Can I learn Japanese via Duolingo? (Review kinda?)

So, I downloaded Duolingo again and decided on a whim that I’d try to learn Japanese. I made that decision not because I’m a degenerate but rather because I’ve been pretty interested in linguistics lately. Morphology and etymology are pretty interesting for the English language but before I have more of those classes, I’d love to learn about Japanese morphology and etymology… but before I do that, I’d like to learn the language. Being a nerd that is very much into anime and manga obviously helps. I’ve always been intrigued by it… so why not give it a try?

Getting there!

This post is kind of like a review. I will go over the different features and how Duolingo entices you to learn a language and stuff… but I also will talk about my experience with languages, why I decided on Japanese in particular and stuff like that. If you wanna try out the app yourself, give it a try. It’s free! It has a lot to offer and I can really recommend giving it a try. Worst case, you’ll uninstall it.

Important Note: Don’t read this post on mobile! I had to take vertical screenshots. They suck in a blog post! The formatting is already quite “wack” as is but it looks a lot worse on mobile and I’d recommend reading it on Desktop. Sorry about that.

Oh, how handy!

Duolingo is probably the App to start with. I mean, it has lessons on it that help you study the language and that give you tips on how things work and it has a wide variety of languages available from Swedish, German, English to stuff like Japanese, Klingon, and French. I tried a lot of those but never really saw it through. This attempt may not actually be all that successful but I’d still like to try to learn a language that is so different from the languages we speak over here, using a tool such as Duolingo. I’d be interested in knowing how far I can get with Duolingo alone…, especially while on the free plan. After all, since the last time I used Duolingo, there have been a bunch of changes. There is now a thing called “Duolingo PLUS” that essentially lets you progress faster through your classes – but it also removes the ads. The ads have been somewhat annoying to deal with but at the same time, I’d imagine that an app like this needs to be funded somehow and I frankly don’t know how they did it before.

Back to languages though, I speak three languages. I grew up learning Albanian, eventually learned German and in school, I started learning English. I also technically “know” Latin but I don’t speak Latin. I can translate it but that’s all. Due to its Illyrian origin, Albanian is quite different from Latin-based languages such as German, English, and French. This is further amplified by the fact that English borrows a lot of its words from French who borrowed theirs from Latin. My point is, languages are quite interesting because they have different origins given geography. Illyrian itself gave birth to a lot of different “people” and languages, like Serbo-Croatian among other Slavic languages. Still, I find that Albanian is very different compared to Slavic languages such as Russian. 

And, yes, the app also has dark mode!

Japanese, however, is a whole different beast given that it is spoken in a whole different part of the world. The language is written with three different scripts actually: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Duolingo starts off by teaching you Hiragana, giving you “easy” words to practice the symbols with such as “aoi” (blue), “aka” (red), “shiro” (white), “ohayo” (good morning), “ichi” (one), and other numbers. From there, you go and learn more and more words as you get to know Hiragana and how it works. Hiragana characters, after all, represent syllables that are usually just formed via a consonant that is followed by a vowel, like “ku”, “sa”, “yo”, “chi”, “shi”, etc. It’s pretty interesting once you get into it!

Duolingo does a lot of repeating once you’re there btw. You can move on to a higher level by completing a test of sorts but it gets harder, especially if you don’t know the vocabulary, and by repeating your lessons over and over again, you eventually memorize it better. I feel as if Duolingo is pretty good at it in a way, although I find the “streak” and “hearts” mechanics to be quite intimidating. The app will remind you that your “streak” is in danger and I’m glad that WordPress doesn’t do that because my 432-post-streak would probably get in danger if an angry WP mascot would threaten my life. Duolingo doesn’t quite threaten you but the owl gets very upset at you, hence the memes.

Hey, I could give PLUS a try for free for two weeks! But I’ll go free for now. Thanks tho!

The “Hearts” mechanic represents your “HP” in a way. When you make mistakes, you lose a “heart”. Once you’re out of hearts, though, you can’t continue your lesson until you have more again. Hearts are recharged over time (but they take incredibly long). Alternatively, you can buy the PLUS pack to get access to infinite hearts… but Duolingo isn’t “pay-to-win” because you can also earn hearts through the “practice” tool. Completing practice kills two Duolingo owls with one stone, which is great because you can learn more and also take care of that pesky owl.

Seriously, the owl is intimidating and it may feel as if you’re being held at gunpoint when you slack off. Luckily, you can turn off the notifications inside the app… but the app also encourages you to keep it up in other ways. For starters, there is a leaderboard that displays your progress to others that learn the same language. You can connect with people you know and compete against them… This may be potentially encouraging because competitiveness never hurt anybody? At the same time, though, Duolingo also encourages you with motivational messages and stats that show that you got better. Somewhat easy exercises are often labelled “hard challenge”, so beating them makes you feel good about yourself. On top of that, though, you also get exercises that you failed in the past, giving you a chance at redemption, showing them that you grew as a person. It’s honestly pretty amazing how much they thought through this app and I like Duolingo a lot.

I will write about this more in the future if I remember… today was just a short review-ish post on Duolingo, an app that makes learning a new language kinda fun! If you wanna see more posts like this in the future or potentially some progress updates, let me know! Have you tried learning Japanese before or are you maybe interested in reading more about my Albanian origin? Let me know!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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