When people decide to learn Japanese, the perspective learner may not know where to start. In most cases, they will discover Duolingo, which advertises itself as the best way to learn a language.
However, using Duolingo will set you up for failure, as the Japanese course in Duolingo has many flaws. It’s a trap! You can see for yourself as a native Japanese speaker uses Duolingo:
From this video, there are many flaws with Duolingo regarding teaching Japanese. Here are the glaring issues:
- Unnatural sounding voices with incorrect pitch accent and readings
- Little to no explanation for grammar points
- Does not teach Kanji (essential)
- Duolingo is too gamified, encouraging people to do the easy lessons to gain more points rather than progress to harder ones.
- Duolingo only accepts one answer, even if certain combinations are grammatically correct.
- Duolingo relies too heavily on English. Japanese uses a different structure than English and depends a lot on context.
As mentioned earlier, the only thing that is going for Duolingo is the gamification aspect, which is a double-edged sword. It encourages users to do easier lessons to gain more points. That, combined with the flaws, makes Duolingo for Japanese a terrible choice, making most people feel like they haven’t learned anything when they have to use the language in real life. Moreover, language is not math and I find the approach of arranging words to make a correct sentence ineffective opposed to creating your own sentences.
That said, Duolingo seems to work better for western languages, but it’s a terrible choice for Japanese. The same applies to Rosetta Stone and LingoDeer as they have similar flaws.
If using Duolingo is terrible, what are the alternatives?
There is no escaping the fact that learning Japanese will take a lot of time for English speakers. However, it’s not impossible since there are a lot of resources on the internet.
First, you need to learn both Hiragana (ひらがな）and Katakana (カタカナ). After learning those, you should learn at least 100 kanji. There are many ways to understand them. Two popular methods of learning them are through Remembering the Kanji and WaniKani while using SRS (spaced reputation system) flash card app.
Sure, some people complain about using textbooks to learn Japanese, but it’s the best way for most people. The most popular beginner textbook for Japanese is Genki. After Genki, you can either go onto intermediate Japanese textbooks like Tobira or Quartet or begin immersing yourself in native Japanese material. Note that you will need to look up many words, but if you are doing WaniKani, this can help with the process.
A complete guide showing beginners where to start is coming soon on our main blog. With that, feel free to share your experiences with Duolingo. Do you agree with the points I made? Feel free to share them in the comments.