Duolingo course: How to work with it?

Hi there.

My first post here - I just found out about WaniKani and I like it. I hope this impression together with my motivation will last. :grin:

About the topic now. Are there others who use the Beta Duolingo course to learn Japanese?
I do and I am now at the perks Restaurant/Family and I feel lost… The spoken sentences are really fast and they teach you no grammar at all. So it is very hard to really understand the text rather than just remembering the sounds.

Does anyone have the same problems? Do you have some tips for me?

Thanks :blush:

Yes, the Duolingo course still doesn’t give you much information, but a lot of knowledgeable people are commenting to doubts people have on certain topic.

I really like it because it’s easy for newbies to get frustrated for the lack of explanations the course gives, but in my opinion it wasn’t that hard. I guess it wasn’t for me because I’ve been studying Japanese for a while now but at the same time I don’t really have any knowledge other than the basics.

Try to read some Tae Kim grammar to clear any doubts. Also, some comments are, if not legitimately correct, very informative.

You can also ask away in this forum, I’m sure the community will help you out.


The best way to work with it is to delete it from your phone, and use that space to download something slightly more useful, like absolutely nothing.


“Don’t use Duolingo” certainly comes to mind.

In case you were wondering, the issues you are having is because Duolingo is terrible for learning japanese. Its more worth your time to find something else.




I started Japanese with Duolingo (I’m talking before DL, I didn’t know a single Kana or kanji character) and I stil like it for vocab, but I’d start supplementing it with something that will give you more grammar, it’ll help you understand more of what you are learning. Also, be sure when you don’t understand something to listen more than once, and click on the words to learn what they mean. Don’t be afraid to go back to the lessons you’ve already completed either.

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I’ve been running through it to keep up to date on what grammar resources are out there (because I’m working on one myself).

From what I saw, you pretty much have to know the grammar beforehand. You could pick up some of the vocab via their system, but not the grammar. Or at least, not with any real understanding of what you’re looking at.

If you already know the grammar, it may be good practice.

Also, you’re supposed to be able to click on words in the question to see the definition, but it’s broken in a lot of cases. When you click, sometimes it doesn’t seem to know where the word boundaries are. I think they may be using some sort of morphological analyzer to populate their system with data, and the quality leaves something to be desired.

The input methods are pretty interesting. I was surprised how much variation it allows in sentence order and vocabulary when answering questions, though it’s not always consistent. I’m guessing they had someone enter as many legit answer variations as they could think of.

They have more variety than some sites when practicing sentence patterns, so I give them credit for that. Interestingly, though, I had some strange sentences, like “The dog sells hats”. I’m not sure if that’s auto-generated, or someone’s trying to make it entertaining.


You’re working on a web app or some other kind of resource?

A lot of people are saying Duolingo is useless and I do have to (in part) disagree. If you’re using it to learn Japanese, you’re going to be wasting your time. I’ve heard there are meant to be grammar explanations on the web version, but I haven’t tried that out and I don’t know how good they are. Either way, you’re better off with something actually designed to teach you grammar, since you aren’t going to be speaking Japanese if you haven’t properly learned the grammar.

Where I disagree is where people suggest it is completely useless. I think there is some genuine usefulness if you use it to get sentence practice. If you’re not used to constructing sentences and you want something to test you on that, then I think Duolingo is great.

Also from experience with learning Korean, I found Duolingo to be a huge help for learning and practicing Hangul, so I would imagine it’d be the same for people new to Kana (no comment on the Kanji they teach for obvious reasons).

Usually they try to make strange sentences in order to prevent people from just guessing, although they do often try to put in their own humor.


Those sentences you are constructing use a very narrow subset of knowledge that one may possess. Sure it will help but there are so many better things you can be doing with your time. For constructing sentences, just posting stuff on hello talk and talking with people will be so much better.

You might want to try Lingodeer instead.


I should have probably mentioned that this was for complete beginners who are just getting used to writing Japanese sentences. For anyone with more confidence/experience, I 100% recommend something different.


Lingodeer is definitely a lot better for grammar, actually supporting explanations, but I’ve still found it to be lacking compared to a full textbook (I use it for Korean).

While I think it’s more plausible to use it for learning, I think it’s good to keep a textbook open for additional support when needed.

