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Duolingo founder delights in uptake of Welsh on platform – ‘it means a lot to people’

05 Nov 2022 2 minute read
Welsh language Duolingo

The founder of Duolingo has said that he is particularly pleased to see so many people learn Welsh on the platform who did not have the opportunity as children.

Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn, who is originally from Guatemalan, visited London this week and said that the rise of native British languages such as Welsh and Gaelic was a noticeable trend.

He also said that he saw the impact of current affairs on the choices of languages, such as Ukrainian becoming very popular due to the fightback against the invasion of the country by Russia. The UK now ranks second in the world for those learning Ukrainian.

“In the UK in particular, we’re seeing really good uptake of Welsh, Scots Gaelic, and Irish,” he told the Times.

“They’re some of the fastest growing.

“Some people are from Wales but never learned when they were children. It means a lot to these people to learn their own language.”

Welsh was the UK’s fastest-growing language in 2020 with 2.4 million learners, but was overtaken by Japanese in 2021. The number of Welsh learners on the app has now passed the 2 million mark.

A further 1.4 million people have started learning Scottish Gaelic.

Speaking at the time the 2021 figures were announced, Colin Watkins, UK Country Manager at Duolingo said: “From a UK perspective, there are two key takeaways for me. Welsh remaining in the top three fastest-growing languages and the 7th most popular overall is a remarkable achievement.

“We’re almost at 2 million learners, which I expect we will pass before Christmas.

“Second is the increasing popularity of Asian languages driven by the interest in Asian culture. Both point to a fundamental change in learner motivations and a real shift in what the UK wants to learn. I predict we’ll see Japanese and Korean increase even more in popularity next year.”

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Richard Morse
Richard Morse
1 year ago

Thanks for this report but what an opportunity missed by the National Centre for Learning Welsh who claim on their website that they have ‘a partnership’ with Duolingo. This must be such an important ‘partnership’ for Louis Von Ahn not to even mention it or the National Centre when he remarked on the success of the Welsh course on Duolingo. Where was the photo op with Welsh government ministers, why wasn’t Louis Von Ahn invited to have discussions with Mark Drakeford, who only last year tweeted his thanks to Duolingo for the National Centre for the Welsh course. Users and… Read more »

Connoisseur of Understatement
Connoisseur of Understatement
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Morse

Llawer o diolch am eich gwaith rhagorol, Richard a’ch cyd-wirfoddolwyr!

It’s disappointing that the partnership hasn’t yielded funding for audio recordings of all the sentences that you’ve written for the course. The robot voice is surprisingly good, but with slightly unlikely intonation in places. Other Duolingo courses have recordings of native speakers, and not just the ‘major’ world languages — Scots Gaelic has them despite having fewer speakers and less government support than Welsh does.

Still, you’ve achieved a lot on a limited budget, and I urge readers to upvote your comment in appreciation.

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