Duolingo Report Suggests Fastest Growing Languages are All Asian

Kitti Palmai analyzes Duolingo's first-ever annual report that looks into the data of language learners

Duolingo’s first-ever Global Language Report was released at the end of 2020, showcasing language learning patterns, trends, and analyses around the world. The data reflects a 12-month time period between October 2019 and September 2020. The platform has over 500 million users in 194 countries and offers 98 language courses featuring 39 different languages.

Cindy Blanco, senior learning scientist at Duolingo, says that the data “tells the story of politics, social events, and cultural changes.”

After Covid-19 was pronounced a global pandemic by the WHO in March 2020, the number of new learners joining Duolingo soared rapidly, reaching 30 million worldwide within a couple of weeks. According to the report, it showed 67% growth compared to the same period in 2019, double the 2020 New Year’s spike and 1.5 times the 2019 New Year’s rise.

The countries with the highest number of new users and total learners are the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, India, UK, and China.

In terms of new subscribers during the first lockdown, Iraq had a 640% spike in March/April 2020—putting the country at the top of the list—while China grew more than 300%, even though their lockdown had started earlier.

Initially, people were registering for Duolingo to support their school lessons (27.9%), which was a lot lower (22.6%) during March/April 2019. Brain training as the motivation behind learning a language came second with 15.9% and travel reasons decreased from last year’s 19.9% to 12.7%.

The most popular languages are English (in 121 countries), Spanish (in 34 countries) and French (in 23 countries).

“[In] parts of the world, where English isn’t typically the first language… it’s clearly the most popular [choice]. The rest of the world is split between Spanish and French. North America is a great example of this because it’s just perfectly divided—the U.S. prefers to study Spanish, Canada prefers to study French,” says Blanco.

Languages like Irish, Finnish, Hawaiian, and Indonesian are more sought-after within their own borders. “There are the countries where people are studying for immigration or long-term reasons, like Scandinavia and there are other places where the language study is really driven by travel,” Blanco explains.

The fastest growing languages around the globe are all Asian languages. Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Turkish, and Chinese differ from each other linguistically but their “growing presence in the media and pop culture” is a common ground, the report suggests.

Germany is the hardest working country, where learners complete the most lessons per person, followed by Japan and Hungary. These nations are also the most dedicated users in terms of streaks, frequency, and length of time spent on learning a language, although the order changes by Hungary topping the list, succeeded by Japan and Germany.

Blanco believes that these committed, hard-working countries have “a more specific goal” in mind in comparison to regions where learners don’t spend too much time on the platform but they keep up the work.

Evening learning might just be the secret to consistency when it comes to studying a language since half of all the countries prefer to use the app between 10pm and 11pm, while another 41.6% of them make time for it between 9pm and 10pm.

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