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Is Latin a possible upcoming language?

Being that Duolingo has begun creating courses for learning fantasy languages, is it really that far out of the question that they might ever add Latin? I know it is a "dead" language but it would still be a beneficial language to learn for many. Many of the languages already on Duolingo have Latin roots, and it would certainly serve a purpose in helping anyone going into certain majors for college to have at least a basic understanding of the language. I for one have always wanted to learn it and I know I can't be the only one. If it's not a likely language to see in the future then why? All thoughts and opinions are welcome, I am simply curious.

March 21, 2017



According to Luis AMA in january the interest in Latin and possible contributers have been noted. So I do think they will add it sometime, though I guess it's not a priority https://www.duolingo.com/comment/20421039


"interest [has been] noted" is far from a promise. (Normally I would take it as a flat out refusal while trying to keep face.) What was the actual wording?


> . . . interest in Latin and possible contributers [sic] have been noted.

Well, a few years ago "vohnahn" said, "We will do it eventually, but I don't think it will be within the next 4 months." Dead on the money. Latin is prob. dead in the water, is my guess.


Is that the only time they have gotten the time scale right? Personally I liked this one from April 2014:

In a few months I'm hoping we'll have a truly scalable system that allows us to add hundreds of languages at once.


Wow. Vaporware to the max . . . "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" ;)


Well, the software I suppose actually is there. They just chose not to use it as such.


You suppose? Big pie-in-the-sky projections not delivered: vaporware.


I agree, the duolingo method would lend itself well to Latin. I took a semester of Latin in college to help me remember the scientific names of plants and animals in my biology classes.
Also a neighbor of mine wants to learn Latin, so that makes 2 votes FOR !!


I'm ever optimistic. Latin is easily in the top 4 languages studied in the U.S., with three times more K-12 students than 5th place Japanese. It's probably the most popular would-be course missing from several base languages, the only language that could bump Russian back to the third row of the English "Add a new course menu." Why's it still missing? Who knows really, but on expected user interest grounds alone (sorry, Finnish, 450 more upvotes does not provide the same level of evidence of interest as Latin's actual presence with actual students in actual classrooms in any number of countries), it's coming sometime.


Why do you think Latin could bump Russian back? According to this there are less than 140k secondary level students in the US, UK and NZ combined with another article talking about 1,2k in Australia. Sure, the whole world combines to almost 4 million without any Spanish or Portuguese speaking countries (2 million of those in Italy) but would they be taking the English course? If the number in Latin America is high, maybe Latin for Spanish would be a better first course.


Russian, independent of my particular love for it, is just not a very commonly studied language. There are only 30,000 students of it in the US, about a seventh as many as Latin. I based my statements on this which is based on this report from the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages. The source you found does seem more up to date (although doesn't give its source), but even if the fall in K-12 Latin instruction in the US is as precipitous as the two figures make it out to be, that still means there's a much larger stock of people in the US who have studied it in the past, who I assume to be some of the most likely folk to pick it up again in the future if suddenly the method for doing so is as straightforward as Duolingo.

Could people from Germany, Austria, Flanders take an English-based Latin course in large numbers? Certainly the answer is yes. And I'm pretty sure Brazilians are in the top five or so among users of the English-based Russian course, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them showing up in large numbers for Latin.

So, in short I think it's a pretty safe bet that Latin could overtake Russian. Is it the only language that could? There I'll admit to a certain bit of shortsightedness. I really meant "only language that could overtake Russian without major technical improvements to Duolingo," a consideration that used to seem far off, but obviously doesn't any more. Gotta shake those cobwebs off my thinking.


You need also to consider that people who are being taught satisfactorily in the classroom do not necessarily look to supplement their experience online. A language that is a minority interest over a wide demographic (and hence not readily available in physical schools) is likely to have a large take-up rate when taught online.


As a Latin teacher, I feel like I'm doing everything I can to teach it and reinforce it in the classroom. However, outside the classroom is another story. I have my students practice vocabulary on Memrise, but it would be even better if they could practice using Duolingo. Duo helps with composition more than anything else I've used. The summer months are when my students lose what they've learned. They will not open a book to review. I can sometimes coax them into using an app to review.


