Duolingo Chinese – Should I Believe The Hype?
Duolingo is one of the biggest names out there when it comes to learning a language, but is the Duolingo Chinese version a good way to learn Chinese?
Let’s reveal all with our definitive review.
Duolingo teach users from around the globe a host of languages. In fact they pride themselves on being one of the only apps to actively teach dying languages like Gaelic and Hawaiian.
Knowing this already tells us Duolingo are big hitters.
Compared to some of the apps we review, they are without doubt, near the top in times of size.
However, the potential draw back to Duolingo is, because they teach so many languages, perhaps the quality is not so strong.
Is it a case of quantity of quality?
Let’s see if that is true.
Downloading Duolingo is simple enough and due to it’s large size, it comes as no surprise that Duolingo is available to download on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play.
Once you have the app ready on your phone, it’s time to get going!
Is Duolingo Free?
Thankfully yes. What’s more is that Duolingo does not restrict your content exposure on the free version like many apps do.
A frustrating feature of many apps is that once you’ve completed, lets say an hours worth of study, you are then blocked…
SIGN UP FOR MORE
The bain of so many of us!
Duolingo does not do this. It restricts you in other ways which we’ll come to later, BUT, the fact remains, you can complete the Duolingo Chinese course without having to spend a penny.
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Getting Started with Duo
Upon signing into Duolingo for the first time you select your language and then you are good to go!
In this review we’ll be focusing, of course, on the Duolingo Chinese course.
The user interface is sharp, yet simple.
It’s almost timeline like, with the levels getting more advanced as you scroll down.
To reach the more advanced levels you have to unlock them, by passing the previous levels.
Luckily if you have some knowledge of the language already you don’t have to start from the beginning.
As you can see from our screenshot, if you enter a language for the first time, you are faced with the following question:
- New to ____
- Already know some___
A great feature if you have a basis in Chinese (or any language of course) already.
From there, you are either placed at the start, or your set level and you are ready to roll.
Using Duolingo Chinese
When at your assigned level, you work your way down the list of lessons which are split into all kinds of categories which can range from the following:
… and so on.
As mentioned before, you cannot jump between all the lessons, you need to follow the order of lessons.
When you jump into a lesson itself, they are fairly quick-fire, normally offering multiple choice options, match the pairs or make a sentence.
TAKE NOTE – See the circle of hearts at the top right of the screenshot here.
This is your health. If you run out of health, you cannot continue. This is one of the shortcomings of the free version of Duolingo.
Therefore, five wrong answers and you’re out until they re-instate your health, which is normally a few hours later or the next day.
HOWEVER – there is a way around that. You can continue practicing rather than take official lessons.
By practising, you can re-earn the health you lost.
This means you can continue using the app no matter how many wrong answers you get.
The only difference is, by using the practice, they are not official lessons, meaning you don’t progress down the Duo timeline.
What I do like about Duolingo is their personal notifications which they use to motivate you.
Of course they want you using the app as much as possible, but I do find they really try and push you on with their little personal nudges.
For example, if you are on a 5 day streak using the app, they’ll drop you a little notification if it’s evening time on day 6 just to say…
Quick – come and study your Chinese for the day to keep up your winning run. It’ll only take a few minutes… etc
These of course are optional. Many people don’t like being swamped with push notifications, but I tried them with Duolingo Chinese and I found them more useful than intrusive.
How can Duolingo improve?
As mentioned above, the health is something that, although irritating to your journey, can be solved by either purchasing Duolingo, or practising.
However, one thing Duolingo can improve on is the way it teaches, especially absolute beginners.
Duolingo Chinese doesn’t really teach you much about the characters you learn.
Does Chinese have an alphabet? Well, no it doesn’t, but Duolingo doesn’t tell you this in the lessons themselves.
你好 – what is this, how do you spell or say it? Although these questions are answered as you go on (or available in the tips section) I find it could ease beginners it a little easier within the lessons themselves.
Chinese is nothing like any western language, and things need to be made clear at the start. The tones, the fact there is no alphabet, the fact pinyin is the romanization of Hanzi… etc.
I found the same when trialing out the Japanese course. There are three alphabets in Japanese and there is no real description about why, and how they link. It can be a tad confusing when in the lesson.
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Leave a comment below about Duolingo with your ratings please.
Can I become fluent in Chinese using Duolingo Chinese?
In a word, no.
However, there are a few things to note here.
I don’t believe any app, teaching any language allows you to go from zero, to fluency. It just doesn’t work that way.
Duolingo is a great aid for helping boost your Chinese, make no mistake about that.
The app is clearly a good one and does a lot of things very well, but no app should boast language fluency when apps like Duolingo are used, in the large part, by the casual language learner, or by the learner who has a portfolio of a number of apps to aid their progress.
Duolingo Chinese Pro’s and Con’s
|Simple, clean design||Nothing about tones|
|Great for beginners||No content for the upper intermediate/advanced users|
|Motivational notifications||No real explanation about Hanzi/Pinyin and their relationship|
|Ideal for using on a commute|
Should I download Duolingo Chinese?
There’s no doubt Duolingo does far more right than wrong. It’s a solid app for learning Chinese BUT it depends what your situation is.
Let’s give some examples of potential students:
- Student 1 – Speaks and reads to a HSK 4 level, wants to improve spoken Chinese further.
- Student 2 – Japanese native who is new to Chinese.
- Student 3 – Basic level, wants to improve all round Chinese.
- Student 4 – Advanced Chinese language learner.
See how the level and situation of every student can differ so widely.
Student 1 would not improve from downloading Duolingo as they are most likely too advanced and know the content already. Same goes for Student 4.
Student 3 would be the best example of a definite benefactor of using Duolingo Chinese.
Our Japanese native would also benefit but as Japanese uses an alphabet called Kanji, the same characters as Chinese, they might find elements of it a little easy, especially everything relating to the characters.
Duolingo – FAQ’s
No. I don’t believe any app, teaching any language allows you to go from zero, to fluency. It just doesn’t work that way with apps. They should be used in a portfolio of other apps, or as aids to your daily learning.
No the app is mainly driven towards beginners of Chinese.
Yes Duolingo provides a host of languages to learn which include even Esperanto, Hawaiian and Gaelic.
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