Story of a Duo Refugee (1)

It wasn’t unique in my experience, and I only barely finished the rookie section…
In addition to がほしいです,

there was also じゃないです

and なんじ, and if I remember correctly also はほしくないです.

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That might explain it. I skipped the first sections entirely, because they were too easy. As you progress further in the course, these multi-word bubbles are going to disappear. On a side note, probably worth flagging this to Duo, because such multi-word bubbles are a terrible idea :confused: .


This is true, it is great for EU languages. After a year of Duolingo French (very casually), I had to get my car fixed while on holiday in France and my husband and I were able to communicate with the mechanic although he didn’t speak English! After the beginning stages (i.e., as soon as you can start reading and conversing a bit outside of the translation paradigm), it wasn’t helpful for me anymore, but for getting a start in a language with similar grammar it’s great.

The few times I peaked into the Japanese course it was slower than other ways I’ve studied. Not because it wasn’t executed correctly, but they have a very specific methodolgy and it’s just not the most effective method for this language. They were flexible with the execution and expanded on what their platform can do, but there’s no way to expect them to suddenly come up with and implement a different teaching philosophy. That said, I’ve seen people who realise that disadvantage and still don’t mind using Duolingo for Japanese because it’s a setup they at least do. So on that end, some people might still achieve more with Duolingo simply because they actually use it.

I honestly don’t think they are that cynical, actually. I think it’s more a case of, they took a tool / method that is genuinely effective at teaching similar languages (their Spanish and French courses for English speakers have been shown to be highly effective and faster than many other options to get to the same objective language ability). When launching Japanese, they either didn’t accept or realise that single sentence translation learning is not an effective tool when traversing huge differences in grammar and culture. Or they realised it and did it anyway the best they could due to the huge demand. But “an inadequate tool for the job” is a lot different than actively trying to slow people down to keep them on the platform.

Also, regarding subscriptions, the problem I have with it is companies with a fixed or limited use offering who try to make more from subscriptions, especially where you’re likely to forget about it. Some companies are genuinely offering a service, though, and by releasing new content and offering outstanding and regular support, are deserving of of a subscription, so I don’t write off all subscriptions. I love Satori, for example, and appreciate the service. It wouldn’t be the same product at all without the excellent support, new content, and well-implemented updates that can only be funded by a subscription model. It’s a dramatically different and better offering now than when I first subscribed, and I would much much rather have what it has become (and I fully trust, what it will continuously develop into), than to have paid the same or less (or likely more!) to have lifetime access to what it was at the start.

The mixed subscription/lifetime model gets WK in trouble quite often because some users are expecting a fixed product, and others are expecting a developing product. Change is bad - you ruined my whole routine! -or- Change is needed - keep up with what I want! WK walks a tightrope offering what is essentially a relatively stable closed-end product, and not getting paid by all users for the service-like features (forum moderation, server space, updates to keep pace with tech changes, content improvements, etc). Whatever they do (or don’t do), a chunk of users can get up in arms.

Anyway, that was just a diversion of thoughts sparked by the conversation you started. Welcome to the forums, I hope you enjoy it here! I find WK forums delightful :star_struck:

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This was pretty much my thought too. I’m considering something like Dutch or Esperanto. I love the concept of Esperanto, even if very few people speak it.

This is a really good point - on deeper reflection, I’m likely just projecting my frustration onto Duolingo rather than taking responsibility for my own error in not realising it wasn’t fast enough for me.

This too is really important. Subscriptions when applied correctly can be a wonderful way to continue supporting a product that receives regular and good updates - I just find annoyance in the sheer number of them that are around these days.

Thank you! I’ve already really been enjoying my time speaking to people on here, and I hope integrating myself in the community will help keep me on the straight and narrow as far as learning is concerned :smile:

Apparently Duolingo has improved since I last touched it but the Dutch course was really poor.

It’s a big reason I picked up Japanese :upside_down_face:

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ooh, how intriguing. I’ve been interested, too, but never took the plunge!

haha, we’ve all done that, and I’m not saying Duolingo is totally off the hook, but sometimes just seeing something from a different perspective helps to diffuse that negative energy.

You know I can honestly say, many of the lovely people on these forums have led me to be more open minded. It is such a lovely place for seeing different perspectives and above all, the generosity of how people share their knowledge and kind words is stunning. see you around!


To add to that I think Japanese is a pretty extreme example of this divide. In other courses Duo also takes arbitrary and often inconvenient shortcuts in terms of translations. For instance, in the German course the English sentences are often unnatural and don’t match the German sentence 1:1 even though in most cases they really could. Sometimes Duo goes a step further and translates names of dishes which it shouldn’t really touch. For closely related languages that’s barely a hiccup, but for Japanese the difference in nuances can be pretty big.

Grammar is partially related to this. For instance, in context A we could use any of grammar forms 1-3. In context B we can only really use form 1. Duo might be able to use these forms correctly in its Japanese sentences, but no way in hell it’s going to map them correctly to English equivalents, because either they’re a mixture of forms 1-3 or such a nuance is completely missing.

The other issue is that Duo is built around European languages which unlike Asian languages don’t have as many politeness levels, ways of addressing people, etc., requiring for instance Stories to be both linguistically and culturally relevant, which they’re not.

Lastly, the Japanese course is extremely dry and focused way too much on the “foreigner in Japan” experience. On one hand there is a ton of vocab related to transportation and daily life in sentences which would make sense only to a person who already lived in Japan. On the other hand, at later levels it teaches too much highly specialized vocabulary which would be relevant only to someone planning to live in Japan. Stuff like legal terms, political and environmental issues, etc. That’s N1-relevant, but completely misaligned with the N4-N3 material otherwise.


That’s a really interesting example with the German course!

I haven’t got very far with any DuoLingo courses, but did use the Italian one in preparation for a trip to Italy, and found it really good for getting some basics down.

But I can’t speak for how it gets in the advanced stages, and I definitely agree with the sentiments on this thread that DuoLingo is way better for European languages than Asian languages. Its ‘throw things at you and make you learn through brute force’ approach doesn’t work well with Japanese at all, because the grammar and writing are so different that it’s an incredible slog.


The Japanese course was an incredible waste of time a few years ago. It has improved somewhat in recent years because they have since added a section to study hiragana and katakana, which has made it more approachable to new users. Recently, they also added kanji. It even has handwriting exercises for kanji now, but it only gives one reading and it’s not integrated into the lessons.

Here’s a video from October about updates to Asian languages:

I think they have a lot of work to do to improve the Mandarin and Japanese courses. I also think they are acutely aware of this fact because both are now in the top 10 languages studied on Duolingo and it seems like a significant amount of development effort is going into them.

Even with the improvements to the Japanese course, I still believe there are much better options. The Japanese course often introduces words in hiragana without introducing kanji for several lessons, which is frustrating and misleading. It also seems like they’re going back and adding grammar notes and hints, so there’s coverage at lower levels but not past a certain point. I’m looking at my lessons right now and it looks like there are no hints past section 3, unit 18. I used to rely on the discussions for individual questions, but they removed that feature not too long ago.

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