The list of most popular languages to study is relatively resistant to change, especially when it comes to the very top of the list. English has long been the most popular language to study, and Spanish and French have jockeyed for the second and third spots. It would take a significant shift in language-learning behaviors to demote these languages from their ranking.
However, already in 2023, there have been 2 significant changes in the global ranking of most popular languages to study on Duolingo.
Most popular languages to study on Duolingo in 2023
Russian drops out of the top 10
Russian is a huge global language with over 282 million speakers worldwide, and it has been among the top 10 languages studied on Duolingo since shortly after the first Russian course was launched in late 2015.
In 2023, Russian has dropped in global rankings to #11. The change in learner interest in studying Russian is directly linked to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent growth of interest in learning Ukrainian. In the weeks after the February 2022 invasion, 1.3 million new learners began studying Ukrainian on Duolingo, and countries including Germany and Poland saw growth of over 1600%.
At the same time, in many parts of the world, the number of people learning Russian stagnated or began declining. Even though most Ukrainians grow up using both Russian and Ukrainian, the association of Russian with aggressors in the war has impacted its reputation as a global language.
Portuguese jumps to #8 in the top 10 rankings
In 2022, Hindi—one of the fastest-growing languages to study—ousted Portuguese from the #10 spot among most popular languages to study. But in late 2022, interest in Portuguese began growing, and today Portuguese ranks #8, just ahead of Chinese (#9) and comfortably ahead of Hindi (#10).
The slow and steady increase in the number of Portuguese learners is likely tied to global changes in travel and business. As the world has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, Brazil and Portugal have benefited from pent-up travel demand: Brazil saw a 500% increase in international tourists in 2022, and Portuguese airline TAP has recently seen unexpected growth as well. Both countries have also responded to the pandemic-induced increase in remote workers with digital nomad visas to Brazil and Portugal, which may also have contributed to the rise of Portuguese in the global ranking.
We’re keeping a close eye on language trends all year long. If you, too, want a look at the numbers, check out:
- 2022 Duolingo Language Report
- Special report: Language-learning trends in Latin America
- Special report: Who studies Japanese on Duolingo?
- Special report: Understanding English learners around the world
About the data
This report includes information about learners who studied languages on Duolingo between October 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023.