A cartoon of duo - the character from Duolingo - showing relief at not having to listen to my Irish mispronunciations.

You’ve made Duo sad…

My first attempt at learning Irish with the Duolingo app doesn’t go well. I fall foul of it’s attempts to cajole me with stars and gems and special points.

Duo’s next tactic is to send me emails deploying the weapon of shame. This is surprisingly effective – given that my greatest fear is the fear of letting everyone down.

I switch tack and discover the missing element. People. I want to know what’s behind these words – how they came to sit on the tongues of folk, and how they were used to do what people do; to tell stories. I discover that my local Irish centre runs conversational Gaeilge classes. And signing up proves to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Finally, I have somewhere I can ask my questions.

These days, I try to learn a little Irish every day – this tongue won’t learn itself you know – and I’m back on terms with Duo. I’d better not let the wee crittur down…




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