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Too much Kanji too fast on new Japanese tree.

Hi everyone. I am new to Duolingo and trying to learn Japanese, but finding the amount of writing right at the start is crazy! This is specific to the "New Japanese Tree" (since I just joined this week). From what I've read, this wasn't really an issue before.

I just learned Hiragana, and thought "great now I can move onto learning some vocab and sentences." I was happy to get Hiragana down, but really want to learn to speak the language. Instead, the very next lesson is on Katakana, and the 3 lessons after that focus on introducing Kanji. This seems like a crazy way to learn. It's not like children in Japan learn it all at once.

It would almost be better if there were two trees, one that was just phonetic, and one that taught Kanji.

I really like the website, but with the way this course is designed, I feel like I will have to go to another website to actually learn to speak and then come back here in a couple years for the Kanji.

[ I am not a complete noob, I have studied a few other languages elsewhere before, and learned some Japanese, I just don't see the logic in learning 3 systems of writing before I can understand what it is saying ]

June 24, 2019



This may just be me, but learning kanji actually helped me learn Japanese, because with kanji, it was easier for me to tell which of the many homophones is used in which sentence, and even where words stop sometimes. I know it feels like they're hitting you with a lot right from the start, but avoiding it will only delay the confusion.


Although they don't learn it all at once, remember we are expecting the Duolingo Japanese Course to take an entire coverage of the Japanese language as taught in schools. With this in mind, as far as I've read learning Hiragana takes a long time in Japanese school through repetition being used to help memorize it. During this time, of course, they would be introduced to the speaking portion of Japanese while at home. Kanji does start being taught from Grade 1 in Japan, as far as I know from the Grade 1 to 6 Kanji Guide many talk about. That being said, as many guides talk about, learning kanji, hiragana and katakana are all very vital to learning Japanese. This being said, as kanji is very prevalent in the Japanese language it doesn't really help to avoid it, as it only introduces problems later on. Many believe introducing kanji is more important than grammar early on as it helps later when trying to understand grammar (as you know what the words individually mean, now needing to see why they are organized the way they are). If you're having trouble with Duolingo's process alone, which I have as well, many recommend learning kanji through services such as WaniKanji. As well, @DestinyCall linked not too long ago a very good guide which I think could help show you what many think is the best way to learn Japanese in a rapid, but also effective, manner on your own guidance (https://www.tofugu.com/learn-japanese/)


Thanks for the response. I took a look at the Tofugu website and tried the WaniKanji service, but I feel like that proves my point... I was hoping I could learn from Duolingo without having to do a bunch of studying elsewhere first (especially not a paid subscription). I am not against learning the kanji, but I would like to at least speak like a kindergartner first.


Both WaniKani and the site I sent to you are free. Duolingo doesn't add lessons or info with a subscription so I don't know where this "especially not a paid subscription" comes from. (see edit note for clarification) Also, don't forget a "kindergartner" (no such thing exists in Japan, only pre-school) would already have been learning Japanese for about 4 years. Basically, Duolingo attempts to take one of the most difficult languages to learn for a native English speaker and cram it into one online course, taking many many years into what could take you about 5 months at best I'd imagine. Of course Duolingo isn't going to be the only source that one needs in order to learn 2 writing systems, 2.5k kanji and all the necessary grammar and vocabulary on top of that. It's just not realistic. That's why sites like quizlet for flash cards of vocab and/or hiragana and katakana practice, WaniKani for learning kanji at a nice pace and, as suggested but not as necessary as the others, another source to feed you vocabulary before getting too far with Duolingo is suggested. This is a free language learning site, and what you expect from it isn't exactly reasonable with all due respect. Japanese is hard, and that's okay. If you put in the effort, stay composed and determined and follow at a pace that suits you then you'll be fluent in a year, hopefully.

EDIT: As JimMcVim points out in their reply, WaniKani actually is a paid sub after level 4 in kanji knowledge with $89/year.


I don't think I'm expecting too much from Duolingo. More the opposite, my point is that by having kanji as the only text so early on, they are trying to do too much, and makes learning convoluted. I had been hoping Duolingo would be a very basic intro. It seems like it would be perfect for that, but by having (at least 4th grade) kanji as the only option so early on, they are adding a huge wall for new users. By the time I have learned the 640 kanji that would take me to 4th grade level, Duolingo will no longer be as useful to me. I know a lot of people want the kanji, so I'm just wishing it was an option to see phonetic.

I am fine with using multiple sources btw, I have already worked through L-lingo Japanese, and the Michel Thomas audiobooks, and even memorized a couple hundred kanji on my own.

