https://www.duolingo.com/HelpfulDuo

How does Duolingo decide which courses to add next?

HelpfulDuo
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From the series Ask us about Duolingo, Round 1!

Most Voted For Question: 149 Votes

How does Duolingo decide which courses to add next?

Thanks for the excellent question _ Goldens _ (and to hughcparker, IsakNygren1, and otsogutxi, who asked similar questions)!


ANSWER

Every time Duolingo considers a new language, we ask ourselves 3 important questions:

  1. How many people will benefit from this course?
  2. Can we support the tools and infrastructure necessary for this course to succeed?
  3. Who will create the content, handle reports, and moderate the forums to help learners?

Number of potential learners - our mission is to make education accessible to as many people as possible. This is why we first consider the number of people who want to learn a language and why the first Duolingo courses included Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and German. Duolingo currently spends most of its efforts improving existing courses and optimizing the course creation process because, as good as the courses are, we believe that we can make them even more effective. Focusing on course quality first and foremost will benefit existing courses as well as potential courses created down the line.

Technical cost - every course requires lots of resources to build and maintain so we have to pick carefully. Our tools and features are easier to modify for some languages than others. For example, languages with certain alphabets and special characters unfortunately cost us more to create and will take longer to integrate with the Duolingo system. (Yes, we hope to be able to teach Japanese and Mandarin some day! Until then, check out Tinycards, the Duolingo companion app which features tons of helpful flashcard decks to get you started learning languages and scripts that are still beyond Duolingo’s course offering.)

Contributors - qualified volunteers are a prerequisite to creating each course. Duolingo’s contributors generously donate time and expertise to create and maintain the content that allows millions of people around the world to learn for free! We are thankful for each one of the thousands of contributor applications and are working on tools that will help even more of you give back.

NOTE: Some courses may seem like exceptions to these criteria. We’re well aware that there are excellent arguments for certain courses and that we won’t be able to please everyone. But sometimes the stars align and we’re able to create courses like High Valyrian. Why? Because! Part of what makes Duolingo great is that we are a diverse, open minded (and yes, imperfect) bunch. And a launch of a course such as High Valyrian is not the reason we have not launched Mandarin. Duolingo reserves the right to throw in a curve ball from time to time and admit it, you wouldn’t have us any other way :)

2 years ago

69 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
DonFiore
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So if we assume Arabic fails point 2, what's holding Finnish and Latin back? They are 2 of the three most requested courses (according to the voting you have specifically asked us to do), they don't have different alphabets or characters, they don't have unique features other languages already here don't have and dozens of people have applied to contribute.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IceAly
IceAly
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Let me preface this comment by saying, this is not an argument against learning Latin. I am merely stating my thoughts on why it hasn't been prioritized by Duolingo. I would fully welcome it one day, but I understand why it's not coming first.

For Latin, I would say it's point 1: How many people will benefit from this course? Before you say anything, I know a lot of people are interested in Latin, and a lot of people study Latin in school. If you are interested in Latin, by all means learn it. In terms of Latin's benefit, however, I'd put it only slightly above the invented languages.

I know the usual arguments for learning Latin. Latin can help you learn Romance languages. That's true, but learning a Romance language (such as French) can be just as helpful in learning other Romance languages.Latin can also help you understand medical and scientific terminology. This is true and useful if you already read Latin, but learning Latin is not the most efficient path to learning technical vocabulary. While knowing Latin has some benefits, if you are not learning Latin for learning's sake, you are unlikely to find the rewards commensurate with your efforts.

The only people who would truly benefit from Latin are historians interested in Roman, Medieval, or church history. Latin would enable them to read primary sources, but this only applies to a small percentage of the population.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Osnakezz
Osnakezz
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And Klingon then? There are much, much less people interested in that than Latin. Latin is taught amongst almost all high grades and nearly a prerequisite to understand science. Even nowadays. It has had an history of use spanning over 2,800 years. Compare that to Klingon, which has none of these three. It is only known by heart amongst some obsessive fans.

The argument that point 1 makes Latin unable is not a valid one for Latin. Not by any measure.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IceAly
IceAly
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Latin is definitely more useful than Klingon. I'd never try to suggest otherwise.

However, I think it's a stretch to say Latin is a prerequisite to understand science. While many scientific terms have Latin roots, someone studying science can learn the meaning of those words without understanding the language they come from.

