Coming From Duolingo

Hi anybody else here from Duolingo I tried learning there but they didn’t have Chinese for english users.

Duolingo has Chinese! I’ve been doing it there for 4-5 months.

I would say this: be careful. The Chinese program is sometimes touted as “Beta,” i.e., not quite ready for prime-time yet, but good enough to solicit reports from early adopters, and sometimes as “Launched,” i.e., due diligence is done, 98% of all language or DataBase or functionality bugs were cleared.

My experience is: there is a lot that still needs to be corrected --all over the place-- in Duolingo Chinese. The approved answers are sometimes very narrow, so you experience a lot of fails; the English translation is sometimes off, meaning, not quite right, and the program will NOT let you progress and close the lesson unless you include the “mistake” in your answer. Same with the Chinese options.

What does that do to your brain: well, now you feel unsteady: am I learning what I should learn, correctly, or am I learning what Duolingo makes me learn? Am I going to be a Duolingo Savant, or am I learning Chinese with the right turns of phrases and syntax etc. The game aspect is seductive alright, but I would take it all with a grain of salt.

IMHO, there are way too many flagged issues that create endless discussions in the discussion boards. That’s not too bad until you find yourself constantly flagging and explaining why you are correcting the English version offered, or, for Heritage learners, the Chinese version.

For me, it’s way too distracting to the learning process. Have fun with it, but tread carefully!

you are right I’m sorry I checked it out, and it varies between incredibly easy and ridiculously hard

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It does need improvement, but I’ve learned so much! Starting from zero Chinese I can now read the sentences that are pretty long without peeking at the words. I can form sentences off the top of my head in Chinese and I’ve tested them successfully two ways and have been very happy with the results: I speak the sentence in Chinese into Google translate and it writes the characters I said and understands what I’m saying and writes the sentence in English. I also sent small voice recordings to native Chinese speakers and asked them if they understood me. They did! They responded by writing in Cbinese what I had just said! So I’m encouraged. Besides Duolingo, I am also using ChineseSkill and HelloChinese and now just started with Pandanese. I do find Pandanese very interesting but extremely slow. I’m not sure how many days I’ve been doing it, but so far it has only repeated 28 cards over and over again even though I get all or nearly all right each time. I wrote the coach asking when the remaining cards in Lesson 1 will be released but haven’t received an answer.

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@Ichthus - Pandanese may not be 24/7. Duolingo isn’t 24/7 either. Rare are the apps that are 24/7 unless built to function as a 24/7 merchant grid, à-la Amazon or Blue-Nile for instance. At Level 8 in Chinese Duolingo, the errors and omissions become hard to gloss over. With Pandanese, I used to get antsy about the seeming “slowness” at the Lesson 1 level, even at the Lesson 2 level. I wanted to go on and on, breeze through most of what I felt I knew well, and then… then I reached the middle point of Lesson 4.

Now this might surprise you, but here’s what I noticed: If I rushed through, thinking, yeah, I know that one (my study level —in theory— is HSK3, so I was trying to plow through the present level), I became a little less attentive; I started learning more new Radicals, then more new Characters based on that Radical, then came more new Bigrams/Vocabulary based on a combination of those Characters and Radicals.

Some of those bigrams are a tricky bundle; take 手下 (shou3 xia4 = subordinates) and 下手 (xia4 shou3 = to start; to set about): the bigram inverses the order of the characters, and it means something completely different!

I started making paper flashcards for those confusing bigrams/trigrams, jotting a shortened, telegraph-style, version of the Meaning or Reading Mnemonic attached to those difficult combinations of characters. And guess what: while I somewhat rushed to review them in an earlier part of the lesson, I am now actually slowed down. I have to review them again and again…

Maybe it’s just me. I suspect, however, that the brain is a far more complex device than just rote-learn and get instant-recall forever. The consequence of my going a little too fast is that I now have to go back and re-drill for myself the earlier Characters I thought I knew already. Pandanese is built and optimized to respect the learn/forget/learn again/forget again, forget better/learn better organization of stacks in our long-term memory. That science is very new but so effective that I find myself sometimes actually reading aloud random Chinese characters that I don’t even know yet because I took the time to really learn those all-important Radicals and their pronunciations.

Someone fluent in Chinese (on Quora, I think) explained to me the following:
Assuming your circumstance is that you have neither pen nor paper with you,
"If you want a Chinese person to spell a Chinese word for you so that you understand the word, they will air-draw it in the palm of their hand and speak aloud each radical in order of placement in the character.

Of course, I had never thought of it, but how else would you spell a Chinese character!!!

So yes, I’d better really know my radicals like 2 + 2 = 4…


Duolingo is 24/7 as an app or website. You can work on it any time day or night. So far Pandanese lets me review a few cards every 4-6 hours only.
But I do think the idea and method behind it is going to be excellent for me!