Despite the many complaints one sees to the effect of Duolingo going to the dogs... er, schoolkids, school-age folk are a small minority of users. But the numbers of people using Duolingo courses for commonly in-school studied languages speaks to the reality that language instruction tends to not be all that good, at least in English speaking countries (not just the US; ask the average western Canadian about French...), leaving a large stock of post school-age people with a possible lingering interest or desire to "complete" the task of learning a language begun long before. And the fact that a language might have simply been an option for someone means it's a much smaller jump to starting it since it's a familiar notion that one might study said language. For instance, a friend of mine signed up to review his high school German. Within days he'd added Spanish, a language he'd never studied for a day in his life: because we're in the US, so the notion of learning Spanish is a highly familiar one. This is an advantage Latin maintains (at least in the US) to a much larger extent than Russian.


I think we may be seeing the difference between our educational systems again piguy3! I am quite happy with the quality of the fairly intensive language education that I received at school, which left me able to both converse comfortably in French and tackle its literature unassisted. Certainly if I was spending 15 hours per week (minimum) on a language (i.e. studying it at 'A'-level), during which I would be both reading classic and modern literature (unadapted) and holding discussions in that language, I doubt that using Duolingo would add much.
The problem for students in countries that follow the British education system is whether your school teaches the language you desire - bearing in mind that it is extremely unusual for the curriculum to permit you to study more than 3 languages simultaneously.


I asked the same question when I joined Duolingo. I've been learning Latin in other ways and I think Duolingo would be an awesome way to learn Latin. I think that's it's easier for me to learn other languages since I've already learned a lot of Latin.


I agree as well to that.


hello there!! if you upvote this discussion, and it gets a ton of upvotes, Latin could be considered. here's the link https://www.duolingo.com/comment/1689107


The staff isn't interested in upvotes. They have proven it time and time again.


they said if a language discussion is upvoted enough they'll consider it


Link, please? It's neither here nor here.

And what would be "enough"? Luis basically refused to acknowledge the popularity of Finnish recently despite the fact that the Finnish request was the third most popular post in Duolingo history (now up to second with over 2100 upvotes).

And adding to that, they have added three languages since the voting Guide was added almost a year ago: High V (literally one request with negative votes), Japanese (very popular but they had already been working on its problems for years) and Haitian (around 60th in votes).


Upvoted the discussion, although I also noticed that the post is over three years old!

Agree with Jared in thinking that Latin is useful. Many students learning unrelated subjects such theology and history among others would benefit immensly from even a foundation in Latin.


Over three years old, but still we have hope!

Anyway, it's number 5 in the all time top posts. Which is, optimistically, a good place for it to be.


I mean, it's taken a few thousand years, what's a few more decades?


It would be awesome especially since many words in English come from Latin it would be easy to understand.


And then the question is which kind of Latin? Classical, Ecclesiastical, Modern etc or what?


Every Latin teacher I've ever met or read about teaches Classical Latin. If you can read Classical, it's a easy to read Medieval. Classical Latin literature is the ultimate goal and even Medieval writers strove to sound like Cicero.


I'm pretty sure they teach ecclesiastical Latin in the local Catholic seminary — surprise, surprise :) This textbook was after all published decades after Wheelock. A few years ago the Vatican's Latinist came for a seminar at the University of Michigan, and at least some of the classical Latin scholars there purported to have difficulty understanding the ecclesiastical version. Don't quite know what to make of this counter-intuitive fact.


Sure, a lot of seminaries teach the ecclesiastical pronunciation, but not all.

When I said teachers I mean middle and high school.


I figured :) Just having a spot of fun. I have heard back from my good Latin teacher (in the K-12 sense) friend. He teaches ecclesiastical. So now you've at least heard of one exception :) He is the Latin teacher for the twice-weekly classes of a Catholic-focused homeschool enrichment program, so obviously one of the most likely environments one could dream up for favoring ecclesiastical usage.


Well, some seminaries admit from age 13 - doesn't that equate to your "middle and high school"?


