The language-learning app Duolingo has announced the addition of a new course, one that users far and wide have been requesting for years: Japanese. The course, like ones before it, offers learners free lessons on the language, starting at a basic level and working up toward ‘fluency.’ Duolingo announced the new course today, explaining some of the difficulty that went into developing the system.
According to Duolingo, Japanese was a very difficult language to develop a course for, something reflected by the difficulty English speakers experience in learning the language. The fact that numerous words exist in Japanese for a single word in English, as well as the multiple writing systems and flexible word order means condensing it all down into something that can teach users without external instruction is daunting.
In order to develop the course, Duolingo says it ‘invented a new way to teach Japanese,’ one that includes the written language including kanji. “To do this, we developed a completely new set of exercises dedicated to teaching the complicated Japanese writing systems mentioned above,” the company explains. “In our Japanese course, you can learn the shapes, pronunciations, and meanings of all Hiragana characters (there are about 50), all 50 Katakana characters, and 88 basic Kanji (Chinese) characters that you need to know in order to reach basic proficiency.”
The character teaching process is a gradual one, though, with lessons being arranged based on theme. Research conducted by multiple entities was factored into Duolingo’s course creation process, including Common European Framework of Reference for Languages’ JF Standard. The company says that its course covers all of the ‘necessary topics,’ among them being grammar and vocabulary. Learners who complete the course can expect to reach the CEFR A1 level, which is a basic level of understanding in the language.