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There are more people learning Irish on Duolingo (143k) than...

there are native speakers of this language (130k)!

November 26, 2014



Wait a minute... * Scratches head, looks at map, scratches head * Just a second... * Squints at the atlas * This is impossible * Makes incredulous face * How is this possible? Because Duolingo is completely awesome!!


Wow, that's incredible. No joke, that's amazing.


You must be feeling an immense feeling of pride and responsibility right now hahah


Nope, as I had nothing to do with the course. :P


Hahahaha! Glad to see other people mistaking you for Mr. Ireland. :-)


That's so awesome!! :D We can keep this language alive! :D We're going to pull a Hebrew (a language revival). :D


I'm giving you a lingot as a native hebrew speaker, even though I don't think this case comes close to the hebrew's revival.


Thanks a lot! :D Although, this might eventually come close to that, who knows?

I'm giving you a hundred lingots in the hope that you applied for Hebrew in the Incubator!


In order to replicate the success of the hebrew revival you have to start from 0 native speakers. Duolingo is gonna give a great push to Irish but still this is not a "revival".

I did not apply to the Incubator, even though I did consider it. I'm fluent in english but I still make some grammer mistakes. there are people who have both english and hebrew as mother tongues so I think they are more fit than me. BUT if you need any help with learning hebrew I'd be glad to help you out. Also I must warn you that it's gonna be different from any thing you know (and it seems you know quite a lot of languages haha)


"In order to replicate the success of the hebrew revival you have to start from 0 native speakers." To bring a language back to life, from being fully dead... that's not just a revival, it's a resurrection! Then again... Isreal... resurrections... puede serrrrrrrr! (jiji)

Seriously, it is an amazing feat. Has it ever happened successfully with any other language?


Manx (Gaelic) was brought back from 0 native (last of the original native speaker pop died in 1974), but still has fewer than 100 native-speaking children at present, to my understanding. Still something.


O.O bunny + gravity of this news = fallen over

bunny falls over for Irish course


Nice gif Usagi! Congrats duo for this major accomplishment!


This is awesome Bunny!!! xD


In 2013/2014, the number of people attending primary and secondary schools in Ireland was 869,492; Irish is a required subject for almost all of them. Will worldwide interest in the Duolingo Irish course exceed this number?


In the US alone, there are over 36 million people who identify as having Irish ancestry. If about 3% of them signed up, they would exceed the number of learners in Irish schools.


Do you believe that about 3% of the US population who have Irish ancestry would study Irish online for twelve years?


I have no idea what the chances are of that many signing up, though it doesn't seem too implausible given Duolingo's low barrier to entry. As to them persevering for 12 years (or Duolingo offering enough material for that!), I consider it unlikely -- but I was just talking about number of learners rather than duration of study.



I see your point, but it's also an app, meaning it's not just "online" in the traditional sense, but rather a more mobile option. For example, while in a carpool, waiting for a bus, waiting for a video to buffer on your laptop, or standing in line at the grocery checkout, one can whip out the smart phone stay productive (and patient, lol).


Also, I don't think that you'd have to do duolingo for 12 years to reach an equivalent level of kids studying it for, what, one class period per day, 9 months per year -- guessing, as I'm not Irish, but I would assume that that's the scholastic schedule. Our class periods were only 48 min in high school. That's 1,871.56 hours of classtime. If we double it to allow for homework hours too, it's 3,741.12 hours


I would argue that Duolingo is at least three times as efficient as the classroom+hw approach. There was even a study already that showed it was even more efficient than Rosetta Stone. Also, it's probably more like 10-15 times as efficient as the lessons in primary schools. But, to be conservative, I'll stick with 3x as our rate for this comparison.

ONLY 45 MIN./DAY FOR 6 YRS --------- OR 30 FOR 5 (and skipping 1 out of 4 days)

Dividing the 3,741.12 hours by 3 yields a total of 1,247.04 hours. If one pursues Irish on DL for just half of the time you mentioned (12 years), that works out to 207.84 hours per year. Assuming that the average consistency rate is 75% of days active, that's only 45.5 minutes per day. Not too tall of an order at all, especially considering that, when doing Duolingo on one's computer, the efficiency skyrockets; I go at least 3x as fast as compared to my smartphone (thus, 9x as efficient as class hours....but not factored into these calculation, again, in the interest of staying conservative). Plus, let's not forget that it's gotta be MUCH more than 3x as efficient (in the 1st place: phone speed) as the hours put in by the younger children.

I would say that, all told, about 30 min. per day (75% of days only) for about 5 years would be plenty to be very fluent.

By the way, I am friends with a rather large group of highly intelligent Irish professionals, only 2 of whom are confident in their ability to speak Irish with ease. As a result, one could argue that the total number of speakers at the outset of the discussion should be reduced too.

I hope SOMEONE finds this slightly interesting. Haha.


Very interesting indeed!


Why, thank you Seamus. :D


Yeah I read that study too. The only flaw was they asked people if they were Irish on St. Patrick's Day.


