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minority language online learners

Hi guys,

I am working on a project at the moment which is looking into the negative and positive effects of new media (online resources) on minority languages.

I was wondering if people would be willing to share their experience learning Welsh and Irish on Duolingo. Simply put, how has Duolingo influenced how you learn Irish and/or Welsh? positve and/or negative responses.


February 12, 2016



When I moved to NW Wales (from England) I was very keen to learn Welsh and I joined an intensive (1 term) Wlpan course in Bangor. This was excellent and was the right choice then as I don't think I should have retained it if it had been once a week rather than every weekday. However it was harder than I had imagined for two reasons. Firstly I had not quite allowed for the difference in learning a new language when much younger, at school, and learning in my mid fifties when I arrived here. and secondly I had not expected it to be so exhausting to get up at the crack of dawn to catch an early bus for a journey of 2 1/2 hours and then to do the same journey at the end of the day. So I made reasonable progress and tried to use Welsh in most situations but couldn't face repeating the experience for the next level . I tried to take it further but without much success. Then I became ill and had nearly 2 years of being very reclusive and I ended up finding it hard to speak to anyone in English, let alone Welsh. And even when I emerged I had lost all confidence in speaking Welsh. So what I had learned has been fading away over the years since then. I kept the ability to understand at least some of what is spoken around me but this has dropped from around 3/4 to 1/2 and on to about 1/3 of what I hear.. I have got out all my materials and have been meaning to brush up for ages but somehow have never really settled down to it again.

In the last couple of weeks I got to hear of Duolingo and have been following the course for one week, doing a fair stint but not excessive each day. I find it really impressive especially how it is structured to keep you motivated.so I am sure I shall persevere to the end of the course. The gaps in my knowledge caused by forgetting come at every level so I don't find it at all frustrating starting all over again. On the other hand I find it really pleasurable to discover that there are also many things I do remember or are stimulated to remember by thinking Welsh much more.

But maybe the best point of all is that it has got me so enthused that I can actually imagine that in a couple of weeks or so I shall start using my Welsh again here where I live which after all was my main reason for starting to learn in the first place although there are subsidiary reasons as well of course such as exploring the literature and culture generally and the sheer interest of learning such an ancient but still vibrant language.


Thank you so much for sharing your experience, please, if you remember me :), check back in in a couple and weeks and let me know how you get on!


I was raised in the heart of a Welsh speaking community (Caerfyrddin), and took 'O' Level Welsh (passed it), as a...foreign language! I wanted to pursue an A level in Welsh but was categorically denied as my Welsh was deemed weak. What a disappointment!! Thirty five years later, living in the US, and after many start/stop attempts with grammar books, linguaphone etc, I am finding this course and SSiW as 'winds' of fresh air. I feel a new impetus to go back to the grammar books with a new focus as duolingo really is a fun, dynamic and encouraging way to learn Welsh. It makes me incredibly happy to see people from all over the world showing an interest and enthusiasm for this ancient language, something my school old school neglected.


Say Something in Welsh, an audio course that teaches you to speak Welsh (and understand spoken Welsh) with a deliberate deemphasis on reading, writing, or spelling.

(To get you to acquire a good accent without stumbling over the different symbol-to-sound correspondences of Welsh spelling compared to English - and also to get you used to actively speaking the language rather than just passively reading.)

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Ah! Thanks. I've heard mention of that a few times. Sounds like a good idea. I'll have to check it out.


Duolingo has been the only reason I've learned any of either. I tried Irish out just for fun, so I didn't get very far, but that I can even say bean agus fear is all down to it being available on Duolingo.

If anything, all the languages I am strongly focused on now except Polish are minority in as much as they are spoken by a small group of a few million at most. I don't think I would have seriously studied Norwegian, Catalan, or Welsh without Duolingo. I bought some Catalan books when I was in Spain years ago and I think I've got a teach yourself Welsh book knocking around in my mother's basement somewhere, but Duolingo made it easy enough that I have really started learning these languages. I obviously just started Welsh when it came out recently, so I am not that far, but I am further than I ever got with that teach yourself book. I suspect I will finish the course (same for Norwegian and Catalan - I am about half way done with those trees).

I also look forward to learning other minority languages in the future, like I will definitely do the Guaraní for Spanish speakers course when it comes out.

