https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Noah_B_16

Some bad news regarding the Native Language courses...

First of all, sorry for not keeping you updated after making a post in December about it being very likely that we could see Native Language courses like Cherokee brought to Duolingo. I'm still in high school, so a lot of school work kept me busy as well as studying for finals and an AP exam. Also, my other major hobby besides language learning, politics, has kept my energy and attention because of an... um... interesting election. So I have been on Duo very little for the past few months as a result of the aforementioned subjects. Despite this, Summer break is hear and school is out, so now I have time to get back on Duo more often. In addition, today I decided that now, since school is over, I should email the Duo team for an update on the status of the potential courses that would come along as a result of the 5 endangered language initiative... and got some pretty discouraging news:

"We were very keen on getting started with Native languages right away and were working with the White House on an agreement to promote it but it got very bureaucratic on their end and fell through, unfortunately. While Duolingo really cares about protecting languages and helping teach heritage languages, we are still focused on growing our user base. Because of that... we can't really launch a course unless it has real potential to help us grow either through a large user base or through media. With regards to Native American languages, it'd have to be through media exposure and it will be hard to achieve that without the support of a large entity like the White House."

Reading this was pretty depressing, especially considering there was so much hype for the Native language courses (at least it seemed that way to me anyway). It's not all doom and gloom, though, the email continued:

"We're still small, trying to break even, so we can't do everything we're passionate about, but we still do plan on building courses. Cherokee is obviously top of mind. I've reached out to a reporter at the WSJ who recently covered news about restoring and teaching the Cherokee language asking if he'd be interested in covering this, to build awareness for the course. I'll keep you posted on [h]is response, but unfortunately for now, that's all the good news I have."

So, it's a pretty low point for the chance of Native Language courses and the endangered language courses that could have, and still can, come about, but they'll need media coverage to garner support for the initiative. However, in an attempt to be an optimist, I'm hoping that Cherokee could still happen, as it was mentioned above, pending the reporter's response, we could get enough support behind the course to see it in the incubator at some point down the line, probably just not any time soon. My hobbies combine at this point, though: after this election, we could see a White House and a 'bureaucracy' that might be willing to reexamine their opinion on the agreement, so to speak, and agree to help support Native language revitalization (not to get too political, I don't want to offend anyone or get this post deleted, just merely saying we could see a change of heart after the election). Anyway, sorry to deliver news like this, especially after a lot of people were excited about the native language courses, which all but fell through; I really feel sorry since I was the one who originally shared the plan for the 5 endangered languages (which I guess were Native languages mostly after all, if not, they would still face the dilemma of needing media publicity since they have few remaining speakers and thus, wouldn't widen Duo's user base much if at all). However, I wouldn't look at this news to discouragingly, it can still happen, we just won't get the courses any time soon. Once again, sorry, and let's hope to hear some good news soon.

May 20, 2016

56 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/WildSage

Does anyone else think a gofundme/kickstarter/indiegogo campaign specific to creating the Native language courses would make sense here? I feel like there are people out there that would like to make this happen. And maybe it's just a matter of connecting them.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/efisgpr

Crowdfunding seems like a great idea, and I do think it would make a lot of sense, yes. I see it as necessarily the first step in a cascade of events; the campaign could mention using all funds for media outreach similar to that mentioned in the OP. Presumably, this would put a huge gust in Duolingo's sails as far as setting out on the ocean of Native language incubator support.

Great idea, buddy. :D

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/volumniax

That's really unfortunate, but thank you so much for passing this information along.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ionasky

Unfortunate and shortsighted on the part of the social media team at duo. I wonder what their minumum expected threshold is. 'Duolingo helps save endangered languages' sign up to be notified about when you can learn cherokee. Then an email to everyone who get notifications asking them to spread the word via facebook and twitter. Huge reach, no cost. If i was managing the information campaign i'd be willing to bet on getting half a million sign ups in the first year if the course was any good.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/WildSage

I think they would get attention from helping endangered languages if it is attention they are concerned with. Like you said social media has a huge reach. And things can spread on there quite quickly.

The post mentioned that they contacted the White House and some reporter, but I see no mention of them reaching out to the actual tribes who are affected. It seems to me like that would have been the first step.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/corvusalbus

Here is an article from the BBC about the need to save dying languages, Cherokee included. I hope it finally makes it here on DL.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140606-why-we-must-save-dying-languages

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/--CASPER--

Basically they're using access to indigenous languages as a bargaining chip to get concessions from the Whitehouse - presumably they're also trying to get official endorsement of the platform for supporting language education in schools, and maybe some state or federal funding, which would be... huge. The education budget is $73 billion (by comparison, the military budget is >$600 billion, but lets not get into that). Imagine what 200 million would equal... 1000 well-trained employees, a large server center, doctoral students and a linguistics research centre.

