Ben's Logarion ☪


Duolingo Incubator

I've been using Duolingo off and on for the past several years, and over that time I've ended up sometimes waiting a long time for a course to come out. I probably started some time back in 2014, and at that time there were only a handful of language courses available to choose from. To be quite frank, most of them didn't even interest me all that much, but I remember casually messing around with Irish and some Germanic languages.

As it happened, really interesting courses were coming up in the incubator, with some of them (such as Polish) having already been there for such a long time. (Years, I suppose.) The only thing I could really do was wait, but fortunately after a year or so interesting languages started going into beta. That is actually how I learned Esperanto, though I hadn't been waiting for it.

After all these years, many courses have been introduced to the platform—some quickly, some slowly. I used to check the incubator very often just to see what new language I could look forward to trying in the near-ish future (say, in the following months). Now I've grown used to not checking it, but today I decided to give a look because I remembered how fun it was.

Well, a few things were to be expected. Still no end in sight for the Yiddish course, but I was pleased to see that Scottish Gaelic is now upcoming, and Finnish is coming along. I have been particularly wanting to try Finnish, so I'll be sure to check that out. Additionally, I happened to notice that the Hungarian course, which came out years ago, is still in beta. Taking a look at their page, it appears that the reason is they are now expanding the course into a second, extended version, as many courses have done.

Most of the other languages in beta (Latin, Navajo, Klingon) I find interesting but have not really made the time to do anything more with them than a few lessons here and there. When the Navajo course came out it was particularly bad, but maybe they've managed to improve it since then. (Hopefully they've added audio.) The Klingon course is surprisingly good if you like bizarre alien languages. (Of course, if you like that then try Hungarian as well.)

Also of note is that many of the courses in incubation now are for speakers of languages other than English, a trend that has been increasing and is sure to continue doing so now that there are so many courses for English speakers. Courses like "Arabic for Spanish speakers" sound nice.

Since lately I've been getting into Nordic langauges again, a course I'd like to see would be Icelandic or Old Norse, and maybe even a Nynorsk version of Norwegian, though the Bokmål course is already fantastic. (It is, in fact, one of the longest and best-quality courses on Duolingo.)

I could write more about how great it is for English speakers to study Norwegian, but I can save that for another time. As for "X for Y" language combos on Duolingo, it seems quite impossible for them to ever cross-connect all languages, but they've already laid some foundational connections by having most languages available through English and, conversely, English available through most languages. It's my suggestion, however, that they do this with Esperanto instead. That is, they should make Esperanto available to speakers of all languages, and then make all languages available to speakers of Esperanto. The simple reason is that people learn Esperanto an order of magnitude faster and more effectively than English, so making knowledge of English a condition for accessing other knowledge is at worst a grave injustice and foolish at best.

I would love to respond to responses to my posts, so I encourage anyone reading this to send me an e-mail with their own thoughts or questions. And, of course, if there's languages that you'd like to see on Duolingo, you should let Duolingo know! (And wait five years!)