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@Ichthus - Yes, of course. I see what you mean. Both apps are online, so you have access to them any time you feel like using the site. I thought you were speaking of an on-the-spot answer from a moderator.

The way Pandanese works is so different from any other apps I know of that I would definitely use Pandanese in conjunction with another app. You really understand the revolutionary aspect of the Pandanese method when you notice that your learning scores improve dramatically when you are in a different Chinese learning environment.

If you’d like to explore a new but very solid --and fun-- online Chinese learning tool, see what Ninchanese is doing. I’ve been using Ninchasese for about 4 weeks now. Their database is very large (i.e., no false “fail”, even if you write “have” instead of “to have”) and so well organized that they even warn you when you are writing the answer in PinYin instead of the required English; if you make a spelling error, they will ask you if you’re sure that’s what you want to write. And their drills have an excellent progression, with no uncertain feeling you might be learning something not quite correct. []

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Hahaha! I took their Level test in French (my mother tongue; I left France at 32 y.o.); I scored a 49% fluency… 哈哈哈哈哈!:smile::laughing:

It looks well done and interesting. Is there any way to skip the very basic lessons like “hello” or must it be done from zero?

You are French! How cool! I love the French language so much! Where in France are you from originally?

Near the German border, hence my knowing how to speak German as well. It’s a very pretty area, and you can go skiing in the Winter.

Funny you should ask the “hello” question: when I started, I was wondering the same thing. If I remember correctly, there is no such thing as “hello” per se, because it starts you with a deck of cards that consists of 1) Radicals; 2) Characters; and 3) Vocabulary.

You’ll notice that while some of those are part of your memory bank and others you’re already very familiar with, as you progress, you will have less and less of those familiar characters, and more and more new ones.

The beginning feels slow if you are not a total beginner, but wait until you get to Level 3 and then 4: that’s where the challenges start! And that’s where you start learning and remembering.


Anywhere near Strasbourg or Colmar? I also speak German and French and my dream would be to live in France near the German border and use both languages every day!

The level test you mentioned taking in French–was that a Chinese level test taken in French?

Thanks for writing out how you use/d Duo. My story vaguely parallels yours as ‘even in the early stages’, i realized that I needed a LOT more repetition than i was doing. About that time, Duo changed their set up and now we are guided to stick with something a LOT longer at the lower levels. So i was in sync with Pandanese’s method when i arrived. I am also learning Japanese ; so the extra time with radicals is going to pay off big time!! IMHO And, just saying, i believe I gain from each different methodology, so i enjoy checking out a wide variety of apps. I have had to set up a procedure in which i habitually do X first each and every day, which to do each and every day; and which to do less often. If nothing else… Duo gently leads me into thinking each morning. Sort of a springboard to taking on more challenging things later. Also thanks for mentioning Quora as a resource. I follow people there for other reasons… so it sounds GREAT to follow a Chinese person interested in helping. Also thanks for the link to

I am so grateful for Duolingo! I have learned so much! I finished the tree completely first and have now gone back and taken each skill up to level 5. So far I’ve done 50 or so skills up to level 5 in crowns and have like 39 left. I can really see the progress. I can read and understand the sentences and also read the sentence outloud pronouncing each character. To sort of see if I am on target with the pronunciation I set Google translate to Chinese>English. I then say the sentence in Chinese to see if the speech recognition understands me in Chinese and writes the correct sentence in Chinese with its English meaning. I am very excited because it normally understands my whole semtence and writes each character correctly as i say it.

I am supplementing every day with Pandanese and I’m doing Lesson 5. There’s been a couple times though where I get confused because the actual word meaning in a sentence is different from the name they use to help remember the radical. But I am really loving this language!!

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Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad to hear that it’s helping you. Sometimes I’m just lost and afraid of how I’m going to retain what I’ve learned.
I’m in progress on Lesson 6, and I feel demoralized sometimes. I did start Duolingo Chinese a week or two ago and it’s been fun but I haven’t kept up at all. After reading your post, maybe I should add that to my daily routine in earnest. Thanks.

At least you can move forwards in Duolingo at a pace that works for you. I’ve been two days on this one, and much as I want to get a handle on the radicals and move forwards, it appears that I review 4 in the next 24 hours, and nothing new. How long do I have to wait til I can progress - I already know the meanings of most of them (from Japanese), and I’m being held up because I typed 8 instead of eight. At this rate I understand that the word lid is important rather than top, but I don’t understand why I am not able to add some each day when I’ve made only 3 mistakes. One of the principles of learning is that with review, there is still always something new.

With Duolingo you only need to do 10 minutes a day. And it’s fine to do more on days when you have more time/motivation. A daily routine is an excellent idea.