps.

February 10, 2019

I agree that including more information about the verb system is vital. I think showing how formulaic and regular verb conjugation is (especially in comparison to some Indo-European languages) will help retain learners on the course; for a language as different from English as Japanese, having students realize that some parts aren't nearly as difficult will help keep them motivated. Also the fact that Japanese uses verb conjugations for some things we usually use other words for (such as negation, capability, etc.) might take some getting used to.

February 11, 2019
  • It would be great if the tips and notes will have a list of the words that will be used in the lesson. And the list would give the definition of the word and maybe example usage of the word as well.

  • Also, if possible Kanji + Furigana would be amazing.

February 10, 2019

that is a great idea have a lingot

February 10, 2019

I am doing this course with prior knowledge.

What I might've done is this: Tip 1) Start with ONLY learning Hiragana and Katakana (seperate section) at the start, so begninners can know the alphabets. No kanji involved until you have a good grasp of these two alphabets.

Tip 2) Furigana as an optional "hover over to read" tool (even if choosing Japanese to make sentences). For anyone learning or re-learning kanji, this would be handy (even for myself). Kanji often have multiple pronunications, if nor multiple meanings... that hinders your learning ability if you have never been taught an alternate pronunciation and suddenly the kanji you recognize isn't pronounced the way you recognize, but have to type what you hear. (It really makes the ppl who give those who know the language an advantage, and that's not exactly the point of learning).

Tip 3: Quit breaking up words when you don't need to I hate having to look for a single letter multiple times when forming a sentence, if it's not a particle. It will speed up the time it takes to form the sentences.

Tip 4: Grammar, Verbs and Adjectives (Endings) Would love to see a Grammar section and sub sections on these with it.

Tip 5: "Intro to Particles" section If there was a bit of a "intro to particles" to go with it (and explain particles for those still new to the grammar), that'd help those just starting out. A subsection solely for "fill in the blanks" to practice particles would be great! I loved those worksheets when I was studying Japanese for the first time, since the sentence was there; you just have to know what particle(s) fit in based on the context.

Tip 6: Slow down the vocal pronunciations for the "slow" version Sometimes the voices are still not slowed enough to be sure you've heard correctly. I've had times I've "misheard" a few letters due to the vocals sounding slurred. That can make a big difference in what I type in my answer.

Those are some of the ideas I have to improve the course. Sorry, this is kinda long, but I wanted to add my two cents.

February 10, 2019

My only suggestion is to see the Tips and Notes ported to the iOS and Android apps and include audio for kana, Kanji, example words and sentences in the notes.

February 10, 2019

We volunteers have no control over this, I'm afraid.

February 10, 2019

Explanations for the

Topic particle は - As for..../Speaking of.../Speaking about.../About..., etc.

The identifier/subject particle が - is/am/are the one(s) that...

The state-of-being です and the declarative だ, and why these two do not mean the same thing.

February 10, 2019

Do compounds always use the onyomi? What is a compound and how do I know something is a compound?

Related to Tips & Notes:

Why is 九つ and others pronounced differently than how it is written? Could we get more info on what is happening here?

Related to Tips & Notes: (I think)

February 10, 2019

Those are good questions that I think the team should answer :)

To your first question, no. There are compounds (words written with more than one kanji, to answer your second question) read with kun'yomi—family names are a common example—and some compounds even mix on'yomi and kun'yomi readings together or have a reading unique to the compound that doesn't come from the individual kanji. That said, though, the majority of compounds are read with the on'yomi readings.

Speaking of the on'yomi and kun'yomi difference, that's what you're seeing with the numbers being pronounced differently with the counter つ after them: the pronunciations are really the kun'yomi readings, and つ is technically the okurigana for that reading. (The okurigana are the part of the reading after the dot when kun'yomi readings are introduced. To give an English example, we don't pronounce 1st, 2nd, and 3rd as "onest", "twond", and "threerd", but "first", "second", and "third".)

