Duolingo Teaches New Languages, Translates Websites

22 Feb


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


8 Responses to “Duolingo Teaches New Languages, Translates Websites”

  1. comm498A February 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Interesting story. I like how you opened…drawing people in and spelling things out in 2 easy points. But I am having a hard time following your second paragraph starting with Luis & understanding how this system works. Needs more clarity to be broadly accessible. 3rd graph is strong…you tell us what is different and better about it and you bring your personality into it. great that you keep coming up with totally different stories about what’s happening in crowd sourcing – so you’re a happening site…’be there or be square’

  2. Danielle February 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    I’m glad you shared this! I already signed up to be notified when french & italian become available

  3. Fei Qiao June 21, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Thank you for the great introduction on DuoLingo! I’m really obsessed with this site! Based on the content of your post, I’d like to recommend the following video from Newsy:
    It adopts multiple sources to analyze DuoLingo and allows you to have a comprehensive understanding of this heated news topic!

    • Seth W June 21, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      To all other readers: this video is more recent than my own post, and Duolingo has gone through some changes, so you may want to click through to see the current “state of the Duolingo”.

  4. solapuella August 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    This site is addictive! I’m pretty fluent in French but wanted to Spanish. I’m beta testing the French version, and trying to learn Spanish poco a poco.

    • Seth W August 9, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      Yeah, it’s only gotten better since they opened up the beta version. Can’t wait until they add new languages!


  1. Duolingo: Language Learning Made Into an Interactive Translation … « My Spanish Translator - April 18, 2012

    […] Learn a New Language While Crowdsourcing Web Translation with Duolingo (tinywork.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Duolingo’s Luis Von Ahn Talks Crowdsourcing With NBC Learn « Tiny Work - August 30, 2012

    […] they discussed Duolingo and ReCAPTCHA with their creator, CMU Professor Luis von Ahn. I’ve written about Duolingo in the past, so it’s really nice to see so much attention being given towards […]

Sound Off in the Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: