Using Duolingo

I recently joined up to Duolingo and I’m working through the lessons. I’ve been studying Japanese for quite some time and it is useful revision. However I don’t see any grammar explanations - am I missing something? How do people use or learn with Duolingo if they don’t already know the grammar?

You’re not missing anything. Duolingo doesn’t explain anything, it relies on you figuring things out by example.

That works if the language you’re learning is grammatically similar to a language you know, but honestly for Japanese I’d say it’s of very limited use.


Pretty much all Duo has is the ‘Tips’ section on each chapter which details what you’ll be quizzed on for the revisions. I think I was about 20 chapters in before I realized they actually list chapter contents.


I personally feel strongly that, like Rosetta Stone, Duolingo is deceptively Eurocentric. The further the language’s underpinnings lie from Germanic/Romance languages, the less the format can explain grammar in a way that makes sense to an English speaker. Japanese is just too context-sensitive for Duolingo’s one-English-sentence-one-Japanese-sentence structure.

I would recommend buying a grammar book (like Genki or Minna no Nihongo) and/or hitting up Bunpro and/or Cure Dolly instead. You really need a Japanese-specific resource to learn Japanese from an English-speaking perspective.

EDIT: It doesn’t even have to be that far from Europe to use a lot of its usefulness. I’m half-Arab but I don’t speak Arabic natively. Duolingo Arabic has gotten me laughed at! Every single time, they’re like, “That’s fusHa (Modern Standard Arabic); nobody talks that way!”

Its Russian has some shortcomings that have gotten me corrected by native speakers as well. Even when Russians understand me, they hate my accent. Duolingo, of course, doesn’t do anything about that.


If you’re interested in an app, I’d recommend LingoDeer over Duolingo.

Others have noted its emphasis on European languages, where as LingoDeer started off only doing Mandarin, Korean and Japanese. Each section has some notes about the grammar points being discussed, but it’s up to you to take the time to look at them.

That being said, the content on there is made my non-native English speakers, so last I checked there are some interesting goofs in some content (one that sticks out in my mind is not realizing that a “Mansion” means something completely different to us, and they proceed to use it quite a bit)


Duo is fine. It’s nothing amazing but keeping a streak can help you at least do a little studying every day. Duo keeps me honest.

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I’m just going to assume they use it but never reach anywhere useful unless they use another source. I can say it’s only good for reviewing

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You can see all the tips and notes from the course here Duolingo · Tips and Notes @