The seven volunteers who contributed to the Irish Duolingo course with Irish President Michael D. Higgins. Maxwell Photography

Irish President Michael D. Higgins has honored the work of volunteers who developed the Irish language learning course on popular language learning app Duolingo. Their efforts have opened the language up to 2.3 million users in the two years since its launch. The seven volunteers who created and translated the Irish course were welcomed to the President’s residence, Áras an Uachtaráin, on Friday, November 25, as he honored their work. In the past two years, the Irish course has climbed into the top 10 most popular languages offered by Duolingo. The majority of these learners are located in the United States.

“Having been involved with the Duolingo Irish course for the past two and a half years, I am delighted to see that so many people have benefited from this free language learning resource,” said Oisín Ó Doinn, Irish Research Council Scholar, and one of the contributors to the Duolingo Irish course.

“The fact that an average of 3,000 people a day have begun using the Duolingo Irish course since then shows the massive worldwide interest in our native language and makes all the hard work we put in worthwhile.”

As of November 25, 2.3 million people are learning Irish on Duolingo, placing it among the 10 most popular languages in the world on the app. Of those learners, 53 percent are located in the US, 23 percent in Ireland, ten percent in the UK, and five percent in Canada.

“Conradh na Gaeilge [The Gaelic League] congratulates the 7 contributors and the Duolingo team on their tremendous achievement. The results of their efforts are extraordinary – 2.3 million people learning Irish over the last two years,” said Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community which aims to promote the use of Irish as the standard language in Ireland

“We are seeing a direct impact through the increased interest in our work in promoting the Irish language at home and abroad. The door to the Irish language opened by Duolingo makes learning Irish easier and more fun than ever before.”

President Michael D. Higgins with staff from Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League).

President Michael D. Higgins with staff from Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League).

The Irish course was first launched on Duolingo in beta form on August 25, 2014. It had been announced as one of the new courses to be added to the app's growing collection on St. Patrick’s Day of that year. The course was an instant success and has encouraged millions the world over to learn Irish.

Gina Gotthilf, Vice President of Growth at Duolingo, also commended the work of the Irish volunteers, stating, “In the 4 years since we launched Duolingo, we've launched 87 different courses to provide free language education for over 150 million learners.

“We are proud of the work put in by the contributors who created the Irish course and especially excited to play a part in reinvigorating this beautiful language and helping create new Irish-speaking communities for the 21st Century.

According to an independent study conducted by Roumen Vesselinov from the City University of New York and John Grego from the University of South Carolina, just 34 hours of time on the Duolingo equates to a full university semester of language education, and its popularity as means of learning a language is continuing to grow. Duolingo was named as overall App of the year by Apple in 2013 as well as the most downloaded Educational App on Google Play for 2013 and 2014.

The Spanish course for English speakers is the most widely used course on the app with 72.8 million users followed by French for English speakers with 43.4 million users. Irish is the ninth largest course for English speakers, however, coming just behind Swedish with 2.6 million users and ahead of Turkish, Danish, Norwegian and Polish.

Duolingo previously appeared among IrishCentral’s best ways to learn Irish for free. You can view the full list here .