If you’ve seen the new Barbie movie, then you know how easy it is for literally anyone to start learning a language.
But it wasn’t always so simple! Duolingo was released to the public in 2012, and before that, Hollywood knew learning a new language was hard and inaccessible for most characters.
Here are 10 pre-2012 movies and TV shows that would have gone totally differently if Duolingo had been around.
10 Things I Hate About You
Cameron wins over Bianca right away after playing hooky for a week and completing 77 units (AND all the Legendary levels) in the Duolingo French course, thus reaching B1 before their first tutoring session. Bianca had never seen so many XP in the Ruby league in her life (and she was very into it).
However, because Cameron and Bianca go to the party together, Joey has no chance with Bianca (dude hadn’t opened the app since freshman year), Kat and Patrick never get together. That’s okay, because Kat still attends Sarah Lawrence, and Joey eventually realizes the merits of a high quality, accessible education, and begins learning Korean on Duolingo to challenge himself. (Nothing to do with the incredible opportunities for models in Korea, he swears.)
Michel, though acting annoyed that Rory needed him to grade her French papers, secretly loved being useful to the bookish teen. But when Rory started using Duolingo, she no longer needed his help double checking verb conjugations. Michel, self conscious about his uselessness (Suki can cook! Luke is handy! Lorelai can sew!) quits the inn in a bout of frustration and moves to California, where he meets a young upstart named Mark and throws himself into the still-early field of web development. This invaluable skill means that Michel has his pick of jobs, and opts not to return to Stars Hollow, and after a bidding war, becomes the lead developer at Facebook.
George Michael overhears his G.O.B. demand Michael's help tracking down Hermano. When it becomes clear that G.O.B. and Michael don't know that hermano means "brother" in Spanish, George Michael shows them Duolingo and even completes a lesson to show them that they're mistaken. Neither G.O.B. nor Michael accept this and continue plotting. The ding-ding! of George Michael's Spanish lessons startle Buster, who barges in pleading for it to stop, but when he sees Duolingo for the first time, he is intrigued. George Michael sets Buster up with his own account, disables the dings, and by the end of the day, Buster earns over 5,000 XP and is in a vicious feud with Lucille3 on the leaderboard. When he later takes refuge from Lucille Austero in the model home, Marta is floored by his Spanish, and they do more than cuddle while watching El Amor Prohibido.
After a few weeks eating Kälteen bars, Regina gets suspicious when her favorite pink top doesn't fit one Wednesday—so she starts learning Swedish on Duolingo. She soon realizes Cady's trick and stops eating the bars—but not in time to maintain her role as leader of the Plastics. While recovering from her devastating bus accident, she keeps up her streak in Swedish, meaning she’s prepared when Sweden recruits her for their up-and-coming national women's lacrosse team. Naturally, she leads the squad as captain in their first appearance in the 2013 Women's Lacrosse World Cup, and while the team loses all 5 games they played, Regina secures a coveted sponsorship from none other than Kälteen.
When Dwight plants a German-speaking Mennonite to secretly marry him and Angela, he doesn't anticipate Andy's German skills. Back at Cornell, charismatic Austrian exchange student Lars really leveled up the repertoire of Here Comes Treble and led the ensemble in a competition-winning a capella cover of Falco's Der Komissar (the German version—Cornell is Ivy League, after all). Andy never forgot Lars, or German, and he keeps it up on Duolingo. So when Angela is about to say "I do" and unwittingly wed Dwight, Andy jumps to intervene and accidentally shoves Angela into a pile of horse manure. While there are no "legal issues" to resolve, it does little for their romance.
Je m'appelle… Joey! That’s right, thanks to Duolingo, the Days of Our Lives star doesn’t have to lie on his resume. He does, indeed, speak French, and boasts an impressive 57 straight weeks in the Diamond League! When the audition comes for a play that requires a fluent French speaker, Joey nabs the role with ease. The play is the first of Joey’s to be met with rave reviews, earning him role after critically-acclaimed role. His unprecedented success on the stage eventually propels him to Broadway (he has the voice of an angel). He plays Jean val Jean in Les Miserables, wins a Tony, and years later, beats Russell Crowe for the role in the movie adaptation.
