Studying Excessive Valyrian on Duolingo introduced me nothing however pleasure in 2022

2022 was the yr of Home of the Dragon. We learn the supply materials, memorized the Targaryen household tree, and obsessed over small — however necessary — particulars. By the point the Season 1 finale reared its dragon-scaled head, I might spent a lot time fascinated by Westeros that there was no means I used to be able to let it go. So I set myself a brand new objective: to grasp Excessive Valyrian, the Targaryens’ mom tongue.

Excessive Valyrian could have began as just a few phrases in George R.R. Martin’s A Music of Ice and Hearth collection, however it’s now an precise language with its personal guidelines and expansive vocabulary. That is all because of linguist David J. Peterson, who created Excessive Valyrian and Dothraki for Sport of Thrones.


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Since Excessive Valyrian was constructed by Peterson versus rising naturally over time, that makes it an instance of a constructed language, or “conlang.” Identical to with pure languages, it is solely attainable to study a conlang. For instance, yow will discover books that train Sindarin from Lord of the Rings and Klingon from Star Trek. Peterson himself has written Residing Language Dothraki, a conversational language course for Dothraki. Nonetheless, if you wish to study Excessive Valyrian, you want look no additional than language studying app Duolingo, which carries a Excessive Valyrian course created by Peterson. It’s one in all three conlangs you may study on Duolingo, the opposite two being Esperanto and Klingon.

After beginning to study Excessive Valyrian in October, I’ve found that it is all my Home of the Dragon-loving coronary heart must climate the lengthy wait earlier than Season 2. Sure, I miss seeing Rhaenyra and her Targaryen clan each Sunday, however with these classes I can put aside a couple of minutes each day to think about I am having a dialog with them. After all, in Home of the Draon their Excessive Valyrian conversations usually cowl complicated familial dynamics and political plotting, whereas my degree of data skews in direction of the fundamentals like “hi there and goodbye” (Rytsas se geros ilas). Nonetheless, a woman can dream!

How did Excessive Valyrian wind up on Duolingo?

A green owl sits on the Iron Throne.

Promotional supplies from Duolingo about their Excessive Valyrian course.
Credit score: Duolingo

Initially, Duolingo reached out to Peterson about making a course in Dothraki. Since he’d already launched a guide about Dothraki, he prompt Excessive Valyrian as a substitute. The primary model of the course launched in July 2017. It has since gone by way of two updates: one in 2019, and one in 2022, previous to the discharge of Home of the Dragon. In accordance with Duolingo in knowledge they shared with me over e-mail, over 3.2 million learners worldwide have studied Excessive Valyrian as of the course’s launch.

2022 was a very large yr for Excessive Valyrian on Duolingo. A weblog replace from Duolingo in July of 2022 mentioned that the course had 514,000 energetic customers. Then, from September to October, whereas Home of the Dragon was airing, Duolingo revealed that it noticed a 56 p.c improve in Excessive Valyrian learners.

There’s been extra curiosity in Excessive Valyrian than there’s ever been.

– David J. Peterson

“There’s been extra curiosity in Excessive Valyrian than there’s ever been… Even earlier than, Excessive Valyrian by no means had this degree of curiosity round it. Now it does,” Peterson mentioned in a video name with “And truthfully, I feel it comes all the way down to the way in which that it is used [in House of the Dragon], the way in which you may really see the backwards and forwards. As a result of even in Sport of Thrones, it was one thing for Daenerys giving speeches or laying down bulletins, very magisterial. Right here [in House of the Dragon], you may really hear how it’s a language.”

Home of the Dragon places Excessive Valyrian entrance and heart.

My want to study Excessive Valyrian would not have been so pronounced had the language not featured way more prominently in Home of the Dragon than it did in Sport of Thrones. The rise in Excessive Valyrian utilization in Home of the Dragon comes all the way down to the context of the present: Right here, a whole bunch of years earlier than Sport of Thrones, the Targaryens are nonetheless in energy, and nonetheless maintaining the language of their ancestors from Outdated Valyria alive.