I can’t really say to much about learning grammar concepts since Korean is quite similar grammatically, so I can just apply my knowledge of Japanese.


Yeah I agree completely about it being lacking compared to a traditional textbook. I was mostly commenting to it in direct comparison with duolingo.

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My girlfriend is using Duolingo to learn English and it’s working well. However:

  • She’s already somewhat familiar with the language.
  • We are constantly exposed to the language through movies, tv shows, music etc.
  • English has huge similarities with Portuguese for both grammar and vocab.
  • I answer her questions and provide more detailed explanations when necessary.

That is completely different from using as your main resource to start learning something as different from English as Japanese. I tried Duolingo out of curiosity when it first came out, and I am very skeptical that someone could learn basic Japanese grammar from it.

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Hi, i’m new here as well.

I also use Doulingo and experienced the same frustration, not anymore though.
Since i’m too lazy to use it on my laptop and see their explanations, I looked up for an app that would explain basic grammar and Mirai Japanese does a great job.

I just went through their first 25 lessons, took mii about 2 days (and in the middle of it a friend told mii about WaniKani - and it blew my mind). However, they use Romaji which I find counterproductive.

Then I went back to Doulingo did all the lessons from the start and it was so easy because I understand how to construct a simple basic sentence. That’s the reason i’m Still using it and not deleting it. I know it would help me in the future.

Also - know your hiragana and katakana. That’s super important. And that was my first step with learning Japanese.

Different people have different styles and needs while learning, little wins go a long way.

And yes i’m aware that it goes against @koichi ‘s advice:

“I tend to recommend that people reach at least Level 10 (preferably level 20) before picking up a Japanese textbook. That way, in terms of kanji and vocabulary, you’ll be able to read pretty much everything in any beginner textbook you use. Then you can focus on the grammar instead of looking up the meanings of every other word and kanji. Having to context switch so many times makes it a) so hard to learn grammar, and b) very demoralizing. Students I’ve talked to who do the kanji/vocab first method tend to have a much more positive experience, develop at a faster pace (in the medium and long term), and are way less likely to quit from frustration.”

In general it’s all about managing a good balance between frustration (challenge would be a better word perhaps) and positive feedback loops in your brain.

Oh, and one last thing -
You might want to read this https://www.tofugu.com/series/japanese-learning-resources/

Whatever you choose at the end (beginning?) good luck and enjoy the journey.


As someone who started the Japanese duolingo course with zero knowledge of Japanese, I can’t really recommend doing things that way lmao. I sort of stubbornly threw myself at it and didn’t feel like I actually understood what was happening half the time.

If you do want to use Duolingo, I recommend picking a grammar resource and reading through it, stopping occasionally to try a duolingo section to try to test what you’ve learned. If the section is still too hard, you still need to study. It’s nice for having pre-made, instant feedback on sentences you create/translate, just as quick quizzes.

Just my two cents as someone who’s shared the struggle.


I tried to use the Duolingo course. Tried.

It turns out that it doesn’t help me in the way that I need to learn, but it may work for someone else. I don’t do very well if I’m just thrown in and expected to learn the grammar without being formally taught. So I basically use it as an additional review to what I’ve already learned.

I have to agree with Syphus here, but you do you.

I think Koichi’s advice isn’t that straightforward. Kanji does help a lot in memorizing vocab and that leads you to have a more successful learning of grammar. Plus, WK makes it easier to learn Kanji way faster compared to how one learns grammar, so after a while, most people end up getting a higher level of Kanji compared to grammar.

That’s not all. What happens is that most people quickly give up on learning Japanese after a while. By having a bigger knowledge of kanji and vocab, the chances of giving up on grammar are inferior because it’s less harder.

Basically, Koichi’s advice is to keep people safe. That doesn’t mean that starting grammar on an earlier level will be a problem.


True. I do see the vocab-first principle at work though. I recently picked up a grammar book and the more of the vocab in the example sentences I am familiar with, the easier it has been to pick out and really internalize the specific concept being taught. It’s easier to see something in use once it doesn’t look like… well, like it’s written in Japanese :stuck_out_tongue:

I am very glad I am already studying grammar though. I found out the other day, I can (very nearly) read.

[A basic picture book, with Jisho’s help]