February 13, 2019

Thank you for the info! This is really helpful!

February 14, 2019

Grammar lessons, please ^^

February 10, 2019

I went through each one, and here are my notes

Hiragana 1, 2, 3, 4, kanji intro 5

Ad the ability to click on each kana to get the sound. Many languages don’t have this, but there are some examples like this: The Question Marker Adding question marker か at the end will make the affirmative (positive) sentence into question. If the sentences end in ~です, it’s easy to formulate questions by using ~ですか。 Note: As with English, when a sentence changes from positive to a question, the intonation of the sentence changes with a rise in tone at the end of the sentence. Pronouns Pronouns are relatively rare often ommited in Japanese, but they are sometimes used to explicitly specify the subject or topic of a sentence. Below are some of the most common ones.

Common pronouns

Less common: わし for old men, 私(pronounced あたし) for women, condescending お前, 俺 informal for men

I can understand not wanting to introduce too many readings of a kanji at once for ones that have multiple readings. But wondering if you want to add: 行・く 、ゆ・く After the introduction of Japanese counting words, or counters, it would be nice to have even a brief table of the more common counters, like: 一本、ニッ本 = round things 一枚、二枚 = flat things 一冊, 二冊 = books 一台、二代 = cars and things 一匹、二匹 = animals (not birds)

Large Numbers Japanese has certain conventions for writing large numbers. Below are the kanji and readings for a few of them that will be introduced in this lesson. Add more description about how counting works in Japanese. In Japanese large numbers are expressed by multiples of ten thousand (一万), so while 100,000 is expressed in English as a multiple of 1000, the same number in Japanese is expressed as a multiple of 10,000, or 十万 (ten 10,000). One million is expressed as 百万. When い-adjectives are switched from positive to negative, they undergo a spelling change. The characteristic い-ending switches to a く、and the phrase meaning "not" is added to the end. The formula is く+ない [です]. The final result is an ending such as くないです。See the example below.

Weather - No notes Food 2 - No notes Direct. 1 - No notes Dates - No notes Shopping - No notes People - No notes Nature - - No notes Classroom - - No notes Objects - - No notes

Shopping 2

The introduction of keigo could use some expansion and explanation. In this case, while shopping, the merchants will always use a polite language with shoppers お客様. Things like 召し上がりますか。。。 might confuse the new learner of Japanese that is expecting a more familiar word.

The explanation is a good start, but a few examples and context might be helpful.

Class 2 - No notes The Short Past Form The short past form is made by taking the て-form of the verb and replacing with た or だ. Note: also known as the informal.

February 11, 2019

More explanations of verb groups and their conjugation, please. Like this poster did here ( ).

Maybe breaking the tenses up by lesson, to make it more less of an info dump but that would be valuable, I think.

February 10, 2019

There's no explanation for adjective linking, and it's not made clear why a で goes after a な-adjective and before another adjective.
There should also be an explanation for the ~たほうがいい (you should do ~) (as seen in もっとうんどうしたほうがいいですよ。)
Edit: the family skill should also mention that honorific forms are often used when a younger family member is talking to an older family member (although it varies with how close the two are).
2/12/19: The Dates skill should also include how to pronounce 十四日 and 二十四日。

February 10, 2019

Since you are asking here are my two cents:

  • Be very careful about explaining grammatical concepts, for example progressive form ~ている. I've seen a few mistakes, or rather over-generalizations, in the Tips and Notes. ~ている is not equal to English "-ing". It means different things when applied to action verbs and stative verbs.

  • Be consistent. If you accept something as a possible translation but mark the same translation as wrong in the next example, it's ruining the experience.

  • Consider NOT breaking up kanji composites in word banks. I'm not sure if it's technically possible but breaking up composites leads to incorrect pronunciations, because the voice reads only one part of the composite at a time, resulting in kun'yomi pronunciation when it should have been an on'yomi one. An example would be pronouncing 人 as "hito" in 人口 due to separation of kanji in the word bank.

