Every year, World Refugee Day celebrates and honors refugees from across the world. We built Duolingo to make education accessible to everyone on the planet, but we never expected how widely-used it would become among refugees. From our documentary “Something Like Home,” filmed in 2018, to global partnerships announced last year, we believe that supporting refugees is crucial to our mission of making sure everyone has access to quality education.
This year, we wanted to take the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to improving educational equity for refugees. Here is an update on those partnerships and other actions we’re taking at Duolingo:
Our partnerships with global refugee assistance organizations continue to support educational equity
Last year, we said we would hire a university counselor to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and work with refugees as they move through the university admissions and financial aid process. We’re excited to share that we’ve hired access advisor Laura Kaub to fill this role. Read more from Laura on how universities can support refugee applicants.
We pledged thousands of additional Duolingo Plus (now Super Duolingo) subscriptions to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and communities they work with. In the US, the IRC-Duolingo partnership has created Duolingo Plus accounts for refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced people across 14 cities. In addition to the US, the partnership has supported the IRC’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Central America, reaching over 4,900 people with online language learning services.
“Duolingo has been an invaluable partner to the IRC in helping our clients rebuild their lives through opportunities to learn language skills in new communities,” said Ourania Dionysiou, Vice President of International Philanthropy and Partnerships. “Learning the language of their new community is one of the most crucial skills for displaced people to find and secure employment, access critical services they need, and provide education for them and their families.”
We acted swiftly to support Ukrainians during the ongoing war
We knew that refugees and volunteers would need to communicate urgently about their needs, and wouldn’t have time to complete full lessons. So our team of translators helped create an online Ukrainian phrasebook, translated into English, Polish, German, Russian, and French, so people could figure out what to say as soon as they needed to say it.
We also saw a large spike in people learning Ukrainian, and we wanted to ensure this influx of learners made an impact with their lessons. That’s why all ad revenue earned through our Ukrainian course is donated to Ukraine relief via our partners at UNHCR and IRC, as well as Ukraine Global Scholars and Translators Without Borders/Clear Global.
The Duolingo English Test is working with partners including UNHCR and Ukraine Global Scholars to provide fee waivers to Ukrainian students taking English proficiency tests. You can read more about these efforts here.
We will always build bridges through language learning
Every year, the IRC commemorates World Refugee Day with their own campaign, and this year is about celebrating the intangible gifts refugees bring to their new communities, including: traditions, family stories, and, of course, language. It has always been important that we keep our product free so that people can continue connecting with and celebrating languages and cultures from around the world.
If you’d like to make a donation to UNHCR or IRC to support their education equity efforts, please visit their websites. We encourage all of our learners to get involved with their local communities on World Refugee Day, too! We’ll be sponsoring Pittsburgh’s World Refugee Day on June 20, so be sure to find out if there are similar celebrations going on in your area.