Did you know that Duolingo teaches 10 languages with writing systems other than the one you'll recognize from English? For some of these languages, the characters you'll need to learn are actually a lot like the ones used in English, but for other languages, you'll need to learn brand-new ways of thinking about sounds and words to read and write.

Duolingo has developed a series of tools to help you learn to read in languages that use other writing systems! We first introduced these new charts and lessons in our Japanese course, and now it's available in even more languages. In this post, we'll show you what these new tools look like for each language.

Arabic
Greek
Japanese
Korean
Russian
Ukrainian

Coming soon to Hebrew, Hindi, and Yiddish!

Russian, Ukrainian, and Greek

Russian, Ukrainian, and Greek all use an alphabet like in English, with each letter representing a sound or combination of sounds. Also, just like in English, these languages write words by combining letters, so once you know the letters you can start sounding out new words. Even some of the letters will look like ones you know from English! (And there will be some deceptively similar, but actually quite different, letters, too.)

Russian and Ukrainian use the Cyrillic alphabet, which is based on the Greek alphabet, so we can use the same approach to teach reading in all three languages.

Screenshot of the Russian course reading tab. The text at the top says "Let's learn Russian! Get to know the letters and sounds for Russian." Below the text is a blue button that reads "Learn the letters" and below that a 4 by 4 chart of white tiles for the different Russian letters. Each tile has the Russian letter in upper case and lower case, and below it a small letter from the English alphabet representing the sound. Screenshot of the same chart but for Ukrainian and with the Ukrainian letters. Screenshot of the same chart but for Greek and with the Greek letters.

For Russian, Ukrainian, and Greek, our new reading feature teaches you the individual letters and the sounds they represent. Once you know your way around these new letters, you can practice them in the reading tab and by doing your regular lessons!

Korean

Korean's writing system, Hangeul, visually represents blocks of syllables, or combinations of sounds (like ma or mo). It's like writing multiple letters at once! So what looks like a single Korean character can actually be multiple letters forming a syllable block: each part of the character stands for a different sound (e.g., m and a), and together they form a syllable.

What's interesting about Korean is that there are different syllable block patterns depending on the shape of what's being combined. Some combinations are arranged horizontally, others vertically, and there are many other patterns to learn, too!

Screenshot of the Korean course reading tab. The text at the top says "Let's learn Hangeul! Get to know the main writing system in Korean." Below the text is a blue button that reads "Learn the letters" and below that a 4 by 4 chart of white tiles for the different Korean syllable characters. Each tile has the Korean character, and below it the English letter or letters representing the sound. Screenshot of a lesson from the the Korean course reading tab. At the top it says "Build the character" and below it is a blue microphone icon and H-A-N (English letters). In the center of the screen is a large square with a dotted blue outline and below it are three tiles of different Korean characters. Two of the tiles have been dragged to the top left and top right of the large square, and the bottom half of the square is gray with the dotted blue outline.

To teach learners how to read Korean, you'll find a reference chart and new lessons to help you recognize the sounds and syllables and practice forming syllable blocks. Soon you'll be sounding out Korean like a pro, and you can keep practicing in the tab or in the regular lessons!

Arabic

Arabic uses a writing system and a writing direction that will be new to many learners: you read and write Arabic from right to left! Arabic has letters, like in English, but in Arabic the default is to write the letters in a connected script, so the shape of each letter can change dramatically depending on where it shows up in the word. This creates the flowing visuals associated with Arabic writing, and it's important for learners to recognize all the different forms of these new letters!

Screenshot of the Arabic course reading tab. The text at the top says "Let's learn Arabic! Get to know the characters and sounds for Arabic." Below the text is a blue button that reads "Learn the characters" and below that a 4 by 4 chart of white tiles for the different Arabic letters. Each tile has the Arabic letter, and below it the English letter or letters representing the sound. Screenshot of a lesson from the Arabic course reading tab. At the top it reads "Trace the character" and below it is a blue microphone icon and an Arabic letter with a light gray English letter 't' below it. In the center of the screen is a light gray dotted grid (one horizontal line bisected by one vertical line to form quadrants). The Arabic letter is overlaid in light gray on the grid and a bold, dotted blue line and an arrow indicate to start touching the screen at the right of the character and trace the gray letter by following the dotted blue line.

To practice reading in Arabic, we've created new lessons to help you learn the different forms of the letters. One of the exercises you'll find is tracing – where you create the shapes yourself, with your finger, to help you commit the new letters to memory! Read more in our post about what makes Arabic so special.

Teaching you to read from A to Z, or A to Я, or ا to ي, or...

It's exciting to learn to read in a new language, and it makes so much of the language available to you, whether through books, Twitter, or texting with new friends. Duolingo's latest character and reading lessons will get you learning and reading in your new language, no matter what the new writing system is! We're always updating and improving our teaching tools, and we'll be introducing these reading lessons to more languages soon. 🙌🏼