Rytsas, gūrēñarossas! (Hello, learners!) We’re excited to announce a few updates to our High Valyrian course ahead of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon. Are you new to High Valyrian, or has it been a while since you’ve practiced? Here’s everything you need to know:
First of all: What is High Valyrian?
High Valyrian is known as a “conlang,” or “constructed language”—this just means it was intentionally created by someone, versus languages that emerge naturally without a single creator, like Spanish, French, or English! More specifically, High Valyrian is an a priori conlang, built without drawing grammar or vocabulary from an existing natural language.
High Valyrian was created by David J. Peterson for HBO’s popular series, Game of Thrones. In fact, Peterson has been a go to “con”-linguist for various television shows and feature films that require a unique language, including Doctor Strange (Nelvayu), Penny Dreadful (Verbis Diablo), and Dune (Chakobsa and Sardaukar).
In 2019, we partnered with Peterson to launch a High Valyrian course on Duolingo so more fans across the globe could learn the language. It now has 514,000 active learners! (Maybe you’re one of them?)
How exactly did David J. Peterson create a brand-new language?
It helped that George R.R. Martin planted the seeds that would eventually become the High Valyrian language. Peterson built High Valyrian around the little bit of language Martin scattered throughout the series: two sentences (Valar dohaeris and Valar morghulis), five or six nouns, and all of the character names. Peterson saw Greek and Latin influence in Martin’s sampling of the language.
“Latin and Greek have some familiar sounds to them, governed primarily by the fact that most of their content words have predictable and recognizable endings (-um, -a, -os, -ion, -arum, -ibus, -us, -is, etc.),” Peterson explained over email. “With the words and names, George R. R. Martin mostly prescribed what the sound system of High Valyrian was going to be. In fact, I only added two sounds to Valyrian that aren't found in the books: z [z] and ñ [ɲ]. I felt they fit.”
Peterson’s work on the language involves many of those specific decisions to determine the vocabulary, grammar, and patterns of High Valyrian. Learners will find genders and noun cases in High Valyrian, like many other natural languages, but unique to High Valyrian is the type of noun classes: lunar, solar, aquatic, and terrestrial. These cases “fit the overall theme” of the world. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning this intricately constructed language!
Why should you learn High Valyrian on Duolingo?
Sure, you’re probably not going to travel to Westeros on your next summer vacation, and you likely won’t need it for a job or other everyday uses. But that doesn’t mean learning High Valyrian doesn’t have its benefits. For one, Game of Thrones superfans can use the language to connect more deeply with the series and the world of Ice and Fire. Learn more about why we love constructed languages!
What’s new in the Duolingo High Valyrian course?
Peterson’s updated High Valyrian course includes 159 new vocabulary words! As you progress through the High Valyrian course, you’ll learn everything from the basics (talking about food, using numbers, and discussing clothing), to unique skills that would benefit you in Westeros, like commanding dragons. Learning to command dragons is one of five new skills in the course, along with learning how to talk about buildings in Valyria. Then, there are a few new skills that help with tricky grammar concepts, like learning how to make excuses (which helps with imperfect tense), discuss cooking (grammatical gender of numbers), and talk about yourself (reflexive verbs).
Learn how to command dragons on Duolingo!
Gaomōbagon rhaenās (start practicing) High Valyrian! To help accelerate your learning, we’re offering 1 free month of Super Duolingo for a limited time—redeem the offer here.*
*Account sign-up and credit card required. Redeemable by visiting duolingo.com/redeem in a browser or on mobile web only and entering code DRACARYS. After 1-month trial, Super Duolingo subscription will automatically renew, unless canceled. Offer is eligible to both New and Returning Super Duolingo users (current Super Duolingo subscribers are not eligible). FAQ can be found here.