Duolingo launches as crowdsourced translation service

Jun 19, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Duolingo

(Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

Duolingo's mission is to translate the into every , as well as make language education accessible to the masses. Right now, Duolingo offers free language lessons in English, Spanish, French and German but the site plans to expand into Portuguese, Chinese and other languages.

practice their new on real-world texts from the web, and the computer provides advice and guidance on unknown words. Computer-generated exercises build vocabulary and grammar skills all the while. For example, if an English speaker seeks out Spanish, Duolingo gives the user a level-appropriate Spanish sentence from a Spanish website to translate, with relevant lessons and education examples too.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The site will only give the user a sentence that fits the user’s language level, from a sentence for beginners to complex sentences for advanced . The users can vote on the quality of other user translations. This technique delivers the most accurate translation, while helping the user better understand the language.

Duolingo kept fairly tight control over the private beta, according to reports. In theory, mischief makers are thwarted because the process is crowdsourced, with people checking and translating the same sentence. The idea is that, given enough iteration and feedback, the good translations win.

The Duolingo team claim the translations are of good quality and are better than most automated translation services. “Hundreds of thousands of beta testers have helped us refine the service,” said von Ahn, who is an associate professor of computer science at CMU. Duolingo has been used by about 125,000 users since its launch, and the team says users have so far translated 75 million sentences. Of the beta users, about 30,000 have become regular users who visit the site for at least 30 minutes a week.

von Ahn, co-founder, commented that "So much of the web is partitioned off by language barriers. With more than a billion people on the planet learning a new language, I knew this was the ultimate opportunity.” English-speakers can access a little more than half of all Web pages. That means, however, a significant percentage of the Web is inaccessible because of language barriers. For non-English speakers, the barrier is greater.

The company plans to provide commercial translation services, but maintains its chief purpose is translating web resources for free.

Duolingo has attracted venture capital funding and was spun off from CMU in November last year. The startup employs 13 people in Pittsburgh.

Explore further: Apple helps iTunes users delete free U2 album

More information: duolingo.com/

Press release

Related Stories

Google adds automatic translation to Gmail

May 20, 2009

Google added automatic translation technology to Gmail on Tuesday, allowing users of its email service to translate messages in another language with a single mouse click.

Recommended for you

Apple helps iTunes users delete free U2 album

5 hours ago

Apple on Monday began helping people boot U2 off their iTunes accounts after a cacophony of complaints about not wanting the automatically downloaded free album by the Irish rock band.

Habitual Facebook users: Suckers for social media scams?

10 hours ago

A new study finds that habitual use of Facebook makes individuals susceptible to social media phishing attacks by criminals, likely because they automatically respond to requests without considering how they are connected ...

YouTube to go offline in India on Android phones

11 hours ago

YouTube users in India will soon be able to save videos from the Google-owned service, making it possible to watch them offline, and the feature will eventually be available globally, the company said Monday.

Facebook vs. loneliness

15 hours ago

Are people becoming lonelier even as they feel more connected online? Hayeon Song, an assistant professor of communication at UWM, explored this topic in recent research.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wealthychef
not rated yet Jun 19, 2012
It's a good model for business -- do good until you have accumulated value, which you then sell.