Online language learning platform Duolingo is expanding into podcasting today with the launch of its first season in Spanish.
As the company’s first consumer product to exist outside the main Duolingo app, the podcast is available through all the usual podcasting conduits, including SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, Pocket Casts, Google Play Music, Spotify, and many others. It is, of course, also available directly through Duolingo.
Learning through listening
Founded in 2011, Duolingo uses gamification to help people learn to read, listen, and speak in more than 20 languages, including recent expansions into both Chinese and Japanese. The company has raised more than $100 million in funding and now counts north of 200 million users.
The inaugural podcast focuses on real-life stories from Latin America and is built around clear, easy-to-understand Spanish, interjected with English narration. The podcasts are not designed as language lessons in the way Duolingo’s usual audio-based lessons are — they’re more “life lessons through language,” according to the company. They’re geared toward helping English speakers brush up on their Spanish language skills as they go about their everyday activities, such as commuting to work or running on a treadmill. According to Duolingo, the vocabulary used in the podcasts is mapped to the CEFR and is aimed at intermediate Spanish learners.
“The hardest thing about learning a new language is staying motivated,” Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn told VentureBeat. “Compelling stories have the ability to grip our attention and keep us coming back for more. That experience will enable language learners to persevere and improve their listening comprehension throughout their daily lives. The podcast also allows us to teach more intermediate and advanced language learners, like those who have completed some or all of the Duolingo course. Our mission is to make education accessible to everyone, and this podcast will extend our offering of high-quality educational content.”
Hosted by Martina Castro, cofounder of NPR’s Radio Ambulante, the first episode, “Mi héroe, mi amigo” (my hero, my friend), is about a journalist in Veracruz, México who meets his childhood hero.
Podcasting has been one of the big breakout trends of 2017. A recent report by Edison Research and Triton Digital delved into digital media consumption trends, with a focus on audio and podcasting. The report found that 24 percent of Americans, about 67 million people, listen to podcasts each month. This represents a rise of 3 percentage points on the previous year’s figure.
A number of podcasting platforms have gone on to raise funding, including New York-based Anchor, which raised $10 million in a series A round led by Google’s venture capital arm, GV. Swedish audio startup Acast also announced a $19.5 million raise, New York-based podcasting company Gimlet Media nabbed $20 million over the course of a month, and CastBox secured $16 million.