Duolingo is a great resource for anyone looking to sharpen their second-language skills. The platform already offered 30 courses for English speakers, and now it's adding two more in celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day: the Hawaiian ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, and the Navajo language Diné.
Hawaiian and Navajo are endangered languages spoken by people native to the United States. By last estimate, there are about 170,000 native speakers of Navajo, making it the most-spoken indigenous language in the country. Hawaiian, on the other hand, was only spoken by about 2,000 people as of 2007. Starting today, both courses are available in beta to all Duolingo users; there are already about 2,400 people taking the Hawaiian course and 2,000 taking Navajo.
A question from Duolingo's Hawaiian course.
To create the Hawaiian course, Duolingo worked with Hawaiian education groups Kanaeokana and Kamehameha Schools. The Navajo course is being developed in conjunction with Utah's San Juan School District. The addition of Hawaiian and Navajo language courses are part of a larger effort to preserve endangered languages, according to Duolingo.
A question from Duolingo's Navajo course.
You can check out both courses now in the Duolingo app.
HONOLULU, October 8, 2018—Imagine walking into your favorite coffee shop, and saying, “I kapukino naʻu, ke ʻoluʻolu,” and the barista replies, “ʻĀ ʻoia! Pehea ka nui?” This is the Hawaiʻi 1 that those in the Hawaiian-language revitalization movement imagine. A Hawaiʻi where you can use ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian language, everywhere. Now, a new online course is making Hawaiian language learning free and accessible wherever you go, so you could even learn to ‘ōlelo over your morning coffee if you wanted.
Kanaeokana, a network of over 50 Hawaiian culture-based schools and educational organizations, has partnered with Kamehameha Schools and Duolingo, the most popular language-learning platform in the world, to launch a free online ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi course. Duolingo has over 300 million users around the world, and people have been requesting the Hawaiian language for years.
“So many people in our community cherish ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, but not all of them have the time or resources to take classes,” said Pōkiʻi Seto, a member of the development team. “Duolingo’s course allows ʻohana to build a connection to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi whenever and wherever they can.”
“I jumped at the chance to work with Duolingo because of how closely it aligns with Kanaeokana’s goals to renormalize ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi,” continued Seto. “The Hawaiian language movement is carrying our ʻōlelo to places we never thought it would go. And that’s how it should be.”
In the kingdom era, Hawaiian was spoken by Americans, British, Chinese, Greeks, Spaniards, Tahitians and more, and people in the Hawaiian-language community see Duolingo’s new course as an opportunity to help renormalize the language.
“Our language is our foundation, but it is also the language of this land, and everyone, Hawaiian or not, can connect to the ʻāina more deeply through it,” said Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, a Hawaiian language expert who is a major part of Kanaeokana’s Hawaiian language renormalization efforts.
Kawaiʻaeʻa continued, “This course is not about replacing classes; it’s about making ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi more accessible. If you are too busy to enroll in classes or even if you just want to brush up on what you learned, Duolingo is an accessible resource. We hope that families and friends will take the opportunity to use the app as a fun and convenient way to engage in learning Hawaiian together.”
Most of Duolingo’s courses are created by bilingual volunteers from around the world. Since there are relatively few speakers of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Kanaeokana and Kamehameha partnered to bring together a group of Hawaiian-language specialists from across the islands to create the initial content set.
“Duolingo is a true innovation in mobile language-learning,” said Kāʻeo Duarte, Vice President of Community Engagement and Resources at the Kamehameha Schools, a Kanaeokana member. “Bringing ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi to this platform is just continuing the tradition of our ancestors in the nineteenth century who embraced the new technology of print to pass on our traditions and moʻolelo.”
ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi will be available on Duolingo’s website on October 8, 2018, to coincide with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Check out the course for yourself at: https://www.duolingo.com/course/hw/en/Learn-Hawaiian-Online .
Name: Kēhaunani Abad, Director, Kealaiwikuamo‘o, Kamehameha Schools (in support of Kanaeokana) Mobile: 808-366-5235 Email: email@example.com
About the language
Diné (Navajo language) is the largest indigenous language in North America. Diné culture, after flourishing for hundreds of years was attacked by settlers. Diné speakers were forced to speak English and assimilate in the late 1800s. Though it’s now classified as an endangered language, a decades-long revitalization effort has created a growing pool of Diné speakers.
Why Diné on Duolingo?
Diné is the language of the Navajo people, and learning it opens up the stories and rich history of Navajo culture. Diné is a living language that grows and shifts for the contemporary needs and goals of its speakers; thus, it makes sense for it to live in new channels like Duolingo.
Duolingo is the world’s largest language-learning platform, with 300 million total learners worldwide. By adding Diné to its course offerings, the language will be made accessible for free to millions of people who are eager to learn it – whether it’s for strengthening connections to cultural roots, learning more about the local communities in the 4 corners region, enhancing travel experiences or simply out of curiosity. The course will feature skills that teach learners about Diné culture and (eventually) use original audio recorded by native Diné speakers.
More broadly, launching a Diné course is part of a larger initiative at Duolingo to add courses for languages that are considered at-risk and endangered.
As with most Duolingo courses, the Diné course is being developed via the Duolingo Incubator by a team fluent in Diné and English and dedicated to the Diné language revival movement.
The development of the course is led jointly by 1) Duolingo and 2) San Juan School district educators and San Juan High School students, who are supporting the course creation.
Work on the course officially began in July 2018, and the course is slated to launch on October 8, 2018 – in time for Indigenous People’s Day in the U.S.
For more information, please contact:
Clayton Long Bilingual Director, San Juan School District firstname.lastname@example.org