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Language learning app Duolingo to mothball Welsh course

22 Oct 2023 5 minute read
Welsh Duolingo

Emily Price

Language learning app Duolingo will mothball its Welsh course at the end of this month meaning it will no longer be edited or updated.

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.

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.

According to a Duolingo Language Report in 2020, new Welsh learners on the app shot up by 44 per cent – beating French, Hindi, Japanese and Turkish.

Welsh learners were also found to be some of the hardest working and most committed in the world, ranking third for the longest average daily streaks, and third for the most number of lessons completed.

However, from November the course will be frozen in time with no further development.

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

He also runs the Duolingo Welsh Learners Facebook page where he made an announcement this week on what lies ahead for Welsh learners using the app.

In a post he wrote: “Duolingo is ‘sunsetting the development of the Welsh course’ (and many others). But they have promised to keep the course available.

“It will no longer be possible to edit the course after this month so please note anything that possibly needs to be changed, ideally with a screenshot.”

Mr Morse is now urging Welsh learners using the app to make contact with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford to ask him to personally intervene with Luis Von Ahn, the CEO of Duolingo.

In a previous interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the company boss said Welsh was one of the “most popular” languages on the platform.

Concern

In October 2021, Duolingo launched a partnership with the National Centre for Learning Welsh.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS hailed the partnership saying it would help “work towards achieving the Welsh Government’s ambition of a million Welsh speakers by 2050”.

There are currently over 650k active learners of Welsh on Duolingo and over 2 million have learned some Welsh on the course.

Mr Morse said “many millions” have been made aware of the existence of the Welsh language by using the Duolingo platform.

He added: “If the course had been developed effectively it could by now have content up to B2 level and be making a massive contribution to reaching the Welsh Government’s target of a million people with B2 and better skills by 2050.”

Bad news

Facebook users took to the comment section of the Welsh Duolingo Facebook group to voice their concerns. One user said: “This is bad news for me – and the development of the language. I have used Duolingo every day for more than three years and have learnt so much through its constant development.”

Another posted: “Why??? Welsh is an important language and popular course in DuoLingo! Please reconsider! If you drop Welsh I will immediately drop my paid subscription.”

A spokesperson for the National Centre for Learning Welsh said: “Even though Duolingo has decided to pause development of the Welsh course, along with several other languages, the course, as it stands, will still be available.

“The Centre will continue to encourage its learners to use Duolingo, as a valuable way of practising and revising.”

Mr Morse responded to the National Centre’s comments by saying: “It’s hypocritical of the National Centre to talk about encouraging learners to use Duolingo after removing nearly all references to Duolingo from their course books.”

A Duolingo spokesperson said: “Duolingo will pause updates to the Welsh course starting in November when The National Centre stops creating content.

“Our aim is to channel limited resources into enhancing high-demand courses like Spanish, French, and German, which serve a larger audience in the UK and worldwide.

“Welsh, already one of our most comprehensive courses, will remain free for all, and continue to be the go-to for people wanting to begin learning Welsh and those seeking to improve their skills.

“For learners who might have completed our course we encourage them to explore the newly launched Languages Gateway, which offers numerous other Welsh learning resources.”

Journey

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said: “Duolingo is a valuable resource which can help learners on their journey to become Welsh speakers, alongside other language learning opportunities.

“In light of this news, I will be writing to Duolingo to ask them to consider how, together with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, we might support the continued development of the Welsh course.”

Efa Gruffudd Jones,, Welsh Language Commissioner said: It has been great to witness the increased interest by people wanting to learn Welsh over the past years. While the Duolingo course’s development has been paused, it is still available.

“I would encourage anyone interested in learning Welsh to have a look at the various opportunities offered by the National Centre for Learning Welsh.”


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Gill
Gill
5 months ago

Say Something in Welsh is better anyway, and it’s free. Duolingo teaches a decoding system disguised as language learning (and charges a premium for it). SSIW teaches you how to think and speak a second language the way you would your first. No huge loss.

Paul
Paul
5 months ago
Reply to  Gill

Tried to download the SSIW app from Playstore but was unable to. Message appeared to say app isn’t available for your device as designed for an older version of Android.

Ósmy Żbik
Ósmy Żbik
5 months ago
Reply to  Gill

It’s free? I had to pay 10 quid for anything past lesson 1.

Owen Wills
5 months ago
Reply to  Ósmy Żbik

The older versions of the cpurse are free. If you swipe left through the app, you’ll see different options, some of which are labelled as old courses. The newer courses are better developed, but the old ones are still good

Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas
5 months ago
Reply to  Gill

Duolingo is ok if you are not a confident learner… I am sick of rather academic people knocking Duolingo when it is good for difficult languages like Arabic and Irish. Their method they use stops me giving up my attempt to learn Hungarian

Rhian Hewitt-Davies
Rhian Hewitt-Davies
5 months ago
Reply to  Gill

Hi,

I tried SSIW and they just made me repeat a short phrase over and over again, to the point of alienating me. Maybe I misunderstood the programme?

Richard
Richard
5 months ago

…which is how you learned your first language – you just didn’t realise it at the time.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

I don’t understand. If the Welsh course is so popular with learners that it beats the likes of French Japanese Hindi and Turkish, and is also praised by Luis Von Ahn, the CEO of Duolingo., why on earth do they want to mothball the app. It makes no sense? 🤔 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Last edited 5 months ago by Y Cymro
Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I found Duolingo to be very convenient as a tool to learning the Welsh language.
It is home based and you can use it at any time.
Like many newcomers to Wales we will miss this as a valuable platform.

Is it possible being the Welsh course is so popular can the Welsh government attract the duolingo platform to relocate from USA to Wales ?
It would be a good start to build a technology base as the Irish Republic is doing.

Aaron jones
5 months ago

As a proud Welsh speaker working in language tech… this makes me really angry. I will be setting up a task force within Yepic chat to see if we can make an interactive video, voice and text based welsh tutor!

Our beautiful language culture and heritage deserves better!

Rob
Rob
5 months ago

I’ve been learning Cymraeg on Duolingo for over two years now. It’s a great platform, hopefully the pause will only be temporary.

Sikejsudjek
Sikejsudjek
5 months ago

Stupid decision. If the Welsh government are serious about people learning Welsh they should make sure this keeps being updated.

Martin cottington
Martin cottington
5 months ago

Wow I’m gutted I’m a couple of weeks in on the course…dw i hoffi dualingo…😔

Aaron
Aaron
5 months ago

Babbel all the way👌🏼. Duolingo is full of random sentences and was not useful for core language.

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

You should try the Czech course, some of the phrases of that are really weird.

Myfanwy Alexander
Myfanwy Alexander
5 months ago

The real problem with Duolingo is that it does not respond to its learning community, and as a result,its revenues have dropped sharply. I moved from the free to the subscription service for my Italian lessons but cancelled whenthey mucked about with the interface and made learning much less enjoyable.

Richard Morse
Richard Morse
5 months ago

Well in fact Duolingo’s revenues are growing rapidly. They have now reached net profit as these figures show. https://investors.duolingo.com/static-files/b9352776-f83b-4544-907e-90cd307aca80 The problem for Welsh and all the other volunteer courses is that they only represent a tiny fraction of their users (Welsh is less than 0.5%) while consuming a disproportionate amount of their costs. The sad aspect is that the National Centre for Learning Welsh undermined their own learners, and all the other learners, by not taking the opportunity over the last two years of developing and expanding the Welsh course despite promising to do so when they started paying thousands… Read more »

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