I know there are a lot of people interested in Latin, but there is a difference between interest and benefit. For instance, I'm interested in learning Hawaiian because I think it's a beautiful and unique language. I'll probably never go to Hawaii, and even if I did, everyone who speaks Hawaiian also speaks English. Although I might improve my linguistic knowledge and cultural understanding by learning Hawaiian, I can also do that with other languages that might be of more benefit to me in daily life.

The distinction between interest and benefit is important here, especially when you think of Duolingo's mission. They want to remove the economic barriers to language education, so that anyone who want to can use language to improve their life and career prospects. Latin doesn't fit into this plan.

Granted, Klingon also doesn't fit into this plan, but it's not as if the decision to add Klingon has any impact whatsoever on the decision on whether or not to add Latin. The fact that they chose to add a language with less practical benefits than Latin doesn't mean that Latin has practical benefits or that there aren't more beneficial language to choose from.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
DonFiore
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The distinction between interest and benefit is important here

Like I stated in my previous post to you, they talk about benefit in the short version but interest in the long one:

This is why we first consider the number of people who want to learn a language

If the staff doesn't make the distinction, I'm not sure we can. Besides, now that we have 30ish courses, which Latin/Cyrillic languages would truly benefit English speakers?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenMizrahi0
BenMizrahi0
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Spanish, French and Italian can all benefit English speakers in different ways (sorry for the copy paste of links, I am just too tired to formulate a comprehensive response). https://studyspanish.com/topten_reasons https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/top-5-reasons-to-learn-italian https://nz.ambafrance.org/17-good-reasons-to-learn-French

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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I agree with you on everything to do with Latin. (And I'm a former scientist who didn't learn Latin before studying science.)

However, this is simply not the case:

it's not as if the decision to add Klingon has any impact whatsoever on the decision on whether or not to add Latin.

We know that adding one language does affect the resources available for adding other languages. Both because Duolingo staff have repeatedly referred to this in saying "We would like to add language X / more languages, but we are only a small team" and similar things, and because there are several concrete things we know that are needed from Duolingo staff for each course, although the bulk of the work is done by volunteers:

  • picking the language and the first course contributors (who then pick the rest of the team)

  • adding graphical elements needed for the course

  • depending on the alphabet of the language, adding special characters, whole alphabets and/or alternatives for the alphabet (and making decisions about these things -- we know the Russian team didn't want the Romanized option to be included, but were overruled by staff)

  • if needed, making changes to the Incubator to adjust it to different languages (Turkish had a long hiatus when the team had to wait for something to be fixed by staff)

  • being involved in the choice of TTS for the course

  • even for completed courses, doing A/B tests (see the newest HelpfulDuo post and German contributor christian's comment on that

  • launching the course: we quite often hear from the teams that they are ready and they are just waiting for Duolingo staff to release the course

And Duolingo being a technology heavy project, there are probably a gazillion other things directly related to the courses that staff are doing behind the scenes that we aren't even aware of.

So while adding one course but not another is probably not exactly a zero sum game (at times there have been more than 30 courses in phase 1 of the Incubator, and at the moment there are only 22), and there are probably big differences across courses in how much staff time they take up (for example a completely new language vs. a course involving two languages that already exist here), adding language X most definitely affects the adding or not of language Y.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
DonFiore
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The thing about point 1 is that the short version talks about benefit whereas the detailed version simply mentions how many want to learn it. In terms of true benefit you may be right (Latin is nowhere near as popular where I live so I wouldn't know) but in terms of amount of potential learners who study it at school etc. it is one of the most popular ones left. And considering which languages they have added so far (I wouldn't consider the Scandinavian ones as "curveballs") I think we should go by the detailed answer.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenMizrahi0
BenMizrahi0
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I have to slightly disagree here. Latin is not useful just for historian of the Roman world (which, depends on their area of expertise, might actually find Koine Greek to be a more useful language than Latin) but for many Catholic laymen who wish to read the western church fathers and the great theologians of the church in their original language, or even just in order to understand mass.

Latin (or, more accurately, classical Latin), is also not very useful for the historians who are interested in Medieval Europe as the dialect of Latin they used then was quite different than classical Latin, but it is useful for anybody who is interested in the context of the Italian rinascita (Renaissance).