Oh, and WaniKani is only free for the first 100 characters and is $89usd/year after that: https://knowledge.wanikani.com/getting-started/payment-and-billing/wanikani/wanikani-free/


Didn't know about the sub after level 4. Huh. I think I might pay the sub anyway. Seems to be a great resource. Thanks for the info. I'll add an edit note to that previous post. Good luck to you wherever and however you decide to learn Japanese. :D


Thanks, you too!


I agree. The introduction materials are like "red" and "cat". Then, the next lesson is "Nice to meet you. John and Maria can speak English."

Basically, you have to learn the patterns. Of course, Duolingo doesn't actually tell you any of the patterns. Or, if you click the key, they tell you some things, but it's either way too low level or way too high level for beginners.


This is a problem for me too. The sentences are introduced without practice ... so I am just making educated guesses. More information prior to each lesson would help.


Your post resonates. Back when many people were complaining that the old Duolingo didn't have nearly enough kanji, I kept pointing out that, for a complete beginner, there is a lot of information to be processed all at once, and, to keep frustration at a manageable level, kanji don't have to be there right from the start. (FWIW, I've been learning Japanese for nearly four years now, and I only started Wanikani last December. For me, that has felt like a good time.)

So (insert Captain Holt gif here): vindiCAtion!


I don't really use Duolingo for anything besides the forums anymore, but I made a new account a couple weeks ago to try the new tree (before it was updated on my main account), and I gotta say I agree. The pacing of the kanji is all over the place.

But then again I also think the way hiragana is introduced is horrible. I get why they have simple words learned alongside the hiragana (to help memorize the syllabaries), but learning random words out of any context like よる, きる, やさい before you even know all the characters is very strange.

The point of my rambling is to basically say that the Japanese course is pretty poor all-around at introducing the writing systems to a complete beginner. I think that kanji should be taught either as another course (which would be a lot of work, I understand) or in a separate skill(s) right before the "checkpoint" (or whatever they're called. The yellow buttons where you can test to skip ahead) that rounds up any kanji for words that you had already learned. I also think the hiragana skills should have all the fat trimmed so it's only the syllabaries being taught and not random words.


Thanks for everyone's responses, but I think my conclusion is that at this point Duolingo Japanese just doesn't make sense for me. I am only a few lessons in and getting hit with kanji like 飯. I look it up and find it's a fourth grade kanji, made up of other kanji I don't know yet. It seems like either way I will have to use other resources, and do a bunch of cramming, before Duolingo would be of any use to me. One other suggestion would be for Duolingo to add furigana (tiny hiragana) beside the kanji, like manga does.

*My opinion might be influenced by my father, who successfully learned Mandarin Chinese. He learned thousands of characters. Because he rarely had the chance to use them, they eventually faded from memory, and he feels it was wasted time that would have been much better spent learning more vocabulary and grammar.

Again, I'd love to learn it, but I'll use Anki and 'Remembering the Kanji' for that.


While I agree that learning a kanji like 飯 before a simpler kanji like 食 is odd, you're going to have a difficult time if you fixate on what grade the kanji is taught to native children.

You will learn kanji for words that you most frequently use or are essential to know as an adult (what I call "survival words"), as this is the most natural progression for an adult to memorize them. 飯 (or more specifically ご飯) means meal (and rice). As such, it's a very common kanji you will see. If you wait until you're studying at a fourth-grade level (for natives) to learn that kanji, you'll be handicapping yourself for a couple of years or more.

Here's another example, 飲 meaning to drink. It's taught in grade 3, but as an adult it's a survival word meaning that it's important to know early on (say if you ever visit Japan, it would be very useful to understand where you can buy something to drink).


Well, kanjis are the core of the difficulty and I find it easier to learn new ones as soon as possible instead of learning vocabulary using kanas only. The kanas part is useful to learn directly new vocabulary during the exercises instead of having long lectures using the pair identification system. If it's too difficult for some people, they should either take it slowlier in learning because the learning curve is steep all the time, or maybe stop with the Japanese because it's just plain hard to learn just to be able to read the newspaper and not forget what has already been seen ^^


its funny because in the old tree people were complaining about there not being enough kanji. Trust me, it may seem hard at first but its gets easier, kanji is vital


Kanji may be vital but you have to learn to walk before you can run. Let people get the hang of hirigana first then slowly introduce kanji. I don’t think I would be succeeding right now if Duo has thrown a bunch of kanji at me first thing.


I'm still on hiragana lol

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