Picture caption, from left to right: Dona Lewis, Deputy Chief Executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh; Efa Gruffudd Jones, Chief Executive of the National Centre; Colin Watkins, UK Country Manager Duolingo; the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS; and Welsh tutor, Richard Morse.
Duolingo’s Welsh course transfers to National Centre for Learning Welsh
Responsibility for the popular Welsh course on Duolingo – which has attracted almost 1.9 million learners worldwide since launch – is to transfer to the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
From October 2021, the National Centre’s language team will take up the baton from a group of enthusiastic volunteers, led by Welsh tutor Richard Morse, who have been running the Duolingo course since its launch in January 2016.
The development is the first of its kind, and part of a wider initiative within Duolingo to move from a volunteer-based model to having some courses managed ‘in-house’, with others developed in partnership with external bodies such as the National Centre.
In the 2020 Duolingo Language Report Welsh was found to be the fastest growing language in the UK, up 44% on 2019 - ahead of Hindi, Japanese and French. Welsh learners were also found to be some of the hardest working and most committed in the world, ranking third for the longest average daily streaks, and third for the most number of lessons completed.
Welsh’ success continued in 2021 with the language overtaking Russian, Chinese and Portuguese to become the UK’s 6th most learned language behind Spanish, French, German, English, Italian and Japanese. There are currently 476,000 active learners of Welsh. Over 58% of recent learners are in the UK, 15% in the US, with 2% in Australia and Canada. The remainder are split between pretty much every country on earth with a single learner as far afield as the Cook Islands, Greenland and Burkina Faso.
The course - available for free on Duolingo’s app of the year winning iOS and Android apps, and at duolingo.com - uses game-like experiences to help learners practise and improve their language skills.
The National Centre has already worked with the Duolingo volunteers to align the course to its curriculum. It also signposts its learners to Duolingo so they can revise what they have learned in class.
The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS, said: “The success of the Welsh course on Duolingo shows there’s a real demand to learn the language – this is excellent news as we work towards achieving the Welsh Government’s ambition of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
“Duolingo – along with the dedicated team of volunteers who’ve worked so hard in developing and maintaining the Welsh course – have given so many people across the world the chance to learn Welsh and I’d like to thank them very much - diolch yn fawr i chi.
“As Duolingo moves forward, I’m delighted they’re joining forces with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, which was praised in a recent independent review for its clear vision to support learners to become users of the Welsh language. This new partnership will create even more opportunities for people to enjoy learning and using the language.”
Colin Watkins, UK Country Manager Duolingo, says: “Welsh has been hugely successful on Duolingo which is thanks to the stellar work from Richard and the team. Volunteers, including our co-founder, Luis von Ahn, wrote many of the early courses but as our popularity has grown, along with the number of language courses, now over 100 and counting, we wanted to formalise the way courses are created. It’s important for us to find the right partners and the fit with the National Centre for Learning Welsh is perfect. We’re confident their team will be able to continue the fantastic work started by Richard and the team.”
Dona Lewis, the National Centre’s Deputy Chief Executive, who has led the discussions with Duolingo, adds: “The Duolingo Welsh course is a brilliant learning resource and our learners love using it to practise and improve their Welsh. This new partnership will enable us to further align the Duolingo course to our courses, which are available at five different learning levels. We’ll also be able to promote further learning opportunities to the Duolingo Welsh community, including virtual courses, online self-study modules and social events for Welsh learners.
“The National Centre would also like to pay tribute to the volunteers who’ve worked on the Duolingo Welsh course – we’re looking forward to continuing their good work and to welcoming and supporting even more Welsh learners.”
- More than 500 million people across the world use the free Duolingo language-learning platform, which was launched to the public in June 2012.
- The National Centre for Learning Welsh is funded by the Welsh Government and hosted by University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The Centre works with 11 course providers to deliver virtual classrooms, online learning and blended courses, which combine independent self-study modules with tutor-led classes. Earlier this year, the National Centre was reviewed by education and training inspectorate Estyn, which praised “…the organisation’s robust and decisive leadership, which keeps learners’ interests at the heart of all its activity...”
Case study: “I’m hooked on Duolingo”
Liz Day, who lives in Cardiff, started learning Welsh just over a year ago. Liz has been following intensive courses with Learn Welsh Cardiff, one of the National Centre’s course providers, run by Cardiff University, and recently won the ‘Starting Out – Learn Welsh’ category at the Inspire! Adult Education Awards. Liz is also a massive Duolingo fan, and uses the app to practise between classes. Liz explains: “The Learn Welsh course books helpfully contain icons at the end of each chapter, showing how they correspond with the Duolingo units – this led me to using Duolingo. It’s perfect to use alongside my Welsh course and it’s a great way to practise and revise. I’ve been using Duolingo every day for over a year now, and I’ve learnt nearly 2,000 words. I’ve taken Duo with me everywhere and – despite some patchy internet – managed lessons on a friend’s sofa, in a mountain layby and even in a circus big top. It’s a fantastic way to practise what I’ve learned in class and I admit I’m slightly hooked!”
Welsh on Duolingo
In March 2015 Richard Morse and Kathy Dobbin (leader of a campaign to get Welsh on Duolingo) wrote a letter to the Guardian in support of Duolingo’s mission. The Duolingo community team read the letter and contacted Richard to see if he could create a course. Richard corralled a team of Welsh speakers and created the course, which launched on St Dwynwen's Day 2016. Since then the course has been updated to include many new skills, and is one of Duolingo’s largest courses by the number of words you can learn. New skills are added all the time, including many more references to Owen and his parsnips.
A word from Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
A word from Efa Gruffudd Jones, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh
A word from Colin Watkins, UK Country Manager at Duolingo