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Latin language is the latest offering on Duolingo


Duolingo | Facebook | Fair Use

John Burger - published on 08/30/19

Free educational website rolls out course on everybody's favorite "dead language."

The very name of the website—Duolingo—sounds Latin, so perhaps it’s about time the online language learning experience has introduced a course in everyone’s favorite “dead language.”

Duolingo launched its Latin language course on Wednesday, making the language of Cicero the 34th tongue to be offered on the site. According to the site itself, some 29,000 people have already signed up for it.

“Latin is around us every day,” a Duolingo spokesman told the British Catholic newspaper The Catholic Herald. “It is on our money, our buildings, even our football shirts. It is the language of law and medicine, and the foundation of many other languages. It is something the new Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] cares deeply about, and is intrinsically linked to the Roman Catholic faith, but to many it is considered a dead language.”

Learning Latin also “allows people of Roman Catholic faith to gain a deeper connection with their religion,” the spokesman added.

The free site begins its course by showing three drawings, each with a Latin word next to it. It asks, “Which is a man?” and the learner chooses the right photo, learning that the word on the photo, vir, means man. And then it builds from there.

Far from being dead, the Latin language continues to attract devotees. In December 2017, Pope Francis called for young Catholics to learn Latin to help them reflect “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being.” And this summer, Vatican News launched a weekly Latin news podcast called “Hebdomada Papae” (The Pope’s Week).

“Everyone learns in different ways,” Duolingo’s site says. “For the first time in history, we can analyze how millions of people learn at once to create the most effective educational system possible and tailor it to each student. Our ultimate goal is to give everyone access to a private tutor experience through technology.”

In addition to languages that are in common use around the world, such as French, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic, the app also has a couple of unusual offerings, such as Klingon, spoken by the fictional extraterrestrial Klingon species in the Star Trek universe; High Valyrian, the ancient language of Essos from the fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire that were the basis for Game of Thrones, and Esperanto, which is not a fictional language but was created in the 19th century in the hopes of fostering peace and international understanding.

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