Peterson famous that the Excessive Valyrian we see within the present “is definitely nearer to what you hear with Daenerys and Sport of Thrones than it will be to the language you’ll have heard spoken across the time of the Doom [of Valyria].”

He additionally identified that whereas we do see extra Excessive Valyrian audio system in Home of the Dragon, it’s in no way a standard language in Westeros. “The Targaryens and households just like the Velaryons, they’re maintaining Excessive Valyrian as a spoken language,” Peterson mentioned. “However you may already see that possibly it is beginning to wane with the youngest children. You may see that they are clearly not being introduced up as fluent as Rhaenyra was.”


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Elsewhere, the one different folks in Westeros who can be talking Excessive Valyrian can be the Dragonkeepers and the Maesters, who would train it to the wealthiest folks within the realm. “But when they have no connection to Valyria, it is not like they consider [High Valyrian] as necessary. So it is simply this sort of literary, scientific, intellectual language for everyone else in Westeros,” defined Peterson.

Peterson described the extent of Excessive Valyrian taught within the Duolingo course as being “post-Doom, however a bit of bit extra correct and commonplace, so nearer to Aegon’s conquest [of Westeros].” After all, as with all language, there are a number of nuances and exceptions to guidelines that you just may not study till you’ve got studied the language for a very long time at a excessive degree. However whereas the Duolingo course may not get us to that time in Excessive Valyrian as of now, it is nonetheless an excellent place to begin to dive into the nitty-gritty fundamentals of the language.

What are you able to anticipate to study within the Excessive Valyrian Duolingo course?

A sword with an owl on its pommel, and text above reading

Promotional supplies from Duolingo about their Excessive Valyrian course.
Credit score: Duolingo

Like with all Duolingo programs, the Excessive Valyrian course begins by educating you the fundamentals of a language and constructing on these. The primary vocabulary phrases you study embrace man (vala), girl (ābra), lady (riña), and boy (taoba). Later, you will find out about Excessive Valyrian’s 4 genders — photo voltaic, lunar, aquatic, and terrestrial — and encounter phrases like korze (which means lengthy sword) or sēter (which means spell or enchantment).

I positively get the most important kick at any time when these fantasy-centric phrases are peppered in alongside extra “commonplace” vocabulary. Normally, once I consider studying a language, I think about that phrases we study early on will embrace “How are you?” and “The place’s the toilet?” With the Excessive Valyrian course, I discovered learn how to say “I’ve dragons” (Zaldrīzī eman) and “They love the Iron Throne” (Āegenkon Dēmalion jorrāelzi). And truthfully? I like it. The common fantasy references additional immerse me within the language and remind me the place Excessive Valyrian comes from — a context that was immensely necessary to Peterson whereas setting up the course.

“Valyrian is actually two issues,” he defined. “It’s an precise language. It is one thing that you should use at present, proper now. However it’s additionally a set piece. That’s, it is a language that’s purported to have a fictional historical past… I am very clearly setting a degree of instruction at a selected time on this fictional historical past.”

Valyrian is actually two issues. It’s an precise language… However it’s additionally a set piece.

– David J. Peterson

He continued, “After I first began working with Duolingo, they mentioned, ‘Right here, you should use a few of these different programs as fashions.’ And it is [units] like touring at an airport, going to a restaurant, calling a taxi. These are very helpful issues, nevertheless it utterly would not exist on this fictional universe. And that is the entire level of the language, is to serve this fiction.”

Peterson hinted that possibly in the future he’d create a bonus ability the place we might study to debate ranges of know-how that do not exist in Westeros but — however none of these phrases or phrases would actually fall in Valyrian. “I needed to discover different issues that may be helpful or frequent from that point interval,” Peterson mentioned, therefore the swords and sorcery. “It may not be very helpful to a contemporary speaker, however a minimum of it is fascinating and it suits the world.”

The Excessive Valyrian Duolingo course is stuffed with treats for Sport of Thrones followers.

