Is it kidding to use Duolingo to learn English from Chinese?

I love Duolingo, but I don’t think it’s wise to learn English from Duolingo Chinese.

This post was originally posted on Duolingo Discussion board three years ago.

I shared my opinion on this since I really love foreign language learning through duolingo and would like to see how duolingo will go for Asian languages, especially Chinese.

After three years, Chinese had not yet been added as a target language here at Duolingo.

Here is my magic to learn Mandarin Chinese,

I guess it is way more difficult than many people imagine to do it through Duolingo.

If possible, I really want to see whether there are some successful case studies to learn English, French or Spanish from Chinese.

What is the Best Way to Learn English?

Three years later, I have my own online English school targeting on Chinese English learners and it’s  working really well.

Is Duolingo A Good Way to Learn English From Chinese?

Effective Learning European Languages through Duolingo, however, Is it kidding to use Duolingo to learn English from Chinese?
Effective Learning European Languages through Duolingo: On my 128 days streak

For the English language learning from Chinese, The current market positioning on the China market seems not so accurate.

Here we goes.


Why Learn English From Duolingo Chinese?

Duolingo is designed for beginners to start learning a new language, and it seems more easier to learn Roman languages from English since the characters are almost the same or just the same.

I got a lot of fun in learning French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German. And there are more Chinese language lovers love using duolingo to start learning a second or third foreign language.

I joined a QQ group for polyglots and duolingo lovers in China and am working as the moderator there, it’s the largest online club on this topic.

When Duolingo announced its China version earlier, we had a debate on this: whether it’s effective to use Duolingo to learn foreign languages from Chinese?

I really doubt this.

Challenges for Duolingo Chinese

More than 0.3 billion people in China had been learning English for several years, many of them had learned for 10+ years. among them, many are good at English examniations, but can not speak even up to ten full English sentences.

Things are changing, now more Chinese can speak good English, but it’s still a very small portion.

Let’s look at Duolingo, I think the biggest contribution of duolingo is that it makes all the language learning process much easier to pick up and could be controlled.

It’s very good for adults to learn a new language with similar language background. English speakers can easily learn French or Spanish, and Spanish speakers can learn English easily too.

It’s Funny to Learn From Duolingo Chinese

However, for Chinese native speakers to learn English or other languages? sounds really funny for me.

  1. People who had already learned fair English (most Chinese who learned a few years belong to this group) will find it way too easy and what they need more is listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. they will find duolingo not helpful at all for their level.
  2. Chinese English learning with poor English level will find duoling very difficult to use since it’s so easy to make mistakes even they are typing in the correct answers. It’s more about the language natures, there could be many ways to express the same meaning in Chinese, some silly mistakes will make the learners disappointed quickly and gave up.
  3. Kids: obviously are not the target for Duolingo.

The above are the reasons that Duoling is not suitable for Chinese people to learn English or other languages from Chinese.

Change a Strategy for China Market?

however, it can still attract many Chinese to learn other languages. I think duolingo should adjust their strategy in the promotion in China.

by the way, the Chinese name of duolingo sounds weird and I love the English name of Duolingo better.

Does any spanish, german or italian use a different name to call Duolingo? I don’t think so.

What’s your opinion?

Feedback: Cultural Conflicts

Some people are holding different opinions, however I could not find anyone can justify their reasoning to the point.

I chose one which seems more neutral here

Mhh, I can’t agree with your arguments.

  1. Advanced students can benefit from Duolingo as well, if they want to. I am not native English, and my English was already at a very high level when I started Duolingo. I used English everyday at work and for university courses. Still, I feel I still benefit a lot from Duolingo, my English has significantly improved. I feel many advanced students underestimate the number of mistakes they make / unnatural expressions they are using. Duolingo helps a lot in reducing these kinds of mistakes. Try it 😀
  2. If you are referring to the current Chinese -> English course here, don’t worry. It just came out and is still in beta. The (volunteer!) team is working hard to add all those many ways to express the same thing. In the future, it will accept all correct answers. The best you can do right now is to send reports in order to help the team.
  3. Maybe not very small kids, but I don’t see a reason why teenagers shouldn’t use Duolingo. Schools in Latin America seem to give it to their students as homework. 🙂
  4. Duolingo is working hard on adding many language courses. Not only Asian language -> Western language, but also Asian language <-> Asian language. In the future, you will be able to learn many languages that are more similar to Chinese on Duolingo as well 😀

