The only conversation I could carry in High Valyrian would be replying “Valar Dohaeris” to the popular saying “Valar Morghulis.” Clearly, I need to hit the books. Perhaps I’m due as a GOT fan for dedicating myself to studying High Valyrian – a very real (and yet fictional) language – which would surely make for a funny note on my resume.
On July 19th, Duolingo announced that they have updated their High Valyrian language course ahead of the upcoming GOT prequel, House of the Dragon. Expressly, this entails the inclusion of 159 new vocabulary words to the course as well as 5 new skills (including how to command dragons).
They announced this course expansion on Twitter with a High Valyrian tweet, tagging the official page for House of the Dragon. Amusingly, even the Google Translate feature on Twitter comes up blank in trying to decipher this High Valyrian message! So its meaning was truly left to the commenters, showing that High Valyrian is a very niche skill that only a few ultra-dedicated GOT fans uphold.
Specifically, per Duolingo’s blog, there are “514,000” active High Valyrian learners. That number is likely to grow as the GOT prequel this summer provides the world with some dragon-savvy inspiration.
On David J. Peterson
A big part of Duolingo’s High Valyrian representation is traced back to the man who created the language to begin with. David J. Peterson is immensely gifted at “constructed language” work, undertaking projects for various popular television features like Doctor Who, Dune, and Penny Dreadful.
In 2019, upon the conclusion of Game of Thrones, Duolingo partnered with Peterson to get his intricate language into a convenient and accessible language course format. Since then, the High Valyrian course has served as a remarkable way for fans to communicate with one another on a deeper, more exclusive level. Much like how many avid readers committed themselves to learning Elvish from Lord of the Rings, the most epic and immersive fantasy adventures clearly require an expansion of language!
Along those lines, one of my favorite fun facts about High Valyrian (that may or may not have inspired me to promptly download Duolingo) is that it has unique classes of nouns. Specifically, outside of masculine/feminine groupings, there are the unique categories of lunar, solar, terrestrial, and aquatic. This is super on-theme for the GOT universe and shows how in-depth Peterson went with developing this language.
What About Dothraki?
With all this talk about High Valyrian, I can’t help but wonder about another key GOT language constructed by Peterson: Dothraki. We saw Emilia Clarke rock this fictional language in her iconic role as Khaleesi, freeing the enslaved and leading her tribe across the Narrow Sea.
Like High Valyrian, Dothraki is intricately constructed (and sounds really cool). To get a taste of both fictional languages and how they differ, check out the video below, where David J. Peterson breaks down and critiques various clips from actors and fans trying their hand at each.
Language-app giant, Duolingo, is not alone in their excitement, gearing up for House of the Dragon this August. Hopefully, it is a sign that we will hear plenty of High Valyrian spoken in the Targaryen-centered prequel. If I could put in a request, I’d want a Dothraki course next with Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) cameos to teach the lessons. Oh well, a girl can dream!
Until then, we GOT fans can brush up on our Valyrian for five minutes a day as we wait to return to Westeros. (Make sure not to miss a lesson, or Duo will be very unhappy!!)
Finally, to read more about the upcoming GOT prequel and its cast, click here.