In English speaking countries, most seminaries start at college age. Even in Catholic high schools, the Classical pronunciation is still common.

It's easier to learn the Classical pronunciation and then ignore vowel length when reading medieval texts than to try to learn vowel length later.

These aren't great differences, but in the end, Virgil doesn't sound right if read with a Medieval accent and Adeste Fidelis sounds strange with a Classical accent.

Vowel length nothing separates an old woman from an anus.



@DanD8: I wasn't aware that we were restricting the discussion to learning Latin from English! In any case, I have British acquaintances who entered seminaries at 13 and http://www.saintmeinrad.edu/priesthood-formation/frequently-asked-questions/#q7 suggests that it still is possible even on your continent!

That said, I totally concur with your reasoning for starting with the Classical form, them progressing to later versions as a variant - not to mention that mediaeval Latin pronunciation varies by country.


I study all the kinds of Latin. It's a very amazing language.


For a Latin course on Duolingo I think Modern Latin would be the best because then it will be easier to talk about more contemporary things in the modern society.


Neo Latin (or Modern Latin) is the modern use of the language with new words introduced like autoraeda (car) and the T.T.T. (World Wide Web). They would still have to choose between the Classical Latin pronunciation and the Medieval.

They chose Brazilian Portuguese, American English, and Latin American Spanish based on number of speakers and demand. I imagine they would choose Classical Latin, since most Latin programs are geared towards reading reading Classical works.

It wouldn't be hard to include some modern words.


Perhaps, the only thing I know how much it differs is the pronunciation of C when it was pronounced as K in Classical Latin. I guess there are plenty of more things that differs too.


The big ones are the C, G, V, and the diphthong AE.

Classical Latin has but one pronunciation for C and G, while Medieval Latin follows Italian's lead by having hard and soft versions.

These changes represent a real shift in pronunciation at the end of the Roman period. It frustrates me when people declare one pronunciation wrong and the other right. Both are valid.

This video covers it well.


NativLang is one of my favorite Latin YouTubers.


Thanks for the info, DanD8.


I think one might reasonably add silent H's and lack of contrastive vowel length to the list.


Good question!

Maybe Duolingo should ask a whole bunch of Latin teachers who would like to use Duolingo for Schools, and ask them which version or combination of versions to use. :)


I suspect that method might beg the question ;)

[which isn't to imply that I think classical isn't a foregone conclusion in any case, despite what the teachers down the hall in the choir room might have to say about it]


I teach the Classical pronunciation and our music program occasionally sings Medieval Latin pop songs. The students go through a short adjustment period and usually have no problem juggling the two.

A few of my students only use the Medieval pronunciation and have no problem meshing with the rest of the class.


"Medieval Latin pop songs" — four words that should be seen together much more frequently! :) Gaudeamus igitur!


I would like to learn Latin, too!

Best wishes,



latin is not dead if it is in your heart ! Vatican City has no formally enacted official language, but, unlike the Holy See which most often uses Latin for the authoritative version of its official documents so it is still alive!


isn't it the mother language of all romance languages? I wonder if that should be taught first before all the others? I think arabic is like that isn't it?


Two years ago I started offering unofficial Latin lessons in the Duolingo discussion forum; you can find the directory here. At the time I thought I was only filling 4 months or so until Latin would be added to the incubator. Now the course is at an intermediate level and I can probably keep going for quite some time, with fun sample sentences and basic grammar instruction. Although the forum course is not interactive, the course content is also available on Memrise, vocab and sentences, where it is interactive. I'd invite everyone who wants to learn Latin to come and learn while we wait. And to the powers that be at Duolingo, I will once again point out that Latin is the 4th most studied language in the US, and there is a vast potential market of students who would benefit from Duolingo's support in learning their chosen language.


I want to thank you for all of your work. Can you post a link to the Memrise courses?


Libenter! Hoc feci.


I've actually been using those lessons, here's a lingot as a thank you for making them!


I like the thematic vocab lists :) Thanks for all your work!


Yes. I mean, if Klingon, High Valyrian and Haitian Creole are in the incubator, why not creating Latin?


It would be my second favorite, if it were to be.

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