I composed a comment further stating my opinion.

thanks for the reply,

  1. Yes, I totally agree with you and I am a fan of duolingo too. and I love the efficiency to learn western languages in this way, it’s so easy to stick to and we can get progress within very short time.
  2. As you can see from my tile, I am talking about this exactly. Yes, I understand it’s in the beta version and it needs time and efforts to optimize.
  3. I am talking all about the problem for Chinese->English, not European languages, the same is with the kids. for Chinese kids who can read and write, I don’t think I will let them use this to learn English, but I will let them learn other European languages when their English level is at a certain level.
  4. Since there are not many new language direction on Duolingo for Asian -> Western languages yet. I am opening this topic based on my observation for Chinese->English.

Yes, I personally does not need this service, however many people around me who were attracted by duolingo’s ads will try to learn English from Chinese and will ask me for the advices.

My feelings about this issue is that it’s really difficult to find a fault-tolerance rate between Chinese and English.

I believe people who have experience on Duolingo will find there are some faults in Duolingo lessons, like the order problems, unprofessional expressions, it will lead to wrong judgement of the rating. wrong answers will be rated as correct and correct answers will be rated as wrong. however we can bear them and we will even smile on them.

Why? since we understand the system must tolerate some faults due to the language differences to make the judgement quickly.

I personally had been working on global ranslation industry for more than 14 years, we can see these differences in western languages are not so obvious, this can be proofed by the machine translation tools. You can get very nice translation results on Google Translate between European languages. However the translation between English and Chinese are way much poor compared to the European language pairs.

So the problem comes, if the system tolerates more faults, there will be more wrong answers to be recognized as correct, if the system accpets less faults, there will be always red cross popping up.

All these can explain why Europeans can learn many European languages well, which is hard to imagine for most Chinese. However, when more and more people can grasp one of the European languages like English, they can master many languages to be real polyglots, the start will be Duolingo, and they will surely learn from English. I believe so even when there is language pair from Chinese.

Our online club is just looking for these Chinese polyglots.

Maybe I am too pessimistic, but I want to hear more insights on this issue and I will welcome the positive examples to support your judgement. Like I said, the successful experiences between western languages does not justify its suivival between Chinese and English.

Even in China, some people believe people can effectively learn English well from Chinese, and say I am a fool like some one in the past saying people can never type Chinese on computers.

Actually these are totally two different things. and most importantly, this guy himself does not learn English from Chinese since he claims his English is perfect enough, and our debate is whether it’s effective to learn English from Chinese is effective.

And at last, time will prove everything. I will be very happy if my judgements on this is wrong, since it will be a great tool bringing benefits to my fellow Chinese friends.

Your objective comments will be highly appreciated!

Here are some complaints about duoling English learning from Chinese on weibo (one of the largest social media platform in China)

Complaints on Duolingo Chinese
Complaints on Duolingo Chinese : the answer by duolingo is wrong while the answer of the learner is correct
Complaints on Duolingo Chinese
Complaints on Duolingo Chinese : funny rating, and the correct answer sounds pretty interesting
Complaints on Duolingo Chinese
Complaints on Duolingo Chinese: learner’s correct answer rated as wrong answer while the system answer will never be heard in real life although it sounds correct gramatically.

Looking for a More Effective Language Learning Solution?

After I posted this thread.

I developed some effective and easy-to-follow training techniques for both English learning and Mandarin learning.

I am now challenging myself to be a good language tutor.

My latest online course Best Way to Learn Mandarin is helping Mandarin learners with western language background to learn the language in a better way, and make Mandarin part of their lifestyle.

Practical Lifestyle English (in Mandarin) is my online course for English learners in China to change their methods of study, and use English in their real life.  here is the introduction for the program Chao Magic English: Best Way to Learn English.

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