1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. An old but new language


An old but new language

Is there a possibility that Duolingo could hire some Native American Speakers/Interpreters so that it would be possible to learn some new languages. I'm mixed but no one in my family speaks Cherokee and the last full blooded living member didn't know any of the language either. So not only do I think that offering native tongues to the repertoire would be an interesting new field for people, but it would also be a way for descendants like myself and others to be able to reconnect for free to their culture and ancestors .

December 4, 2017



Time and effort goes into making the languages. A lot of time. Although, I do agree that some Native American, native Australian, and other native languages should have more attention in the world and on Duo.


And who do you think is going to pay for these Native American speakers/interpreters? And how do you think all the volunteers who have and are currently working on new languages feel that some are getting paid.


The Japanese and Chinese courses were partially in-house, thus some of their contributors were paid (not to mention all the original DL courses). If DL wants to get something done quickly and reliably, this is the only way to do it. I feel this is unlikely to happen for Cherokee course, however, unless DL can get funding from some outside organisation that wants to make it happen, as it it rather a niche language that lacks the wide appeal of JA or ZH (this is certainly not an argument against having a course, but DL will probably want it for free).


Duolingo has at least in the past been willing to engage in partnerships where contributors were betting paid by others for their work on Duolingo. Cf. Peace Corps for Guarani, Swahili, and I think Ukrainian.

I think the much-vaunted Duolingo U.S. native language plan revolved around a similar effort to secure funding in the waning days of the Obama administration. The government chose not to come up with the funds, however. I've seen similar requests for languages indigenous to Canada premised on the notion that the Canadian government is a whole lot more willing to be active, with the attendant looser purse strings, in the realm of native language preservation.

So the O.P., I would basically say write to your Congressman and Senators. Then, obviously, don't hold your breath.


There actually is one indigenous American language available on Duolingo, namely Guarani (available with Spanish as the base language). I understand from the forums, however, that it is not considered one of the better-designed courses in the Duolingo repetoire, and that there are currently no members of the course team so errors are not being corrected.

This is ultimately a problem with many Duolingo courses — you need a core group of dedicated people who (a) get along with each other, (b) know how to design a language course and (c) are willing and able to stick with the project for years as volunteers. As seen in the Hindi and Indonesian courses — this can be a tall order even for languages with hundreds of millions of speakers.


The Guarani course has a few interesting lessons for future language additions to Duolingo:

  • It's hard to make a course for a language with no recognized writing system. (This isn't an issue with Guaraní in general but for the fact that the course is for Jopará, which is basically the mixing of Guaraní and Spanish, common in speech, but not usually something written down.)
  • Making a course for an ad hoc mixed language (Jopará) is going to yield problems of its own and possibly be repellent to those most familiar with the authentic language, and otherwise best placed to help.
  • Relying on contributors who are being paid may get you a course, but unless you keep paying them to maintain it, well, they won't. There are indications that this fate is befalling Swahili, as well.


I am afraid Cherokee doesn't have the sort of mass appeal that will attract entities like Duolingo. You are better off connecting with the people who are determined to save the language - the Cherokee nation itself (cherokee.org). They offer online classes.

There is now an app for Mohawk, Cherokee might be within reach.


First they have to make all main and popular languages accessible for majority of people in their native language. Then they might consider small and dying languages.

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.