  • I would recommend checking consistency of difficulty in the Japanese tree. For all lessons. So we avoid situations when we're talking about purple hats being cute and the next thing we know we're calling a Japanese friend whom we met a long time ago on a trip to Shibuya. This kind of sudden difficulty jumps can be very confusing and scary to beginners.

  • Please check last parts of the tree thoroughly. There are many examples of cringe-worthy sentences, especially in the so-called "Subculture" lesson. Like "me and my friend are otakus", which are neither relevant nor useful.

February 14, 2019

it would be nice if the hiragana words ( like wind and dog ) were used in the later lessons, so that they would become more memorized

February 11, 2019

I only just found the "tips" section at all and honestly it should be presented before every lesson.

The first Japanese lesson source I used was the NHK program, and they do a nice job of introducing some basic grammar ideas with each sentence. With Duolingo I feel just thrown into the deep end, quizzed on material that is never presented.

For example, lessons start using the construction of "not" but it is never explained, and the use of the words "ka" and "desu" are also not brought up.

I have no idea how the different writing systems interact and it's not explained when a new character is introduced with the same sound as the old why that is.

I would like to see more mnemonic tips for remembering which character is which - and expanding the section that shows how dakuten and handakuten change the consonant but build on the characters you already know would be helpful.

There are times in the quizzes where two characters make sounds that seem identical but one is correct and one is not and I never understood why.

If you are able to have the tips page include audio I think that would be wonderful, so you can hear the sounds. Hiragana 4 has a lot of important ideas and being able to hear the difference would be helpful.

I very much appreciate the tables that list every new character/word introduced for that lesson. If audio cannot be provided on the page, it would be wonderful if the english transliteration was also there.

I found the Intro 1 tips page baffling. I don't know enough to be able to tell you how to improve it. :-)

Thanks for all you do!

February 10, 2019

The Lesson Notes should be presented before each lesson, but unfortunately that's outside of the volunteer's control. It's something I believe Duolingo should incorporate but for now the user must decide to use them.

February 14, 2019

this has nothing to do with this but can you add a few katakana and kanji skills

February 13, 2019

I am continuing with the course. There are several problems. 1. I know that characters are not always one to one with pronunciation. There are a number of times the you have to remember what pronunciation goes with what character but the audio is another character. 2. I do like the exercises, but often I am confused as to why a 'ni' phrase is put in the front of a sentence and can also be arranged correctly to the second half of a sentence. 3. Grammar notes are not to good, I am working my way through 'LingoDeer' as a supplement to this course. LingoDeer notes are short and concise.

February 10, 2019

Can you introduce some more kanji in the notes?

February 11, 2019

i recomend some mangás with easy to read, if u want know, i can send it to u.

February 14, 2019

Can you do Japanese lessons for french speakers please ?

February 12, 2019

In the feeling skill, the ん in sentences like どうしてつまらなかったんですか?isn’t really explained, and I remember I was really confused by it.

February 12, 2019

When used for explanations (adding explanatory tone) and seeking for explanation from others, the の-particle, its contradiction ん and their uses 「-の、-のだ/-んだ、-のです/-んです、-のですか/-んですか」could definitely benefit from further explanation in the tips.

Here is a link to Tae Kim’s guide’s chapter 3.11.5 to understand this grammar point.

February 12, 2019

The lessons where a counter is introduced show tables with how the counters are read with numbers and usually bold irregular readings, which is an idea I think is very good. Keep it in the next version :)

The below only covers up to Activity 2 (which is how far I'm currently down): - Hiragana 4/Intro 1: How you teach the dakuten and handakuten with the different sets of kana is inconsistent across these two lessons. You give a simplified explanation in Hiragana 4, while in Intro 1, you give pronunciation keys for each individual katakana with dakuten/handakuten. From a pedagogical point of view I like the way in Intro 1 better, but a slight expansion to cover ch, ts, and sh might help newcomers to Japanese phonetics (since it may not be transparent that those sounds are really just allophones of t and s).