Btw, as a note (I see from your location, you're probably Irish), the reason I picked to seriously focus on Welsh rather than Irish is because my father-in-law is Welsh, whereas I am in no way Irish and nor are my in-laws. My mother-in-law is Polish, which is why I am learning Polish. I'm actually learning Catalan to keep my Spanish fresh and at the forefront of my mind on a daily basis. Norwegian is just because it's cool.

If anything, I may come back to Irish in addition to Ukrainian and Russian once I finish Welsh and Polish.


Hey thank you so much for your comment! this is brilliant. Ha, no worries I assumed you had a Welsh connection and Polish connection reading your post! Is Catalan available on Duolingo? I havent seen it. Norwegian isn't a minority language but it's still really interesting to hear about any language learning! Thank you so much again for in put, it's really great!


Catalan is only available from Spanish for now.

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Out of curiosity; how different is Catalan from Spanish?


The location of the Catalan speakers is truly indicative of how their language related to the other Latin based languages. It does share many things with Spanish, but has some words that look much more French, for instance, instead of hacer, we have fer, similar to the French faire, and instead of hombre, we have home, similar to the French homme and so on. Some sentences will be nearly or completely identical (ella compra una casa), while others, totally different (nosaltres mengem maduixes vs. nosostros comemos fresas).

I see you study French and Italian as well, so I think you would have no problem with the differences. Nearly anything not covered by Spanish will be similar to French or Italian.

This article points out some useful differences as well: http://www.velabas.com/writing/language/how-catalan-different-from-spanish/

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Thank you. That's very interesting and informative.

I was wondering whether it might have been connected with Langue D'Oc / Occitan, but it seems not.


Not a bad thought, kdb119. Apparently Occitan is its closest relative and they are mutually comprehensible: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occitan_language. It appears they share a few quirks that they don't with the other Latin languages: formatge for cheese/queso/formage, clau for key/llave/clé and plaça for square/plaza/place.

PS - Sorry to have not posted directly to what you said most recently. Duolingo has a weird thing where it wants you to stop replying after X number of replies.

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I thought I'd heard/read somewhere that there was some connection, but I glanced at a different Wikipedia article which appeared to suggest not, before posting. It seems like Catalan might be an interesting language to study at some point.

You have studied a truly impressive list of languages on here, nearly all to a high level. What did you think of Swedish? I really liked it - sounds great, I think.

WRT posting; no problem, I'm aware of Duolingo's little quirks. It does mean the posts stay visible within the 'page', I suppose, so I guess it makes sense. :-)


I've tried various ways to learn Welsh since moving to west wales almost 5 years ago as our children are now in welsh medium education (one secondary, one primary). I started with the welsh for the family course run through their primary school but now I'm working full time have found it difficult to attend lessons so have been experimenting with SSiW and now Duolingo and of course trying out bits with the kids. Its the confidence to speak bit that I'm struggling with most, my understanding of spoken welsh is coming on well.


My parents have always tried to introduce me to the different cultures of the world when I was a kid, so I was introduced to the Celtic culture (mainly Irish) at a very early age. At that time, I didn't know why, but I knew I had a strong connection with that culture.

When I was 8, my family decided that it was time for us to build our family tree. So we've started to track down our ancestors as far as we could. Most of them were Portuguese and indigenous people, but it was a huge surprise when we found out that there was an Irish in our family (my great-great-grandfather, to be exact). So basically, my connection was explained.

Once I knew that an Irish course was under development, I promptly started to look after it. To me, it was important to be the first speaker of Irish in my family after so many years. I tried the course in the day it was released. But after reading some discussion regarding how foreigners helped to keep the language alive, I admit that it demotivated me a lot. So I gave up. A few months later, I've decided to try again. but the lack of audio in most of the sentences really pissed me off. So I gave up once again. I'm not proud of that, though.

I'm still compelled to learn Irish sometime in my life, but now, I want to focus on Welsh. I've grown really fond of the Welsh language and Wales itself, and all thanks to Duolingo. It would be impossible to me to learn Welsh without Duolingo. The course is pretty well made, and I'm sure I'll be able to speak at least a little bit of Welsh after completing the course. I still don't know if I'll be able to talk naturally while mutating the words, though. Only time will tell, I guess.


