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The popular language learning app, Duolingo (iOS, Android, Windows), is adding two native languages to its catalog for Indigenous Peoples Day, traditionally known as Columbus Day.

After several years of public campaigning, Duolingo added lessons in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian) and Diné (Navajo). ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi is one of the official languages of Hawaii, including English. Up until the 19th century, everyone in Hawaii spoke ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

Diné bizaad, the Navajo language, was the most widely spoken indigenous language until the late 19th century. When colonists began forcing the Navajo community to learn English, Diné bizaad began to disappear.

SEE: Duolingo adds Hindi for English speakers to its popular language learning app

Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are both using their apps to aid in the preservation of endangered languages. Diné bizaad and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi are just two of more than 3,000 languages that face potential extinction.

Linguist David Crystal told Time that languages are dying out at a rate of one every three months.

"It's just something we feel like we have to do," Duolingo's project lead Myra Awodey said. "not only to preserve dying languages but make them something that's spreading."

Both Diné bizaad and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi are available in beta testing in Duolingo.

Getting set up to learn these two languages is quick with Duolingo's easy-to-use app and website--and it's free since the app is also using the process to quietly translate the web in the background. Create an account on Duolingo and choose from the dozens of languages the program offers.

After you pick a language, you can set a daily practice goal ranging from five minutes to 20 minutes. The app also asks if you are familiar with your chosen language. If you're not, you'll start from scratch. If you know a little, you can take a placement test in the app.

"Even if all it does is build an awareness that there is a diversity of languages out there, that's an enormous step," Gary Holton, a linguistics professor at the University of Hawaii said.

Duolingo launched support for the new languages on the US federal holiday that is traditionally celebrated as Columbus Day, for the Italian explorer whose voyages stimulated settlement of Europeans in the Americas. However, as modern scholars have shined the light on the controversial aspects of Columbus' expeditions, dozens of US cities and a number of states have transformed Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples Day.

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Takeaways

  1. The language learning app Duolingo added the Diné bizaad (Navajo) and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian) languages to its catalog in recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day.
  2. Project leaders and linguistic professors said that bringing awareness to endangered languages is the first step to protecting them, which is needed since 3,000 languages are currently in danger of extinction.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.