May 22, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vytah

Does US government, or any of state governments, fund Native language education by private companies?

May 22, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vytah

Nice.

I don't think that Duolingo qualifies though.

May 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/--CASPER--

No, probably not. But if some elders wanted to set up an immersion/learning centre with some computers, and work on a course, they could get their activities funded as long as the taught at least one 'traditional' course also.

May 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kevinguy19

That's unfortunate. Thank you for keeping the community updated.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Patash

I'm really sad to hear this considering that there are people out there who want to learn this language because of their heritage. I don't think you can give up though, so if you could maybe get everyone to sign a petition they could change their mind.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jan_Eo

Thanks for the update! Hopefully Duolingo will reach out to the White House after the inauguration and see if they can make another run through the red tape. Let's organize a campaign for some time after November and/or after January!

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/1-STANS-1

That is bad news but we can hope for something good!

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NatalieBolton1

Oh no! A lot of people were really excited for that! I feel sorry for them

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrandaUrso

Sorry to hear that.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aesc012468

My main focus has been latin for about 3 years now even though i am doing welsh part time here. I would really like a latin course. I believe it would bring many people here to learn it. However i am also a very strong supporter of first nation lanuages here at duo. Supporting these languages is also helping these nations and saying these nations MATTER. I would also like to see ojbwe on the list as well. I guess i have said my piece and put my soap box away.

Thank you Ashley

May 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrandaUrso

...?

May 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteveLando

This was very sad to hear, and I truly believe they think about it in the wrong way. Of course they need to focus on big languages (there are a few to go) but once and a while they should also initiate courses on smaller languages, both in regard for the passion but also because this will make god PR and spread the word faster and in a more favourable way automaticly, there are many smaller or endangered languages that will hype in the media if Duolingo puts a focus on it, there is a very big demand and interest for those languages around the world, but very few means. Duolingo should aim at being an extraordinaly language site, not an ordinary one! To wait around for the White house to take action seems like a very big vaste of time.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteveLando

"we are still focused on growing our user base. Because of that... we can't really launch a course unless it has real potential to help us grow either through a large user base or through media. "

As Luis says here (in the link below) Duolingo is by far the biggest platform for language learning on the internet, and also growing very fast - which makes the above argument very awkward.

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/15695026

May 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteveLando

Like this, someone just did an add (the first) in the revived Cornish language, and of course, that's in the media and social networks right away:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/tv-ice-cream-advert-first-8010339

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MihangelDunn

I am for Mohawk to be included in the mix of Native Languages

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrandaUrso

They have already done courses for dying/dead/minority languages. Irish, Welsh, Yiddish (Incubator). There's really no need to focus on more dying/dead/minority languages at this particular time.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/grey236

Compared to languages like Navajo, Cherokee, Inuktitut, etc. those languages you mentioned aren't really dying out

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Noah_B_16

But see, that's the problem: time. Most speakers of Native languages, of which there are very few already (~# of Cherokee Speakers: 20k; ~#of Welsh speakers: +500k, just for comparison on degree of endangerment), are overwhelmingly elderly and, let's face it, near death. I am VERY glad that Duo has Irish, Welsh, and potentially, even Yiddish, but we still need to have some courses outside of Europe which are much closer to endangered than the ones mentioned above. If put off for too long, we will only have more difficulty finding course creators as the older generation dies with their ancestral language, that's why we need to help save these languages which, unfortunately, won't happen, as you said, any time soon. There's still hope, though, for at least Cherokee, and we might see some other languages in similar situations being brought on, but it will be awhile, but hopefully not too long; it would be great if we got media coverage on the potential courses, then maybe we could see real progress before these people begin watching their language die.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/efisgpr

Great post!

Good luck with Greek. I love it so far. :D

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MihangelDunn

I think Mohawk is in greater danger then Cherokee and should be considered first!

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterStanton

Where exactly do you get the idea that there should be some limit to the number of endangered languages that Duolingo helps revive? It looks a lot like you're happy with all those languages being European and don't care about Native American languages.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/formagella

I don't think he was talking about a hard limit, I think he was saying that spreading all effort over many languages with limited numbers of speakers isn't as productive as doing fewer of them but better, in parallel to increasing the amount (and tree size) of big languages. You get media exposure with a few dying languages, and massive user base through big languages, best of both worlds.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterStanton

It makes some sense, but it's pretty suspect to only support endangered European languages that are actually less endangered than most any Native American language. Duolingo's an American company and they're not supporting any American language.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MihangelDunn

Please consider Mohawk

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Larkspire

I kind of agree, but it's worth keeping in mind that the Duo team itself has relatively little to do with the courses beyond the backend and promotions where necessary (I don't get why "no promotion partner" is an issue with Cherokee but not... Every language other than Klingon, but ok) since they're built by volunteers. Having a Cherokee team isn't gonna dilute the Welsh team's efforts.