I have learned other minority languages, through other sites, apps and programs. Can I add a comment or is this just for Duolingo's Minority languages?


i would love to hear about them, that would be great thank you!


Hello. I am a native speaker of Czech, learned English in school, haven't been to Wales/haven't spoken with Welsh speaker yet; and this course gave me some basics of Welsh grammar and vocabulary. I haven't finished yet, far from it, but so far this course is enjoyable way to study. Although, majority of my skills so far are passive. To break the silence, I use saysomethinginwelsh site/audio lessons, that make me more comfortable with the language (honestly, Duolingo is much nicer than drills on Quizlet and SSiW should totally be available for more languages.) I would maybe appreciate more grammar explanations - some of the best advice I found in the discussions under sentences, but I guess that's part of the learning process. I'm looking forward to Welsh being available on android app & having a vocabulary list option (vocab lists are something that I miss, given that that's how I'm used to drill my words). Because you are asking about minority languages in general, one note: Japanese is not available here, so I can't ever dream of Ainu language being included here, but making a minority language available to study worldwide is a big step, and courses like this definitely help 2 things: preserving the language grammar/vocab wise and making it possible for even more people to study them. And that's totally awesome.


hey thanks for this! I must look up Ainu, I've never heard of it.


It's Japanese people that aren't originally Japanese. They had their own culture, language, but they were mostly assimilated, and now only tiny bits of their culture exist.

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I saw a feature about the Ainu people on BBC News, I think, several months ago. It is a fascinating history. They are the indigenous people of the Northern Japanese islands and nearby Russian islands. Unfortunately, they have been very badly treated by both. Wikipedia has an article about them. Apparently only 100 speakers remain so it is now a very minority language.


Since I've grown up living in England without any ties to my Welsh family background other than going on holiday there, learning the language never really crossed my mind. My mum was born in Wrexham, but speaks no Welsh after moving to Liverpool quite young, and the only Welsh exposure I've had is two books for children I had when I was younger.

I check the Duolingo incubator regularly, and when I saw Welsh and realised there was a possibility of learning the language, it completely changed my perception of having a Welsh family and a difficult to pronounce middle name.

I started doing some real research and looking up other courses on sites like Memrise, and generally just trying to learn the basics until the Duo course got published. I've always liked learning languages which are seen as tricky or unusual, but recently I'd been sticking to Italian since school was taking up all my time. Now that I've actually started learning Welsh, it feels completely different to any other language I've learned, and almost like 'my' language. I've never experienced having a personal connection with a language before, so I'm excited to get further with the course!


I'm very interested in both Irish Welsh because they are languages of my country Great Britain. I am English but feel both languages are a part of me. Duolingo has helped me as learning either language is trickier than say, German, in that there are not as many resources. I have found more resources with Welsh, there is saysomethinginwelsh.com a very handy audio site. So I find the Duolingo Welsh helps with that. Irish I wouldn't have a clue where to go to learn that online other than duolingo (though to be honest it was mainly DuoLingo that sparked my initial interest in Irish so I had not been looking into that language previously). I've also found being able to run the Irish course and the Welsh course at the same time has helped me realise how different both languages are although both are Celtic.


Hey thanks for your response. it's really helpful! Just one thing, Irish is not a British Language and not part of Great Britain or England. Bothe languages are celtic but they are part of two different branches. Welsh is a member of the Britonic Branch and Irish is a goidelic or gaelic language :)

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MangoTiki was a rather careless with the nomenclature, but I think they meant that they are languages within British culture or of The British Isles. Irish is spoken in Northern Ireland a little and that is part of the United Kingdom; although not Great Britain of course, neither in the sense of the country nor the island.

As you know, until 1921/2, what is now The Republic of Ireland/Eire was also part of the United Kingdom. So, if MangoTiki is sufficiently old enough they may feel justified in their view in the sense that they meant 'British' or 'British culture' since the term 'British' is generally extended to include all of the United Kindom and Crown Dependencies such as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

It could be argued that Welsh is more a 'British' language than English in terms of the derivation of 'British', 'Britain' or 'Briton', since it originated here. :-)

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Worse still, until at least the mid-1950s, 'England' was often used synonymously to mean Britain or the UK even by Welsh and Scots, and (surprisingly) it wasn't necessarily contentious for the most part! Not at all advisable now, of course, although certain political and social classes may still talk this way. Nothing is likely to rile a Scot, Welsh or Irish person more than refering to them as English! :-)