My source is the American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau. (I was using the 2008 figure, but the number for 2013 is similar.) According to the Census Bureau's website, the survey "continues all year, every year", rather than being conducted only on St Patrick's Day.

What study were you referring to?


That is so awesome. How many fall into the Scottish ancestry?


Thanks for the stats! So these Irish children are not counted as bilinguals? Or does the 130K figure exclude bilunguals?


Most Irish children would not be considered bilingual.


well, maybe with duolingo that could change. :)


It'd take a lot more than just Duolingo. It's a decent resource (and improving with their commitment to change the audio), but it can't stand alone for any language.


Only a tiny proportion of Irish children living is isolated, small communities scattered along the west coast of Ireland speak Irish as a first language. The language has been largely wiped out as a first language in the vast majority of Ireland due to centuries of British rule and Anglicisation.


While it's always easy to blame someone else (the bad Brits again!), we have to take responsibility for the downfall of our language. The Liberator Daniel O' Connell denounced it as "backward". The Famine forced millions of people from mostly native Irish speaking areas to emigrate. In the latter half of the 19th century the Irish Catholic Church (then a quietly nationalist, patriotic organisation) discouraged Irish being taught. The ordinary parents around that time also discouraged their children from learning or speaking it because English was seen as the language of the future, the one worth knowing if you wanted to get anywhere in the world. This was the prevailing attitude decades after the British had lifted the ban on Irish being taught in schools.

In the nearly 100 years since Independence, the number of speakers of Irish as a first language has decreased. Can't blame any foreign occupation for that. The number of speakers of Irish as a second language has increased though, so maybe it's not all bad. But the reason we're not a bilingual nation is because the majority of Irish people don't want to be. Not enough anyway. While most Irish people like the IDEA of being fluent in Irish, they are just not willing to put the work in to get there.


Very well said.


My comment was more about children who might be brought up bilingual. Perhaps learning both tongues side by side in school. But British Imperial hubris has stolen much that was beautiful from the world.


I would like to see more minority languages making a come back. :) That's why I think it would be cool if there was a Luxembourgish, Romansh and Yiddish course made.


שפריכסט דו ז'רגון? ;)


Advantage of knowing Hebrew - I can read it. Disadvantage of knowing Hebrew - I don't understand it. But I'm very interested in knowing Yiddish, as it is a major part of Jewish culture.


I can't read it, but it sounds so much like German that I can understand a good amount of spoken Yiddish


I am the opposite,. I can understand a lot of written Yiddish but only pick out the odd word of spoken Yiddish. Then again, even though I am fluent in Hochdeutsch, I struggle extremely hard to understand German speakers from Bavaria, Austria and Switzlerland unless they are educated and speak only Hochdeutsch. I do not have this problem understanding, say, working class Berliners. The Main is the dividing line for me.


Das ist sehr interessant. Vielen Dank! :)


אל תבלבל את עצמך, קוראים יידיש אחרת מאשר עברית. 'ע' ביידיש לדוגמא קוראים בטור צירה.


אני יודע את זה, אני יודע לקרוא יידיש בעזרת עברית אבל לא רק בגללה. למדתי יידיש כשהייתי קטן, והקריאה הבסיסית אני יודע, הבנת המילים לא.


נאָר אַ ביסל, ליידער.

.But I'd like to change that


I would love to see any of those on here, especially Luxembourgish!


Yiddish is now in the incubator -- no "update" yet, but it's there! :) GOTTA LOVE IT.


I would love to see those languages added! Especially Yiddish! <3


I agree! I really hope to see Yiddish someday soon.


Woah.. Duolingo is absolutely revolutionary. Thanks, Irish team and Duolingo! That's amazing!!!


LOL......I'd never even seen that face b4. LOLLLLLLLLLLLLROTFLCOPTER


I was thinking how close the # of learners were getting to # of natives not too long ago. It's awesome how much duo has done for the language.....but I can't tell if the stats are more exciting or sad (especially when you consider how many newbies gave up or forgot by now).


Exactly — it’s far too early to draw conclusions from the currently available statistics. The Duolingo Irish course isn’t even out of beta yet.


That's really cool! :D


I am seriously impressed by the impact of Duolingo. Just one thing- for the information on the course page for Irish, why does it say that there are 94,000 speakers using Irish?


I think that's native speakers, but don't take my word on that.

EDIT: Never mind, I'm pretty sure my comment wasn't correct.


That's outstanding. It'd be pretty cool if those numbers could be collated for the other courses and maybe published on the courses page as extra information.

I'd also really like to see those numbers broken down. Like monthly figures on active learners this month, how many are working on each quartile of the tree, etc.

Has anyone pointed this out to the language policy dept. of the Taoiseach?


