Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Duolingo set for talks with Welsh Government over mothballing of Welsh language course

01 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Welsh Duolingo.

Emily Price

Duolingo is set for talks with the Welsh Government following news that the learning app will mothball its Welsh course.

The app uses game-like experiences to help learners practice and improve their language skills. At one point Welsh was the biggest growing language course on the platform.

From today (1 November) the course is set to be frozen in time with no further updates or edits.

After Nation.Cymru broke the news of the app’s mothballing, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles wrote to Duolingo to ask them to reconsider.

Duolingo has since contacted Mr Miles offering to meet in person to “discuss next steps”.

A spokesperson said: “Duolingo’s Welsh course is not going anywhere – it will remain free for all. We’re incredibly proud that Duolingo is one of the most popular ways for people to learn Welsh, and we want to continue to do our part towards the Welsh government’s goal of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

“Given the outpouring of support over the past week for our course, we’ve reached out to the Welsh government to understand how Duolingo can continue to support Cymraeg 2050.”

Duolingo has also reached out to Labour’s shadow Tech minister Alex Davies Jones MP who who had expressed concerns in a letter sent to the app’s CEO.

A group of volunteers wrote the course and maintained it from its launch in January 2016 until the volunteer programme ended in 2021.

Since then the National Centre for Learning Welsh took over the responsibility of developing and maintaining it.

Learners

Welsh tutor, Richard Morse led the group of volunteers who developed and maintained the Welsh language course on Duolingo.

He said: “Now let’s hope both the Welsh government and Duolingo can agree on the obvious next step. Involving Duolingo closely in the Welsh government’s plan to integrate the learning of Welsh across all ages (ie from primary school to adult learners).

“Since Duolingo is already by far the most popular method of learning Welsh with everyone from 5-90 yrs old.”

The total number of people who have started learning Welsh on Duolingo since launch is 2.5 million which was announced on St Dwynwen’s Day this year.

Today there are 663K active learners.

A Senedd petition was started by Kierion Lloyd asking that Mark Drakeford personally intervene with Luis von Ahn, the CEO of Duolingo.

It has far gained over 3200 signatures.

Mr Lloyd said: I’m a learner, and I felt frustrated at this news. Resources for Welsh learners are very limited and to hear that one of the popular resources will no longer be updated was very disappointing.

“knowing that the Welsh Government want to have a million Welsh speakers by 2050 surely they would want there to be a variety of resources available in order to encourage people to learn, or assist in their learning.

News of the course being mothballed and the Senedd petition even made it onto an Australian news social media channel.

@abcnewsaus Duolingo will no longer update the language of Welsh despite its growing popularity on the app.  #Duolingo #Welsh #Wrexham #Learning #ABCNews ♬ News serious information news program – gooooodee_jay

Mr Lloyd added: I noticed that the petition now has over 3,000 signatures – bendigedig! Petitions need 10,000 signatures to ensure that they get discussed in the Senedd, and I hope that this target can be reached.

“Even if an individual doesn’t use Duolingo themselves (maybe they are fluent or not wanting to learn), hopefully they will consider signing for the benefit of those who do use it. Diolch yn fawr iawn.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
17 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Erisian
Erisian
5 months ago

The course has been a shadow of its former self since the attached forum closed.
And the excellant notes were only ever available on the browser verion.
If the Senedd is to hand over any cash – it should be to fund forum mediators / admins like the original version.

Richard Morse
Richard Morse
5 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

The notes are available here.
https://welshclass.wales/home%2Fcartref

Richard Morse
Richard Morse
5 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

The Facebook Duolingo Welsh learners group, while not as comprehensive as the forums, is the best place for support for course users. https://www.facebook.com/groups/welshduolingo

Mawkernewek
5 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

Probably better to go with something independently hosted, otherwise the Senedd would be handing over cash to something that Duolingo would then be collection ad receipts from. I did subscribe to Duolingo for a while, I stopped more or less when they closed the forums, as well as they changed the structure to the infinite snake thing rather than the tree format. They’ve recently seemed to have deleted the forum completely, rather than just freeze it which is a shame as sometimes it added quite a bit in clarification etc. On Duolingo I always get adverts for joining the British… Read more »

Richard Morse
Richard Morse
5 months ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Unfortunately at this level of sophisticated technology a big enough company is needed to sustain it. The last ten years is littered with Welsh learning apps developed with substantial funds from the Welsh government which disappeared without trace because there was never enough money to update them. This is the same reason that there is no Wales based wordprocessor. I remember using the only one ever developed, in the 80s, Edword on the then standard school micro – the BBC micro. Once the BBC micro became obsolete the wordprocessor disappeared. For these reasons Welsh versions of standard software are used… Read more »

Erisian
Erisian
5 months ago

A link to the petition would have been useful

Richard Morse
Richard Morse
5 months ago
Reply to  Erisian
Dic Sion Dafydd
Dic Sion Dafydd
5 months ago

If this minority language is as popular as the welsh language fanatics claim. Then why is Duolingo preventing further updates?

onedragonontheshirt
onedragonontheshirt
5 months ago

Because they can get the same ad revenue without spending any money on updates, it’s hardly rocket science.

Anyway, I’m not surprised Cymraeg doesn’t interest you, it looks like you’ve got enough on your hands mastering English punctuation.

Gerallt Williams
5 months ago

Play the ball not the man!

Gerallt Williams
5 months ago

Is that because there is not sufficient interest to make the updates economically viable because Welsh as a language is not attracting enough new learners?

onedragonontheshirt
onedragonontheshirt
5 months ago

Duolingo is a business; first and foremost they care about making money, and if they can continue to make money without expending any then that’s exactly what they will do. As to the numbers of new learners, Duolingo themselves reported that Cymraeg was the fastest growing language on their platform in 2020: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55348604

And re: “Play the ball not the man!” – I treat trolls and idiots with the contempt they deserve, which is not something I will ever apologise for.

Gareth
Gareth
5 months ago

Less than 1 percent of the people that signed the 20mph petition, but yet the WG are already taking action? They need to get their priorities right

onedragonontheshirt
onedragonontheshirt
5 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

You do know that most of the signatures on that 20mph petition were fakes, don’t you?

onedragonontheshirt
onedragonontheshirt
5 months ago

Duolingo was what started me on my journey learning Cymraeg, and while I’m grateful for that there are much better options out there nowadays. The dysgucymraeg.cymru courses are brilliant, and are available face-to-face or online for those not near enough to a centre to partake. Say Something in Welsh is an excellent online course (which you can get for free when you enrol on a dysgucymraeg.cymru course @ £45/year early bird). Duolingo may have taken a turn for the worse in trying to maximise their profits, but there are plenty of other – and better – options out there for… Read more »

Gerallt Williams
5 months ago

Duolingo i’w y gore.

Richard Morse
Richard Morse
5 months ago

That was the whole point really, to get people on the path to learning Welsh with the diverse range of resources available. To give the 85% of non Welsh speaking Welsh people the confidence that they can learn Welsh. That it is not incredibly difficult, that it is a modern language. In this the course has been hugely successful. It was also planned to be a important part of supporting people following a class with one of the hundreds of very enthusiastic tutors, mostly on zero hours contracts. Unfortunately the National Centre for Learning (a little) Welsh decided that they… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.