Lyft drivers can take free Duolingo language courses

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Lyft is stepping up its driver perks game with a move out of Uber’s playbook.

Uber started offering loyal, high-performing drivers free tuition for online courses toward a degree at Arizona State University in 2018, and now its ride-hailing competitor is offering an extra-curricular education option for its drivers.

Starting Tuesday, Lyft is offering its drivers language courses on popular app Duolingo.

Drivers in Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Miami, New York City, and New Jersey can sign up through Lyft’s driver app for a free version of Duolingo Plus, a premium version of the platform which usually costs $7 per month for 80 courses in more than 30 languages. Duolingo also offers a free, ad-supported app.

After completing a Duolingo course in English, drivers receive a digital certification, which can be used as proof of proficiency and is accepted at 500 universities and job opportunities in the U.S. About 90 percent of Lyft drivers work for the company for 20 hours or less a week and are pursuing other jobs and education programs.

In Seattle, Houston, and Chicago drivers can also sign up for the National Immigration Forum’s in-person and online class program, “Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce,” over a six-week period to learn English.

After completing the instructor-led course, drivers are awarded certificates of completion. This course has a more formal structure compared to Duolingo, which can be completed at a driver’s own pace. Mike Masserman, Lyft’s head of social impact, told Mashable that Duolingo is “really flexible” for drivers.

Most Lyft drivers across the U.S. speak English, Spanish, and/or Chinese. Masserman said that there’s a huge need for the language courses in the driving community, especially for professional development. Uber’s separate program listed English as a Second Language as one of its most popular study programs at ASU.

Uber and Lyft classify drivers as independent contractors, so drivers don’t receive sick days, health insurance, or other benefits through the ride-hailing platforms. But drivers do have access to perks like these language courses and other rewards.

For Lyft drivers to access the free language courses they have to have completed at least 30 rides in the past 30 days. “We want this to be an expansive offering, Masserman said.

Eventually the pilot could expand to other cities if the demand is as strong as Lyft anticipates.