Duolingo launches first bilingual fictionalised podcast

The Rebel Thief/Le Voleur Rebelle is a fictionalised miniseries based on the “real-life exploits of infamous French thief”, Alexandre Marius Jacob.

Jacob has been said to inspire the fictional character Arséne Lupin – Netflix’s hit series of the same name is based on the character. 

The podcast released its first episode on November 9, and will run for six episodes in total.

Several French voice actors, along with host Ngofeen Mputubwele, recount the life of Jacob who acted as a “daring French Robinhood” stealing from the rich to give to the working class in the 19th century.

Duolingo said this is the first time Jacob’s story is being told in both French an English, after being “hidden for decades”.

“We ultimately fictionalised Jacob’s story because we really wanted to bring history to life for language learners in an engaging format,” said lead to producer of podcasts and audio at Duolingo Laura Macomber.

“We could have chosen to turn this to a docu-series, interviewing historians of Bell Epoque France, but we knew this wasn’t the best way to engage learners and expose them to different forms of spoken French.”

“Learners are exposed to a mix of lively dialogue and scripted narration”

The Rebel Thief comes after Duolingo podcasts released a true-crime season of their “popular” Spanish podcast The Great Argentine Heist, telling the the real story of a 2006 bank heist that captivated Argentina.

Its English podcast for Portuguese speakers, which was released a few months ago, quickly became the number one podcast in Brazil.

Macomber said that although all the events in The Rebel Thief are in fact true, what characters say, think and feel have been fictionalised, which according to her yields good results.

“Learners are exposed to a mix of lively dialogue and scripted narration…important exposure for anyone learning a language,” Macomber added.

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