May 22, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MihangelDunn

Why wouldn't languages from this side of the world be as important as European languages? Mohawk I feel should come before Cherokee, because of the number of speakers are far less!

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/underwood.jones

If my ancestors or family were Cherokee and not Ashkenazi Jewish or Irish, learning Yiddish or Irish would not help me feel more connected with my ethnicity. Yes, Duolingo has developed two courses in endangered languages and that certainly is amazing, and still has a spot in the incubator for a slowly developing third course (Yiddish). That said, covering three minority languages only does a solid favour for those specific three ethnic groups who are trying to recover and preserve their culture. I agree that we can also focus on underrepresented living languages like Icelandic that are not endangered, but providing a space for endangered languages is not a completed task after developing three courses...

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/solidgitarius

Because of that... we can't really launch a course unless it has real potential to help us grow either through a large user base or through media.

So that explains the Klingon course. They're betting on the media exposure...

I wonder what that means for the Latin course some people are waiting for.

Dead languages and conlangs seem to be out of luck.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteveLando

If they are looking for good media exposure, Latin is the way!

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/solidgitarius

Latin doesn't seem that newsworthy to me. It's an ancient and respected language. Rossetta Stone has already a course for it.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Roman_Huczok

Rosetta Stone isn't free though. Also, do they use Restored Pronunciation or not do you know? A Duolingo Latin course with Restored Pronunciation would be a dream come true.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Larkspire

Is RP the Seesar one or the Kaiser one?

May 22, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/1008004008

Yes Rosetta Stone may, but it would be more convenient for people to have it on Duo.

May 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrandaUrso

I don't know about the second part. Conlangs got taken care of pretty good, the two biggest ones in the world managed to get on here. As for dead languages I'm sure Luis is going to do Latin. He already said he'd do it, granted he said he'd do these languages too but I don't think that he'll get away with not doing Latin. There's actually huge user support behind that language.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blueandnerdy

I would think a Latin course might be more likely, given the focus on building a user base. It's a pretty common language for, say, high school students, and having a Duolingo course available for it might draw people looking for a supplement to the Latin they are already learning, or those looking for a way to brush up on old knowledge. There aren't many everyday uses for Latin, I suppose, but it IS a common starting point for looking into the history of languages, or reading old texts. (And personally, I'd like to see a Latin course because I'm hoping for ancient Greek to happen eventually...)

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MacIomhair

I'd expect the media exposure for Latin to be pretty big and they may be able to get some help from the Vatican if they ask (although involving a religious body is not ideal).

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/efisgpr

You can use it at the ATM in Vatican City. LOL, but yeah, not many everyday uses. :(

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MihangelDunn

I hope Mohawk can be included along with Cherokee, this would be very good for Mohawk to be included!

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Teddybear098

well that's a bummer!!

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterStanton

What I'm hearing is that Duolingo doesn't want to pay any attention to Cherokee right now because it would be an unprofitable "heritage" language. Meanwhile, Irish and Welsh courses are up and running, and KLINGON is sitting at 25% development. I have no idea what Irish and Welsh are if not "heritage" languages that were almost stamped out through colonialism, just like Cherokee, and it reflects very very poorly on Duolingo that they have a silly fictional language sitting in development before they have a single indigenous language.

May 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/daughterofAlbion

I find it very odd to read the official language of two, admittedly small, countries being described as "heritage languages".

September 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterStanton

One of the uses of the term "heritage language" is for an indigenous language only spoken by a minority today. A minority of people in Ireland and Wales speak Irish and Welsh. Those languages are part of their heritage—hence "heritage language."

September 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/daughterofAlbion

Well, I suppose 35% is numerically a minority...

FWIW, I came to this page because I too am awaiting Duolingo's promised inclusion of languages indigenous to northern America.

September 23, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rspreng

Klingon has been sitting there for a very long time. It is not in "competition" with any other languages.

June 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterStanton

I know it's been sitting there, but clearly the Duolingo staff makes choices as to what courses are prioritized for going into development.

June 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/underwood.jones

Try to bear in mind that they added Klingon long before any polysynthetic languages (like Cherokee) could be supported...just adding support for agglutinative languages took forever and slowed down many courses' development. They also probably assumed Klingon would churn through the incubator at a quicker pace than the natural languages did. It's really been a complete toss up as to which languages went through quickly (Irish and Welsh for example) and which ones stalled out (Romanian, Yiddish, Klingon, etc.) It wasn't really an either/or case at the time that it was added, it wasn't added at the expense of any Native American language and probably has required very little in the way of staff support until now.

June 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Matowin

Would be very interested in a Lakota course.

June 1, 2017
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