I don't know what native speakers counts as. I'm irish, I have good conversational irish but not fluent or a native speaker. I know people who have become fluent through school but don't speak it at home. It depends on what counts as native and what counts as fluent but not native


The only way I can relate to that kind of thinking (as to who is either a native speaker or fluent) is my comparison to my speaking Spanish (Mexican with a slight Puerto Rican dialect). If I am asked if I am a native speaker, I'll have to say no, because my first language is definitely English (American dialects of the midwest, west and south), but if asked if I were fluent (since I judge myself harshly) I'd say semi-fluent to fluent. Now how can I explain what happens when I speak Spanish? The best way is this. I would NOT be lost in ANY spanish speaking country, I'd feel almost at home where Spanish is spoken, it would not knock me into orbit. However, I am definitely much more COMFORTABLE with English and prefer English any chance I get (but I do enjoy speaking Spanish too). Basically in an every day context, some days are better than others but generally I could hold a conversation for maybe about a half hour before they get the hint that Spanish might not be my first language. My accent doesn't sound like a non native speaker. The main problems I have are with grammar (even in English) and vocabulary. The thing is ... it took me studying Spanish in school for a few years, even a few semesters of college level Spanish and I have been exposed to Spanish since I was a toddler and massively exposed to it since I was about 15 years old (I'm now 51 years old) I have lived in Puerto Rico for a year and on the Mexican border for most of my life (I just recently moved away from the border less than a year ago). I find Spanish speakers from Puerto Rico, California, Mexico, Perú, Honduras etc on an every day basis even though I now live in the American heart land ... and yet I still struggle (perfectionist?) with the Spanish language on a higher level.

I meet Russian speakers every day, German speakers about once a month, Chinese speakers every week, Spanish daily. I work in a building (high rise) that has quite a few "Irish Americans" and I am the only one that can even just say basic things (maidin mhaith, oíche mhaith, cén chaoi bhfuil tú etc etc). But online, man, online there is a TREMENDOUS Irish language presence from TG-4 to RnaG via the RTÉ app and even a chat room (but I have to say the Esperanto chat room on IRC has a lot more action) .... sigh ... So I feel that no matter where you come from, or your origins ... you have to just REALLY want to speak Irish, it is a labor of love (or as I tell people, I have a love hate relationship with the Irish language).

Finally, one last example. It took me about 2 months to level up to the 8th level in Irish and it took me about 60 seconds in Spanish. (which is alarming, I should have been able to quickly level up to 10 or higher in Spanish, that is a gauge that tells me I have been taking my Spanish language for granted. Languages are a perishable skill, if we don't work with it every day, we lose it.

I am also interested in seeing some Native American Languages on DuoLingo, like Comanche, Navajo (Diné), Lakota & Cherokee (Tsa-La-Gi) ... I think Lakota only has about 6,000 (6K) fluent speakers left (according to forvo.com) ... man, talk about "Holy Endangered Language Batman!"

Sorry for the long windedness (I do blame THAT trait on the Irish side of the family) & Thanks DuoLingo for everything you do! Go Raibh Míle maith agaibh! Sláinte!


I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and insights and learning about your experiences. Thank you.


"Fluent" is a permanent source of debate. Weirdly "Native" isn't debated so much even though I equally unsure of a satisfactory definition. I expect any attempted definitions would allow edge cases of fluent-but-not-native and native-but-not-fluent.


I know some native speakers of Esperanto who aren´t half as good speakers as some non-native but fluent speakers I also know...That´s just an example of how deceiving the word native can be...


That's the pure awesomeness that the duo-linguist's bring out. Learning, and breaking records! Lets keep adding languages, and get the ones stuck... moving


Yes I agree ROMANIAN


or turkish! or greek for that matter! (I have a feeling greek would quickly break the number of greek speakers record, because ive seen so many people wanting to learn it)


There's about 12-13 million Greek speakers. I don't think Greek will simply pass that number so easily, considering German has only 9 million learners.


damn I forgot to calculate those speakers who dont live in greece (im useless sorry)


I'm just a mathematician who wants to learn greek because I love the people & their food/music - not to mention I know the alphabet already ;)


great please do!


Just about another 3-6 weeks for Turkish (my guess based on the latest incubator update). :D




That's great! Thank you and congratulations to the Irish team!


Yes! Now add Scottish Gaelic please. (And classical Latin and Greek)


I reallllllllllly want Scots Gaelic too!


Awwww Cute owl! :D



Congratulations Duolingo, Team Irish and 143k+ learners.

Terrific tree. Awesome accomplishment.


Éirinn go Brách!!


Congratulations to Team Irish for making the Irish course to help others learn their wonderful language! Even thought I am not learning Irish, I am very proud and happy for the Irish team because this is a HUGE accomplishment. :)


I read the great review duoLingo got on the Irish times and joined. Its great and I love it. Best thing is that its free ! Hopefully more people will speak Irish !


Woww that is so cool! Proud to be learning on Duolingo!


Wow, that's quite something.


That's great!

We spent about a week in Ireland this summer including a good part of two days in Gaeltacht areas and never heard anyone speaking Irish, even among themselves. It's probable that the locals were doing that for us, since the chance of (obvious) tourists speaking English was much greater than them speaking Irish, but it was still sort of disappointing. We did briefly listen to one or two Irish language radio stations.


Wonderful. It is such a beautiful language!!! Congrats to the team. You can be proud :D


That is crazy and shows how awesome duolingo is!


That's really cool :)

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