Thirty million people attempted to learn a new language this year, in the weeks after the world was forced into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data compiled by free language app Duolingo.
The app’s “Year in Language” Report, shared with Travel + Leisure, found that Turkish was the fastest-growing language of interest in America in 2020, but Spanish remained the most popular choice (Spanish also overtook French in global popularity). That was followed by English as the second most popular language for those logging on from the U.S.
French, Japanese, and German rounded out the top five for language learners in America, according to the app.
"During lockdown, learners around the globe looked for ways to feel connected, and so millions of people began learning a new language,” Duolingo’s Senior Learning Scientist, Dr. Cindy Blanco, told T+L in a statement. “Duolingo's data reveals where and when people began learning their community’s own language, studying to keep up with schoolwork, and trying out the languages behind some of our other favorite quarantine activities, like binging on Netflix and streaming music from around the world."
But while Americans did join the language learning craze in 2020, they weren’t the most dedicated. In fact, Duolingo found Germans were the most enthusiastic language learners in the world, followed by Japan and Hungary. The U.S. came in as 68th on the list.
Learning a language can be a great way to prepare for an international trip, but it’s also a wonderful way to reconnect with America’s history. In Hawaii, Duolingo found residents looked to learn the Hawaiian language this year, the second most sought-after option people there studied. Navajo also saw a boost in popularity.
Of new learners, 40.5% were part of Gen Z (kids born from about 1997 to 2012) — and learning for 13 and 14-year-olds increased by 85%, compared to 2019. The most popular language for this generation? Japanese.
In total, Duolingo has about 40 million monthly active users and offers 39 different languages.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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