Learning a new language is an exciting journey at any age! We’ve seen that different stages of life can mean differences in which languages Duolingo learners choose. Now that we know that different generations have their own linguistic interests, we can put our lab coats on and ask that most scientific of questions: Why??
To investigate learner motivations across generations, we decided to focus on English learners around the world. English is the most popular language to study globally, but are learners in all those countries studying English for the same reasons? Does the unique linguistic and cultural landscape of each country influence their motivations for learning? Let’s find out!
We looked into learning trends in three countries that are distinct in terms of geography, language, and culture: Brazil, Germany, and the U.S. Then we analyzed the motivations of learners in those countries who downloaded Duolingo in 2022 to study English, and we compared them by generation. We found that even for people studying the same language, the differences across age and country are dramatic.
Millennials around the world are working hard, but in Germany, they’re playing hard too ✈️
Millennials in Germany are prioritizing work-life balance: Travel is the most common reason that German Millennials are learning English (and work is not far behind)! Millennials in Brazil and the U.S., on the other hand, list work as their primary motivation for learning English.
Germany might be onto something! Learning English for travel is a broader trend for German learners across generations: Travel is the #1 motivation for Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers learning English. And, travel is the second most common motivation for Gen Z Germans after school.
U.S. Boomers are putting family first 💗
Unlike Boomers in Germany and Brazil—who list travel as the #1 motivation for learning English— family is the primary motivation for U.S. Boomers studying English. This could be because they want to connect with their children or grandchildren who have grown up speaking English, some of whom they may even live with.
Work is the second most common reason that Boomers study English in the U.S. The importance of English for career and work opportunities in the U.S. is clear across all generations: Work ranks as either the first- or second-highest motivation for learning English at all ages! But, money is not always the motive: U.S. Boomers who are learning English for family spend more time learning than U.S. Boomers who are learning for work!
In Brazil, school’s not out for Gen Z 📚
When they are not participating in the newest Brazilian TikTok trends, Gen Z Brazilians are hitting the books! School is the number one reason that Gen Z Brazilians are learning English!
The importance of school is common for Gen Z across countries: School is the #1 motivation for Gen Z in the U.S. and Germany, too! BUT, young Brazilians are even more laser-focused on studying for school, with 40% saying it’s their primary reason for learning English (compared to 27% in Germany and 30% in the U.S.).
School might be the most important motivation for Gen Z in Brazil, but those learning for other reasons spend more time studying than the school learners! That's likely because school learners are studying English in the classroom, too. In fact, Brazilian Gen Z learners who are motivated by family reasons spend the most time studying on Duolingo.
Learning English just got personal
All these comparisons of Duolingo learners' ages and motivations lead to one conclusion around the world: Language learning is personal! Deciding on what language to learn is an individual choice that is influenced by multiple factors, such as where you live, your hobbies and interests, and what generation you’re part of. Whatever your motivation, learning a new language is a great way to build connections, and Duolingo is here to support your learning journey every step of the way!