Duolingo is well known for being one of the best ways to learn real-world languages, but did you know you can learn some fictional ones as well?
Well, get excited, Game of Thrones fans, as one of Duolingo’s top fictional languages is none other than High Valyrian!
It’s been available on Duolingo for a few years now and, to celebrate the launch of House of the Dragon, it’s recently received a swanky new update.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about High Valyrian on Duolingo.
Sound good? Let’s jump in!
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What is High Valyrian?
High Valyrian is a fictional language created by David Peterson for the hit TV show Game of Thrones. It’s based on the writings of George R.R. Martin in the book series A Song of Ice and Fire.
In ASoIaF, Martin laid the basic foundation for High Valyrian. Using this, Peterson was then able to construct a more complete version of the language, doing so “without drawing grammar or vocabulary from an existing natural language.“
High Valyrian has been available on Duolingo since 2019 and is one of two fictional languages (the other being Klingon from the TV series Star Trek).
Game of Thrones came to an end back in 2019. However, with the launch of the prequel series, House of the Dragon, High Valyrian’s making a comeback! And to celebrate, Peterson and Duolingo have updated the course with a bunch of new words, sentences and skills (which we’ll go over shortly!).
Where is High Valyrian spoken?
Given High Valyrian is a fictional language, it should come as no surprise that it isn’t officially spoken anywhere in the world.
Well, in our world, anyway!
In the Game of Thrones universe, High Valyrian was the language of the old Valyrian Freehold, which was located on the continent of Essos.
In the series, it was most notably spoken by the likes of Daenerys Targaryen, Lady Melisandre and (rather comically) Tyrion Lannister.
How Duolingo teaches High Valyrian
Duolingo delivers its High Valyrian course in pretty much the same way as all its other courses.
It follows what is commonly referred to as the lesson tree.*
The tree is broken up into a set of units…
Each unit has a set of skills…
Each skill has up to 6 crown levels…
And each crown level has a set of lessons…
The basic goal is to work through the tree by completing every lesson… in every level… in every skill… in every unit.
As of September 2022, Duolingo’s High Valyrian course has a total of 3 units, broken down into a total of 43 skills.
There are 215 crown levels in Duolingo’s High Valyrian course (not including the legendary levels).
The exercises are pretty much the same as in Duolingo’s other courses. Some of the common exercises include:
- Complete the translation
- Mark the correct meaning
- Picture flashcards
- Select the missing word
- Speak this sentence
- Speak the correct response
- Tap the pairs (standard and audio)
- Tap what you hear
- Fill in the blanks
*Duolingo are switching up their courses to a brand new format known as the Learning Path. It’s only been rolled out to a handful of users so far, so the majority of users will get the traditional lesson tree above. However, if your High Valyrian course looks different to the above, then you’ve probably got the new path. Check out this post from Duolingo to learn more!
Can you actually learn High Valyrian on Duolingo?
This is a difficult one to answer as I’ve only spent a little bit of time with the High Valyrian course. There’s plenty of useful ‘show’ vocabulary, which I’ve noticed when watching House of the Dragon.
For instance, whenever the characters speak High Valyrian, they often end their sentences with the word “daor”. Thanks to the Duolingo course, I now know it always turns the sentence into a negative — representing either no or not.
So if you’re looking to better understand the TV shows, then Duolingo will definitely help.
That said, I would be extremely surprised if you could reach a conversational level. In Duolingo’s best and most fleshed-out courses, they aim to get you to a B2 level on the CEFR. However, this depends as much on passive exposure to the target language as it does time spent on Duolingo.
This is a lot easier to achieve with a real-world language like Spanish or French. There’s plenty of authentic content available in both written and audible forms. Plus it’s not difficult to find native speakers to practice with.
Obviously, this isn’t the case with High Valyrian.
Although Peterson and Duolingo recently updated the course, it’s still really short. Duolingo’s best courses have as many as 10 units, whereas the High Valyrian course only has 3.
Furthermore, beyond Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, there isn’t really any authentic content available to learn High Valyrian from. You’re completely dependent on a couple of TV shows. Plus, as far as I’m aware, there aren’t really any native speakers to practice with.
Becoming conversational, therefore, is going to be pretty difficult. You should be able to pick up some useful vocabulary and grammar rules that will make understanding the TV shows easier. But I wouldn’t bank on going much further.
Is Duolingo’s High Valyrian course worth it?
Whether Duolingo’s High Valyrian course is worth it will boil down to your goals and preferences.
It goes without saying that, unless you’re looking to get a job on the set of House of the Dragon, it isn’t a language you’re ever likely to need. The odds of meeting other people that speak High Valyrian are slim, as is the likelihood of you ever needing it for work.
And, as above, it’s going to be very difficult to become fluent. The course is extremely short and there isn’t much authentic material available.
That being said, High Valyrian is definitely one of Duolingo’s coolest courses. Duolingo have worked closely with Peterson to create a really polished and fleshed-out experience that, in some respects, manages to exceed many of Duolingo’s real-world-language courses.
It’s filled with familiar content from the Game of Thrones universe with lots of fancy artwork. You can tell they’ve put lots of effort into it and it definitely makes for a fun and quirky experience.
Ultimately, if you’re a big Thrones fan, then you’re probably going to love the High Valyrian course. The fact that Peterson has recently updated it as well shows the course is alive and kicking — and well worth diving into!
If you’re an avid Game of Thrones fan and want to make a deeper connection with the series, then Duolingo’s High Valyrian course is definitely worth sinking some time into.
However, be sure to manage your expectations — you’re unlikely to be speaking as fluently as a Targaryen anytime soon!
Anyway, what do you think of the course? Have you given it a go? Do you think fictional languages are worth it?
Let me know in the comments!