Hey, fellow students! Here are a couple of traits that may or may not apply to you:
- You are learning, or want to learn, a foreign language.
- You have been frustrated in the past by websites that would be useful… if only they were in English.
The answer to both of these issues lies in a creative application of crowdsourcing (surprise!).
Luis Von Ahn revolutionized how security and productivity could be combined when he pushed out ReCaptcha, and now he’s changing the game again with his company’s new release, Duolingo. It works by providing simple language-learning software, but with a twist; the “practice translations” provided to you are small excerpts from foreign-language websites. The program compares these skill-level-appropriate phrases to responses from everyone else using the app, and gradually combines them to produce a fully translated website.
This is pretty ingenious. You get to learn a new language, and internet users get a more universally accessible web experience. I have concerns that translations will be shaky at first; translating individual words and stringing them together can produce a vastly different sentence than simply translating an “idea”, but this is an issue that will become less relevant the more usage this application receives.
Although currently in beta, and with only Spanish and German available (French, Italian, and Chinese coming soon), Duolingo could still be a great opportunity for anyone who wants to learn a language while effortlessly giving something back.
By Seth W