So far I think the two groups I stated above are quite a big slice of the population, maybe not in the Anglo-Saxon nations but mostly in Europe and the Levant.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/b05aplmun.ca
b05aplmun.ca
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This is a quibble, but the Catholic Mass has usually been said in the vernacular, rather than Latin, for over fifty years.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ged92781

Some of us still attend Mass in Latin every week as well as say the prayers and the music in Latin while in church. There is a growing traditionalist movement in the Catholic Church. A Latin course would benefit the parishioners at these parishes with the Latin Mass as well as the seminarians at the handful of traditionalist seminaries. It would also benefit priests who were never taught Latin and want to learn how to offer Mass in Latin.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/feanarosurion

Seconded on the Finnish, it's one of the most highly requested languages, there are known applicants to contribute, and there are already agglutinative languages on the platform. What's holding it back?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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Exactly! Hungarian has a similar structure to how a Finnish course could be built but apparently the staff think that Klingon is a "great" alternative :I

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenMizrahi0
BenMizrahi0
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Yes, I see absolutely no reason to make a Hungarian course but not a Finnish course (do not get me wrong, both are great languages in my opinion but from what I understand, Finnish is slightly simpler than Hungarian and is more useful to several groups of people such as those interested in the Nordic culture or Lutherans who wish to study in Finland).

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/soedori
soedori
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The number of potential learners. Polls are inaccurate and can sometimes not be representative... seeing how The Donald was elected

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
DonFiore
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So how do they determine which has the greatest potential without asking from people? Finnish and Latin (together with Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic) are on top on basically every single poll, they are the most talked about languages that aren't here, they are the most upvoted posts (which they have asked us to do) and they are the easiest languages to implement out of the seven Memrise top 20 languages we don't have (the five I mentioned plus ASL and Thai). For the record, languages like Greek and Norwegian aren't in Memrise top 20.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenMizrahi0
BenMizrahi0
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I noticed there is not even one dead language in Duolingo that I have seen, is there any rule against building courses designed to teach languages without any native speakers?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DeanG6
DeanG6
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Same question for Tagalog-for-English. A lot of people want to learn Tagalog (and Cebuano) and many people have offered to help create the course.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/oskalingo
oskalingo
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They have started the English for Tagalog course. That means that Tagalog for English will be likely to enter the Incubator once the English course is completed.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidTheNorseman

I want Latin! (This is so I will be ahead in class at school)

2 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pheaige
Pheaige
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You don't add languages like finnish (widely wanted) or lithuanian (most archaic indo-european language), and add klingon (useless conlang) instead, yet you guys are boasting about how you're "considering how many people will learn the language" and if it's "useful". Come on.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rapn21
rapn21
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"But sometimes the stars align and we’re able to create courses like High Valyrian. Why? Because!"

I'm sorry but that's not an explanation. The language isn't fully developed, it has no community, there are few people interested in learning it and the language is barely used, even on the TV show. It fails the above criteria, so I simply don't understand how and why it was chosen.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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Yes! The developer said that he has to make up words for the course! This is unacceptable

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/widle
widle
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You never do things just because you want to?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rapn21
rapn21
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Not at work

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenMizrahi0
BenMizrahi0
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Not when serving in an official capacity.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/erikiva
erikiva
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I am sure Finnish meets all the criteria, multiple volunteers, there's a facebook group where people are already creating the material, it is one of the most requested languages. Whilst the Valyrian thing might be cute and will probably get publicity and traffic, but even Emilia Clark says sometimes she makes it up when in character.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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I may be a Ukrainian contributor, but I'm gonna be direct. Ukrainian is not the most useful language to learn, it never was. I have my own reasons for learning this language and I'm not denying that I've loved being part of a community that has the same love for this unique language as I do. But, let's face it. Ukrainian didn't do too well on point one, yet they'd rather make a course that not that many people actually want but something like Klingon or Dothraki will get them more likes Facebook, Twitter etc. and make people think cool. Sure it's a smart business move, but think about all the dedicated fans of Duolingo who have been loyal and helpful to the site! Think of all the people who spend their days learning Hungarian as a substitute to Finnish. Think of all the people who post comments asking why they can't learn Arabic and all they get is "We currently are not looking into this but we will look into it in the future" followed by a series downvotes until their post is deleted and their opinions censored.

