Is Duolingo staging an ice-skating musical? It should

Duolingo on Ice
Duolingo on Ice Copyright Duolingo
Copyright Duolingo
By Jonny Walfisz
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It might have been an elaborate April Fools' joke, but the thought of 'Duolingo on Ice' is so good, the app should actually do it.


Will Duo, the aggressive avian mascot of Duolingo, the world’s most popular language-learning app, be soon hitting stages globally in a masterful combination of musical theatre, ice skating, and linguistic pedagogy?

Erm… no. This year’s prize for the best April Fools’ corporate campaign goes to Duolingo for their fake ice skating musical, Duolingo on Ice. Not only was the advert so convincing that it had most of the Euronews Culture team under the impression it was real, but when we found out it wasn’t, we wished it was.

If you haven’t caught the advert, Duolingo posted on their socials a fully-fledged trailer of their four-hour no-intermission show that was choreographed by an (unnamed) “two-time Emmy award winner”.

Duo – the owl mascot for the app who has become an internet meme in itself for its sassy attempts to get people to keep up the language learning habit – is present as a poor actor in a giant hot costume. Around Duo, swirls accompanying morph-suited ice skating dancers. Routinely, we cut to an unimpressed audience. It’s a fantastic bit.

“Treat your family to the magic, the wonder, and the chilling performances of Duolingo on Ice. Where the tears of the innocent will please the owl for millenia to come,” the trailer intones, as dancers walk a child volunteer off stage.

“Everything is better on ice!”, “It was slay” and “Where’s my son? They took my son?” the audience reacts to the exciting prospect of Duolingo on Ice.

As a constant complainer about the state of modern theatre, this is about as pitch-perfect a critique of cash-grab stage adaptations. If it’s recognisable IP, put it on stage. If the plot’s a bit thin, put it on ice!

If nothing else, props to Duolingo for the full commitment to the joke. They’ve even released a four song EP on Spotify to coincide with the trailer.

A particular highlight is the 27-second long song ‘French or the Trench’ that puts across a pretty competent spoof of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s work in under half a minute.

Duolingo on Ice
Duolingo on IceDuolingo

Then, ‘Ich Bin ein Handschuhschneeballwerfer’ takes one of Duolingo’s more memeable conceits – the strange non-sequitur sentences it asks users to translate – and turns it into a a 23-second long joke.

The final piece of the puzzle is a genuine webpage on ticket booking site Dates are listed from the opening 1 April show in New York at the Civic Center Auditorium and run through 12 dates, including shows in South America, Europe, and Asia.

The rest of the Seatgeek site has more details in an FAQs on the show and it’s worth a read. And as much as it’s a very funny joke for April Fools’, it also looks like the show would have kinda rocked.

With the pandemic lockdowns in our collective rear view mirror, is there anyone who could stand in front of a court and honestly say they haven’t spent at least one evening trying to learn a language through Duolingo?

Going through my version of the app right now, I can see multiple still open examples of my short lived attempts to learn, in no particular order: Dutch, Mandarin, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Yiddish.

There was also that lonely day I tried out the Game of Thrones in-show language Valerian, but the less spoken about that the better.

The point is, everyone loves the idea of learning a language. Duolingo harnessed that and combined it with a sassy owl-mascotted interface that has become the subject of countless memes. Why shouldn’t it get its own ice-skating musical?

Is the Duolingo owl secretly a serial killer who will hunt you and your children down if you don’t complete your daily five minutes Spanish practice? Probably not, but is it an enticing idea for a stage show? Definitely.

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