Duolingo expands into podcasting with real-life stories for Spanish learners

Online language learning platform Duolingo is expanding into podcasting, with the launch of its first season in Spanish today.

The podcast represents the company’s first consumer product that exists outside the main Duolingo app, as it’s 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 to listen directly through Duolingo.

Learning through listening

Founded in 2011, Duolingo uses gamification techniques to help people to learn to read, listen, and speak in more than 20 languages, most recently expanding 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 by English narration. They’re not designed as language lessons in the same way as 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 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.

Trend

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, equating to 67 million people, listen to podcasts each month. This represents a rise of three percentage points on the previous year’s figure.

A number of podcasting platforms subsequently went on to raise funding, including  New York-based Anchor which raised $10 million in a series A round of funding led by Google’s venture capital arm, GV, while Swedish audio startup Acast announced a $19.5 million raise. Elsewhere, New York-based podcasting company Gimlet Media nabbed $20 million over the course of a month, while CastBox secured $16 million.

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