  • Intro 2: You say you introduce six kanji, but only three are in the table in the "Kanji from this Skill" section. Did you mean the table to include the ones from the pronouns table?

  • Restaurant: I would include some sort of note that the Japanese group large numbers by fours instead of threes. As written, I see a small chance of misleading learners into incorrectly believing that there's a kanji for every single power of 10.

  • Activity 1: Present and future have their own rows when they could be collapsed into a single row (since the ending is the same for each).

  • Position: The table entries are a little confusingly formatted and makes me think that the particles are alternate readings of the kanji which they follow. Since there's no support for furigana, I'd use parentheses instead of middle dots to indicate the kanji readings (like in the Clothes skill, for example).

February 13, 2019

Try and aline the Kanji of each level to that of the Japanese Proficiency Test, as best you can.

February 15, 2019

What I'd like to see in the Tips & Notes are explanations why certain answers are incorrect. E.g. for "Let's play soccer this weekend", another user reported that "今週末、サッカーをしましょう" should be accepted 12 months ago, but it's still not accepted. I'm still baffled as to why this isn't a valid translation, and I feel it should be explained. There are many other examples.

I'd also like to see the tips and notes introduce some new concepts that are currently missing (e.g. conditional sentences/"if", sentences expressing obligation/"must"/"have to" etc., using more colloquial markers such as の to indicate a question etc.).

February 15, 2019

Look at how LingoDeer did their help. And please make the help available for the mobile apps on both Android and iOS.

February 16, 2019

I don’t think the contributors can do anything about the tips on the app.

February 16, 2019

I have just spotted a mistake in the “Activity 2” Tips and Notes: the verbs しめる and あける seem to have been switched (currently, the former is associated with the meaning “open”, while the latter is translated as “close”).

February 16, 2019
  • Explain okurigana early on (when it comes first in a lesson).
  • Explain particles with examples pointing out the differences.
  • Teach more kanjis and accept kanji versions in the lessons.
  • Not for tips and notes, but we should have dedicated Katakana lessons after the Hiragana lessons.
February 22, 2019

More kanji are already coming: If you're referring to the listening exercises, there is currently no way for the system to accept multiple forms of answers. Otherwise, report it and you should get a feedback email when they add it.

February 23, 2019

I didn't mean listening exercises especially. I meant accept more words written in kanjis, not only in hiragana. Many times the answer is accepted only when a specific word in a sentence is written in hiragana. These problems are almost always reported in the comments, but not always get fixed (even if it got reported months ago).

February 23, 2019

I think I’ve found a mistake in the tips of intro 1. The explanation to ラ seems wrong;

February 22, 2019

You can put images in your post using ![]() where a(n optional) title goes in the square brackets and a direct link to the image goes into the parentheses.
![Katakana ラ error]( becomes
Katakana ラ error

February 23, 2019

That seems useful, I want to try: Katakana ラ error

I failed.

February 23, 2019

Hiragana and katakana should have their own lessons. With the current course they are not explained enough. When doing some advanced lessons new katakana symbols are introduced but there is no clear distinction on what this symbol belongs to. This can be confusing for new learners since they learned from the beginning of the course that a symbol means something and then they are taught a different symbols means the same but they are not explained when they should be using each.

February 26, 2019

I got a preview of the new tips and notes the last day of February on the first few skills. They looked a lot like the format of the Spanish tips. Some graphics, some romaji - much easier for a beginner to grasp... and then... everything went back to the original format. Fingers crossed that this indicates the new course has locked and we are one step closer to the new tree!

March 3, 2019

There are occaisionally missing options in translating from english to japanese. Is this due to discrepancies in screen configuration hiding a line of choices? I find this quite infuriating, and wonder if I had an old style 4/3 shape screen, would all of the options then be visible. This problem needs to be fixed as, in my opinion, it seriously detracts from the integrity and efficiency of the duolingo teaching system.

April 29, 2019
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