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Welsh language centre partners with Duolingo in million speaker goal

Steven Morris
·2-min read

An online language course created five years ago following a letter published in the Guardian is to be used to help reach a government target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Duolingo launched its Welsh language course in January 2016 and so far more than 1.5 million people around the world have been taught through it.

Now Duolingo and the National Centre for Learning Welsh have announced they will work together to help the Welsh government reach its 1 million target.

The Welsh government minister Eluned Morgan, whose portfolio includes the Welsh language, welcomed the partnership, saying: “We’ve set a goal of a million Welsh speakers by 2050, around a third of Wales’ current population, and in recent years we’ve seen a surge in demand for Welsh in early years and school-age learning.”

According to the latest government figures, 872,200 people in Wales speak Welsh, which is just under 29% of the population.

The Duolingo Welsh course was launched after a language tutor, Richard Morse, and a Welsh learner, Kathy Dobbin, wrote to the Guardian suggesting the idea.

Morse gathered a team of Welsh speakers and created the course, which launched on St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine’s Day, in 2016.

Welsh is now the fastest-growing language being learned on Duolingo in the UK, with 474,000 people actively being taught. There are tens of thousands of learners in the US, and even one in Antarctica.

Morse said he was pleased at how successful it had been. “There is a large Welsh diaspora, especially in England,” he said. “Also within Wales there are many older people remembering their parents or grandparents not transmitting the language to them because of the mistaken belief that the children’s English would suffer.

“Within Wales there are many parents with children in Welsh-medium schools, a growing sector, who are time poor and don’t have the time to go to conventional classes but who want to learn some Welsh to help their children’s education. Duolingo’s focus on small discrete bits of learning to be done on a daily basis fits with so many people’s complicated lives.”

Morse said he was surprised at the lack of official interest in the course in the first couple of years but he believed that the current Welsh government was more engaged.

Efa Gruffudd Jones, the chief executive at the National Centre for Learning Welsh, said: “Creating and promoting opportunities for our learners to practise and enjoy their Welsh is an important part of our work at the National Centre and we’re delighted to be working in partnership with Duolingo.”