Passport to Paris
Melanie and Ally are all too excited for their trip to Paris, especially Ally, who gets to try out her French on real Parisian locals! But after confusing poisson (fish) for boisson (drink), and telling a woman on the street that she stinks, she downloads Duolingo to brush up on her French and double check her vocabulary. When she meets the adorable Jean, she introduces him to Duolingo to study English, and the two battle it out on the leaderboard. Their grandfather is so impressed with his granddaughters and their new friends (“Only the finest young people would study on their spring break!”) that he takes up Duolingo, too, to brush up on a few different languages. He quickly becomes addicted to his streak, and convinces his fellow ambassadors to join the app. Melanie and Ally return to Paris every summer to continue practicing their French, and the American embassy in Paris dedicates the library to Melanie and Ally Porter for introducing them to Duolingo.
Once Aurelia and Jamie dry off, Jamie calls a doctor to examine what he insists is an eel bite (or sting? He's not sure), and Aurelia downloads Duolingo while waiting for the doctor to arrive. Jamie is curious, and the two begin studying together—Jamie learning Portuguese and Aurelia learning English. They're too shy to speak to each other in their new languages, but they each only follow each other, and dutifully give each other in-app high fives whenever possible. Days before Christmas, Aurelia swears she hears Jamie practicing Eu te amo. Jamie's too nervous to propose before Aurelia has to fly home (he doesn't quite have the hang of reflexive verbs like casar-se), but she's just learned the future tense: "You will marry me!" Jamie is relieved, and they make plans for Christmas in Lisbon, where Aurelia's family demands he buy a Duolingo Family Plan for everyone.
Parks and Recreation
When Tom hears about the Venezuelan delegation coming to Pawnee, he immediately downloads Duolingo in hopes there will be some chicas accompanying the Boraqua vice director and his entourage. He practices Spanish pick-up lines on April, who gives him harsher feedback than any owl could, and he squeezes in lessons whenever the delegation sends him on an errand. Tom overhears the Venezuelans discussing the real purpose of their trip while smoking cigars outside the public meeting. He rushes to tell Leslie but instead runs into April and Jhonny, the Venezuelan intern—and discovers that *she* is using some of Duolingo’s wackiest sentences to her advantage. She tells Jhonny: “All of the animals listen to me” and “I am the queen of the faraway castle,” and Tom agrees to play along if April agrees to help him land an impressive job with the Venezuelan delegation and become an international influencer. However, Tom isn’t far enough on the path to keep up with April, and her deliberately bad interview advice lands Tom in a Venezuelan jail, and Pawnee has to throw a record-breaking Harvest Festival to raise his bail money.
During a visit to Del Boca Vista, Jerry's mother Helen hears about this fun new app that Jack Klompus’s grandchild started using to learn Spanish before starting first grade—this sends Morty on a spiral. He downloads Duolingo and starts studying 13 languages, keeping Helen up at night with the ding ding! of his lessons. Jerry refuses to download the app, saying he doesn't have the time, but Morty makes the case that you can fit lessons in anytime ("You think you're busier than a first grader? This kid is learning cursive and Spanish! And how to share!"). Kramer, however, is on board and dives into Spanish. Things take a turn when Kramer points out to Morty that Del Boca Vista is actually gibberish ("It means from the mouth view, Morty—FROM THE MOUTH VIEW!!”). Morty pressures fellow residents to learn Spanish and support his and Kramer's petition to management for a name change. When the other residents don't show as much interest and stop completing Friends Quests with Morty ("I'll give him a view of my mouth!"), Helen is forced to uninstall the app from Morty's phone.
🎶 We'll be there for you 🎶
Ok, maybe Duolingo couldn't have saved the Seinfelds from themselves, but it's clear how much there is to be gained from learning a new language! Even if you're not vying for your true love's affections or trying to save yourself from jail, there are lots of benefits to language learning. Thank goodness Duolingo is here to help!