A determined Swedish ‘Star Trek’ fan has embarked on a mission of his own to spread the language of one of the Starship Enterprise’s bitter enemies to a wider global audience. Felix Malmenbeck sought to boldly go where few others have previously ventured, hooking up with the language-teaching Mobile App Duolingo as they looked to develop a course in Klingon.

Frustrated by limited opportunities

Malmenbeck had become increasingly frustrated since he began learning the challenging dialect back in 2006 at the limited opportunities to converse with others, due to a shortage of fellow speakers in existence around the world.

He clearly saw the possibility of reaching out to other sci-fi mad devotees through the fast-developing mobile app technology industry as a chance he just couldn’t pass on.

Conlang course for free

Duolingo is initially offering the conlang (constructed language) course in Klingon for free via their website, with plans in place to make it available on iOS and Android apps at a later date. The freemium language learning platform is no stranger to conlang development though, as they already offer their 200 million registered global users similar possibilities to learn Esperanto. Perhaps more intriguingly though, ‘Game of Thrones’ addicts can also practise their High Valyrian language skills through Duolingo’s services.

Innovative volunteer system

The Klingon Language course was made possible through Duolingo’s innovative volunteer system, which allows courses to be built by committed volunteers from outside the company itself using the Duolingo Incubator.

Speaking to blog network ‘Engadget’, Duolingo's senior PR manager Michaela Kron explained that the company has an application process that allows them to “carefully vet the volunteer contributors to ensure their skill level and commitment to the project needs.” Doulingo then apply their own expertise as their skilled team of technical staff, language learning experts and linguistics PhDs review the courses, in addition to providing quality assurance and testing to iron out defects.

They saw the commitment that Malmenbeck clearly had for developing the course in Klingon, as Kron added that he is “a fluent Klingon speaker and has been passionate about the language even before he became a fan of Star Trek.”

‘Freemium’ explained

So how does ‘freemium’ work to the benefit of a software development company, as evidently such companies still need to make money somehow in order to continue doing business?

The freemium pricing model typically allows a digital product or service such as a game or web service to be offered free of charge. However, charges are levied for additional features, services or virtual goods that can be purchased and then used in such as an online game. The term ‘freemium’ reflects the concept of ‘free’ combined with ‘premium’.

The freemium business model has been in use by the software industry since the 1980s as a licensing scheme, with the video gaming industry typically employing a similar concept of ‘free-to-play’.