Listen, the Duolingo staff are very nice people. They've been insanely helpful! They've brought into the incubator, answered many of my questions and overall been some of the kindest people I have ever met. But please listen to the people who've built your courses, tried to convince their friends to join and overall been loyal to your site over the years.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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Thank you for the answer. But I wonder why Arabic for English speakers can't exist for the moment, but English for Arabic speakers does in fact exist already. That doesn't make any sense to me.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SteveLando
SteveLando
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When you throw in a curve ball existing of a small - but real world - endangered language, I will thrill:)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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I'm still waiting for the day Scottish Gaelic's blue and white flag rolls in :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/infinityhappycat

Cherokee for the win!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ritik_Rao
Ritik_Rao
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Would love to see some Konkani, haha

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TomosWalker

I live in Wales, I speak Welsh, it's a dying language unfortunately only 500,000 native speakers, thankfully there are 344,000 learning on Duolingo.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Windrammer
Windrammer
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May I suggest that the next curve ball be something that we actually ask for?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LlanaG

I'm surprised at the lack of Mandarin. Would also love to see Hawaiian and Serbian.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Enzfj2
Enzfj2
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Don't you have a 'pre-incubator' board showing publicly how many people (or who) volunteered to contribute to a new course? I believe that if a course has at least five would-be contributors, it's worth to consider its creation.

9 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/benni_eb
benni_eb
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They need to add Hawaiian!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PlumeJaune

"you wouldn’t have us any other way"

I would, say if you had thrown in Cherokee instead.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Scottyscarhan

Okay but scottish gaelic is starting to die off. I would really like more people to learn it as it was a big part back then. My family still speak it and I do to. I wanted to contribute since it was my first language and I saw the hori We on the amount of people who wanted to learn it

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amhudkins

So, is there a chance Finnish from English will be added soon? I looked up on the discussions and there's over 3600 results of people who would either like to learn or contribute to the course.

5 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/halzore

Love this website like alot, but I am dissapointed that you have norweigen and swedish, but not finnish or icelandic, which would (especially icelandic) be widely used and loved

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smokey2022
smokey2022
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I get that, but I think more people would request Mandarin, Japanese, or Finnish that bloody Klingon... That seems kinda ridiculous to me...

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dlg.im
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Can you please add Serbian, because four other countries on Balkan (Kosovo of course isn't one of them! ) understand it well and thrust me everyone here wants to learn another language even those languages that aren't listed here. So please add it because you would be doing a favor to the whole world, giving people the chance to understand a great language that is used in a lot of big countries, because it is written as it is spoken. Those can be yours and the worlds benefits.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LlanaG

Yes, Serbian!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BenMizrahi0
BenMizrahi0
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Yes second that opinion, I would love to learn Serbian in the far future and I think many more people would like to learn at least one south Slavic language.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/iToochPlayer

Nice!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ckcapdevielle

Elen sila lumen omentielvo ( a star shines on the hour of our meeting) :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Scottyscarhan

My first language was scottish gaelic and I have contributed for scottish gaelic. Other people wanted it up there but yeah...

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Razmikb
Razmikb
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Discussion for the Georgian[1] language had more than 700 votes, but there are gone and we had to start from 0 (50+ now).

When is Duolingo going to fix this bug and bring back our votes? I have reported[2] it 2 months ago, no response.

How can we be sure that this will not happen again? It's very frustrating.

1 https://www.duolingo.com/comment/10727793

2 https://www.duolingo.com/comment/25398737

8 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SchonBaume

It could be the frosting on the cake if you add Persian to Duo, so many people are waiting for the course to begin.

2 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/str8586
str8586
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waiting for years...

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/brianna8901

Please put Tagalog! I want to learn it so bad

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GALX3

So is it the point two which is stopping Bengali course? But how will it cost more to Duolingo? Dozens and dozens have applied for the course. Few dozens also want to learn It and some even joined Duolingo just for it. The Bengali Academy had made the compound scripts as simple as putting diacritic marks on Latin vowels. Will anyone please tell me, how to do a course request? I am not talking about Applying as I have done it already :(

6 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Amir.pro
Amir.pro
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So I hope soon Farsi will be added to Duolingo, as you can see here, there are lots of people who want it to be added. Hope you take this into consideration ASAP...

3 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MAKAFAT
MAKAFAT
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I'm ready to contribute ...

3 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fabfifties
Fabfifties
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I think this post should be stickied.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Roos033

I'd love to see (Westerlauwers) Frisian one day! It's one of (if not) the closest language(s) to English! It's currently endangered, level 4 (5-safe, 1-extinct) and I think a course on duolingo could help making this go a little slower. I think it's a rather interesting language, because it's so familiar and yet so unintelligible when spoken (to me at least). It even has it's own word for the non-matching crockery, it risselreauke. If it becomes available, I'm sure there is a bit of interest for it

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidTheNorseman

Hmmm… That's cool

2 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidTheNorseman

Duolingo needs to add ALL OF THEM.

3 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annalybeatrice
annalybeatrice
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I cannot wait to have Lingala on Duolingo.

1 week ago
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