Our comprehensive guide about learning Japanese with Duolingo, including how long it takes, what to expect, and some tips and tricks.
So you want to learn Japanese? That’s great, but know that there is some good news and some bad news. Let’s talk about the bad news first.
Japanese is one of only five languages on the planet classified as category IV, which is the classification for languages that take the most amount of time and effort to learn, and are “exceptionally difficult” for those who speak native English.
Now, the good news. There are more tools and resources than ever before to help you learn Japanese. No longer do you have to sit through night classes at the local community college to learn Japanese. There are dozens of apps, online programs, podcasts, and YouTube channels to help you along your journey.
Yet, of all these resources, Duolingo might be the most popular. In this post, I discuss what it’s like learning Japanese with Duolingo.
How Much Time Per Day Should You Practice Japanese?
The amount of time you need to dedicate to learning Japanese is a hotly debated topic. Some linguists suggest full immersion and maximizing exposure to the language.
Other experts suggest doing just 30 minutes of language learning per day over an extended period of time to allow your brain to absorb the language and normalize with it. I tend to fall in this latter camp of thinking.
For one, hardly anyone has the time to dedicate hours per day to learning Japanese. So it’s just not practical. Plus, I’m a big believer in consistency over volume.
As long as you can dedicate 30 minutes per day five or six days per week, this should help you pick up Japanese at a relatively steady pace. Of course, because it’s a difficult language, you may want to dedicate more time to your studies if you want to pick it up faster for work or relocation purposes.
Also, for those who are learning for fun as a quirky hobby (looking at you anime fans out there), you can get away with 15 minutes per day.
In the end, there is no right amount of time per day to practice. It is totally situational. Do what works for you depending on your schedule and how quickly you want to learn.
How Many Hours Does It Take To Learn Japanese with Duolingo?
Here’s the harsh reality. Learning Japanese is not a simple feat. It takes around 2,200 hours to learn Japanese. Yes, you read that correctly.
For those who have used Duolingo before, you know that each lesson takes roughly 5 minutes. So by my math, if it takes 2,200 hours to learn Japanese, and each lesson takes 5 minutes to finish, you only need to complete 26,400 lessons. 😳
Obviously there is not a direct correlation between those 5 minute Duolingo lessons and that 2,200 hour figure, and there are tons of variable at play here (such as desired level of fluency), but just know that it will take a long time.
For your typical, casual learner on Duolingo who does two or three lessons per day, I would bank on spending years on Duolingo to get to an intermediate level of Japanese fluency.
I have no doubt that you can master some Japanese basics within 6 months, but your conversations will be very elementary.
How Long Does It Take To Complete the Duolingo Japanese Course?
Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer as to how long it takes to complete the Duolingo Japanese course. For one, Duolingo is much more than a sequence of lessons. There are optional review sessions, match madness games, ramp ups, and league competition, among other features.
You can literally spend an hour on Duolingo and not do a single real lesson along the path. In this sense, I view Duolingo almost like a social app and less like a language app.
However, if you blocked out all of these extras and just did the lessons along the learning path, it would still take you two to three years at the rate of four lessons per day. It is a very long path (with over 100 units), with dozens of lessons per unit.
Tips For Learning Japanese with Duolingo
Learning a new language is a challenge, especially when that language is Japanese. However, it is not insurmountable. Part of your success will be based on preparing yourself for the journey (it really is a journey) and using the right resources, including Duolingo. Here are some tips to maximize your success:
Take Notes: Japanese is complex. There’s no question about that. Take lots of notes and make sure that you refer back to them as needed. Write down things you need to look up or words you struggle with, etc.
Practice Makes Perfect: Nothing replaces practice. You can be skilled at many things, but learning a language is a matter of repetition. Make sure that you dedicate time to practice and repeat the Japanese words that you struggle with the most often so that you can master them.
Set a Schedule: You can’t just say, “I’ll learn when I have time” with Japanese. That may be tempting when Duolingo makes it so easy, but you need a routine and a schedule to help your brain and mouth remember all that you are learning. Set a schedule and stick to it for the best results.
Set Realistic Goals: You’re not going to learn a complex language like Japanese overnight. Set realistic goals about your learning journey so that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. It’s about baby steps.
Best Way To Supplement Duolingo When Learning Japanese
Duolingo is a great choice for learning Japanese basics. However, it’s not a one-source solution. If you really want to master your new language, you should be taking advantage of as many supplemental activities as possible. These include:
- Reading books (even children’s books are good)
- Watching TV, movies, and streaming content in Japanese (anime!)
- Using the captions while you watch (romaji or hiragana/katakana/kanji)
- Listening to music and reading lyrics
- Listening to podcasts, audiobooks, etc.
- Find a good YouTube channel
- Reading the news in Japanese
- Using online translators, pronunciation apps, etc.
Japanese is not an easy language to learn, but you can do it if you invest the time and stick with it. And doing Duolingo lessons everyday is a great start. Consistency is key!
How long it takes to learn Japanese on Duolingo depends on a number of variables, including desired level of fluency, time commitment per day, and practice outside of Duolingo. For casual Duolingo learners though, expect two to three years of work.
In theory Duolingo should be able to carry you to an intermediate level of fluency, but in practice, I haven’t found that to be the case. In my opinion, you will be hard pressed to surpass a level of A2 Japanese on Duolingo.
Duolingo Japanese says it can take you to a B2 level of fluency, but I don’t see that as reality. I think you will at best become proficient at an A2 level.
Duolingo is constantly adding units to and removing units from its Japanese course, so it’s a bit of a moving target, but there are around 100 units in Duolingo Japanese.