Duolingo is a language-learning website and app. It’s known for its gamified approach to education, as well as its deemphasis of grammar instruction in favour of repetition of lots of sentences and hoping learners will simply intuit all the rules. I first came across it in early 2013, when I started using it to learn Portuguese, but desisted after a few months. Then, I had another months-long period of using it in 2018, when I tried to juggle the Catalan, Italian and French courses as well as Portuguese, and also started the Spanish course for passive maintenance/easy points (my Spanish was not basic enough for me to learn anything from Duolingo, really). In the time since, I have dabbled in Duolingo’s Esperanto, German and Indonesian courses.

My parents are both really huge on Duolingo; my dad’s been working solidly on the Greek course every day since early 2018, and my mum’s started about 11 different courses, but is mainly focused on Welsh and Irish.

For the first several years of its existence, there was a division between the “flagship” courses (Spanish, French, German, maybe Portuguese) which were created and maintained by paid workers, and all the other courses which were created and maintained by volunteers. In recent years, Duolingo has phased out the volunteer contribution model, with all courses from now on to be made and maintained by paid workers. (They did reportedly recompense the volunteers with some funds they’d put together for the purpose, at the same time as they refused to accept any more contributions from them.) There is some concern that this means some of the volunteer-made courses – for example, those for Esperanto – will stop getting updates or fixes. Here’s a blog post (in Esperanto)(external link) that talks about that issue.

According to this post on a language-learning forum(external link), the reason Duolingo phased out the volunteer contributor model is that they did a deal with Pearson (a company with a shockingly poor reputation for profiteering and trash-quality products in the education sector) to provide the content for their courses, instead.

Did you know? I’ve posted other content tagged ‘Duolingo’! If you want to see what else I’ve written on this topic, you can do so here.