Your last point is so true! :P I understand what your saying with the history of the country and what not and the overlap with Northern Ireland, but Irish was around before the country became associated with Britain and the language isn't really associated with British culture or history (except for when they were banning the use of it :P), on a large scale. Even historically (although completely correct me if I'm wrong) kings and queens (as an example) were referred to as the king/queen of the united kingdom of great britain and ireland, so even though they were part of the same sovereignty there was still a distinction between britain and ireland and two different identities and that's where my response stems from. Mangotiki makes a really interesting point regarding how she feels the languages are part of them because Great Britain is their country. I think my response was because I feel that and from my understanding of british culture in it's broadest sense, but i am obviously can't help but be sued by bias really, is that the Irish language isn't really associated with British Culture or identity. It is spoken in northern ireland but (again in the broadest sense of the culture, i really don't want to insult anyone, because we all have our own way of identifying with our nationality and history) Irish is seen as being part of Ireland as an island, not Britain. Ireland is still lumped in with great britain and england a lot of the time and I wanted to make the distinction. But language and identity is so personal it's no ones place to tell people how they should feel or what they associate with their heritage.

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You are absolutely right with all you say, of course. One might expect this sort of terrible faux pas of Americans but it was rather disappointing to see an English person make such a basic error. You were absolutely right to pick them up on their error. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

I also didn't meaning to suggest that Irish culture was in any way part of British culture or subordinate to it, but Wales does share British culture. In fact, Wales shares primarily English culture given the longer and closer association. The use of the Welsh language was also banned or strongly discouraged in schools for a long time; but then so were, to some extent, the use of English regional dialects and accents - even from radio and TV.

I certainly wasn't meaning to defend MangoTiki as such, but it was my impression that they were enthusiastic about both languages and so their remarks were probably coming from a good place and they had no intention to offend. I thought they shouldn't be discouraged over what appeared a lazy and ill-informed mistake but might have come simply from typing too quickly and not thinking. Some older generations who may not have received that great an education, leaving school at 14, do (regrettably) frequently confuse and misuse the terms.

The term 'British' is frequently applied to cover the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Crown Dependencies; thus including Northern Ireland. So when Ireland/Eire was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britian and Ireland people from the whole island may have been referred to correctly as British as well as Irish, in that sense. Those that speak Irish in Northern Ireland are more likely than not to associate with Irish tradition and culture than British, of course, despite being British under the umbrella use of the term.

Even before the EU, after independence Irish citizens were entitied to settle in the UK and vote, and were accorded equal rights in law as any British citizen, which for anyone not thinking too carefully might also help cloud the issue. English people, especially older generations, might refer to Irish citizens as British more in a sense of acceptance and integration than any intent to deny their separate identity.

Ireland is geographically one of the British Isles, and so that should have been more acceptable had they said that instead, since it shouldn't imply any specific political or cultural association.

Really, all I was meaning to say was that it was a shame they spoilt an obviously well-intentioned comment by using the wrong terms.


I really hope I'm not coming across particularly angry or aggressive about the whole thing, I think I may have been a bit short in my reply to the original post. I think my comment was just poorly structured, and I wasn't offended at all. I was just more trying to correct something I saw as a mistake, as you said a misuse of the term.

I didn't mean to imply Welsh wasn't part of British Culture,I was just trying to quickly explain why the languages (Irish and Welsh) are so different even though they are celtic languages and I never though Mango tiki's remarks were coming from the wrong place. :)

I know what you mean, there is so much complicated history, right and wrong perceptions and mixes of culture. The whole issue of culture, language and identity is so complicated and interesting, especially in the case of Northern Ireland the discussion is never ending and no wright or wrongs.

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No not at all, and I certainly didn't explain what I had intended to say very well at all. I was a bit dismayed if it appeared I was supporting the 'literal' original comments or arguing against you.

I think the only place we really differed, I think, is that you appeared to be suggesting that 'British' meant purely of or within Great Britain whereas I was suggesting it was applied a little more widely. The OED defines 'British' as 'Relating to Great Britain or the United Kingdom, or its people or language'. Which language, they don't actually say, but I presume they meant English. :-)

Incidentally, the only place to have an 'official' language in the UK is Wales.


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