As you’re employed by way of the Excessive Valyrian course on Duolingo, you will start to choose up items of Excessive Valyrian dialogue from the present, together with the enduring “Valar morghulis, valar dohaeris.” The primary names you will use in workout routines embrace Daenerys, Viserys, and Jon (translated to Iōnos), so you can say phrases like “Daenerys is a pal of the dragons” very quickly.

Peterson tried to suit as a lot Sport of Thrones dialogue into the course as he might. Nonetheless, this endeavor turned a lot tougher with Home of the Dragon, which noticed extra difficult conversational Excessive Valyrian. “I’ll hold including to [the course] so long as they’re going to let me, so hopefully we’ll get there finally, however there’s some fairly tough stuff within the Home of the Dragon dialogue,” he mentioned.

His largest problem? Translating the phrase “would that it have been,” which exhibits up in episode 4. It took Peterson a number of weeks to provide you with the Excessive Valyrian approximation “Hegnīr iksos jaelan, primarily which means “I want it have been that means.” If you would like extra translations of Home of the Dragon‘s complicated Excessive Valyrian conversations, Peterson posts them, episode by episode, on Archive of Our Personal.

I toggle between telling people who Paris is an exquisite metropolis and letting them know that my dragons are extraordinarily highly effective.

I have never run into any phrases almost that difficult within the Duolingo course. I am nonetheless working by way of the “Intro to Excessive Valyrian” part. Nonetheless, I’ve discovered that my absolute favourite factor about studying Excessive Valyrian is how linked it makes me really feel to the exhibits and books. Due to it, I am considering extra in regards to the historical past of Westeros and the context of the language. I am listening tougher to the Home of the Dragon‘s Excessive Valyrian with the intention to catch snippets of vocabulary that I would acknowledge. When watching the Season 1 finale for the primary time, I cheered when Aemond referred to as Lucerys “taoba,” as a result of I knew even with none subtitles that it meant “boy.” (Don’t fret, that cheering stopped as quickly as Vhagar chomped down on Lucerys — I am not a monster!)

Studying Excessive Valyrian has additionally provided a deeper reference to my associates who love Home of the Dragon. We’ll textual content one another phrases that make us snicker due to their significance within the present. A few of my favorites embrace:

Oh no…

A Duolingo exercise translating the phrase

Credit score: Screenshot: Duolingo

Ned spreading misinformation about everybody’s favourite bastard.

A Duolingo exercise translating the phrase

Credit score: Screenshot: Duolingo

Hey, that is the title of the present!

A Duolingo exercise translating the phrase

Credit score: Screenshot: Duolingo

All of it comes again to language studying.

Apart from the fantasy references and the meme potential of sure phrases, the Excessive Valyrian course’s best accomplishment is the truth that, just like the mighty flames of Syrax (or Vhagar, or Caraxes), it has re-ignited my pleasure about studying a language. Each morning I get pumped as much as spend a little bit of my day speaking about dragons and spells and thrones. This pleasure stems from each the enjoyable of Excessive Valyrian and Duolingo’s gamified method to educating, which incentivizes customers to take care of a each day studying streak.


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Duolingo’s streak system and gamification really intrigued Peterson properly earlier than he started engaged on the Excessive Valyrian course. “Extra necessary than the rest on the subject of language instruction is it’s important to interact with it each day,” Peterson mentioned. “It’s important to simply sustain with it and hold doing it. Duolingo has discovered a option to get folks to wish to try this, which is the toughest half.”

Since you may work on a number of programs without delay in Duolingo, I’ve used my each day forays to study Excessive Valyrian to concurrently brush up on my French. Now, I toggle between telling people who Paris is an exquisite metropolis and letting them know that my dragons are extraordinarily highly effective. It is really one of the best of each worlds, in addition to a welcome probability to re-visit language abilities I might sadly let slide the previous few years. For that probability, and for the chance to get to know Westeros a bit of higher, I’ve one factor to say: Kirimvose. (Thanks.)

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