In the fourth episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen seizes control of the slaver city of Astapor by imploring her pet dragon to burn the slave-owning leader to death. A key part of this entire scene is how the head slaver, Kraznys, hurled lyrically profane insults at Daenerys in the Valyrian language, thinking she wouldn’t understand. It’s a fiery brutal lesson in the advantages of being multilingual.
Now, ahead of the August premiere of HBO’s new Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon, language-learning app Duolingo is offering to give fans lessons in High Valyrian, so they too can speak the words of the Dragonlords. The app had already featured the language—alongside Vulcan, natch—but has now added more than 150 new words and 700 new sentences.
To hype the partnership, billboards have gone up in several major U.S. cities, featuring phrases like “Zaldrizes rybus, lo meri udrirzi Valyrio Eglio ydrassua” and “Udriri Valyrio Eglio gurenas se drakari pykas.” Duolingo’s TikTok-famous mascot, Duo the Owl, will also be at HBO’s “House of the Dragon: The Dragon’s Den” experience at San Diego Comic-Con this week. And on HBO Max’s upcoming House of Dragon: DracARys app, you can hatch a personalized, virtual dragon egg, and “raise” your dragon at home in augmented reality—but, the dragons only respond to commands in High Valyrian.
— Duolingo (@duolingo) July 19, 2022
When Squid Game became a Netflix hit last year, Duolingo saw a boost in people signing up for Korean lessons, reporting a roughly 40% growth in new learners studying Korean in the two weeks after Squid Game premiered, compared to the week before the show’s launch. And after Italy won Eurovision last May, Duolingo saw a 56% increase in people starting to study Italian. So why not tap into that connection with language through the land of—to quote Ian McShane—”tits and dragons.”
Given the hype and anticipation for HBO’s GoT spin-off, it’s a fun, smart brand move by Duolingo to continue its tie to the iconic entertainment property, and pop culture overall, by giving hardcore fans a way to immerse themselves even deeper in Westerosi lore.