DUOLINGO, Pittsburgh / DUOLINGO / 2022

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Why is this work relevant for PR?

“Yiddish for Bagel” demonstrated the power of PR by turning 5,000 bagels into 1.4 billion impressions with $0 spent on paid media. To launch its new Yiddish course, Duolingo partnered with iconic delis across the U.S. and let people pay for a free bagel with a Yiddish phrase. Instead of spending money on traditional paid media, we baked thousands of bagels and designed contextual signage, napkins, bags, and wax paper for each famous deli. Then, we used the press, national & global TV coverage, and Twitter to amplify our buzzworthy activation.


The Yiddish language has been spoken for over 1000 years, but it has become endangered in modern times. There were 13 million Yiddish speakers before the Holocaust in 1941, yet only 600,000 remained in 2021.

As part of a larger effort to preserve endangered languages around the world, Duolingo wanted to get people to sign up for its new Yiddish course and start speaking the language again.

Describe the creative idea

How do you get people to start learning an endangered language like Yiddish? Bagels. Because every time you order a bagel, you speak a bit of Yiddish. Duolingo turned this dying language into a new currency by partnering with iconic delis across the country and letting people pay for a free bagel and schmear with a Yiddish phrase.

From Katz’s Deli in New York City to Factor’s Deli in Los Angeles, we took over famous Jewish restaurants and created a buzzworthy activation featuring our mischievous owl mascot along with custom napkins, bags, wax paper, and signage. Then, we invited everyone to swing by and enjoy a free bagel on us. The catch? You had to order in Yiddish with the phrase “ken ikh hubn a beygl mit shmirkeyz?”

As people learned to say the Yiddish phrase, they discovered there was one word they already knew, “beygl” or “bagel.”

Describe the PR strategy

You’re more likely to learn a language if you already know a little. And while many people believe Yiddish is no longer relevant in modern times, we discovered millions already speak some of the language every time they order a bagel. Because bagel is Yiddish for bagel. Our strategy was to show the audience they already knew at least one Yiddish word and inspire them to learn even more.

To reach those in the U.S. with an existing connection to the language through family and friends or a personal interest in the culture, we partnered with iconic bagel shops across the country in cities with large Jewish populations. Instead of traditional paid media, we spent half our budget on freshly baked bagels and half on custom-designed materials for each deli. Then, we used this buzzworthy activation to gain attention through the press, including national & global TV coverage.

Describe the PR execution

By turning an endangered language into a new currency, Duolingo got thousands of people speaking Yiddish in a single day.

The “Yiddish for Bagel” stunt took place at several iconic delis across the U.S. on April 6th, 2021. For each deli experience, we designed contextual signage featuring our mischievous owl mascot and directions on how to say the Yiddish phrase. Then, we created custom napkins, bags, and wax paper with other Yiddish words to wrap the bagels.

Next, we invited our audience to participate through geo-targeted organic social posts from Duolingo and our partners as well. The press picked up the promotion announcement and amplified it through numerous articles. Soon, TV crews showed up at the restaurants to cover the story and drove crowds of hungry fans to the activation. This sparked a conversation in real life and online leading #yiddish to become a trending topic on Twitter.

List the results

- 350,000 sign ups for the new Yiddish course

- 1.4 billion earned media impressions

- Increased total number of potential Yiddish speakers worldwide by 58%

- Trending topic on Twitter

- National and global TV coverage

- Already in the United States there are more Yiddish learners on Duolingo than there are native speakers

Selected media coverage:

- Wall Street Journal (front page of print edition)

- Forbes

- NBC News


- Yahoo!

- Business Insider

- Food & Wine

- Time Out

- The Verge

- The Takeout


- i24 News

- Pix11

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