Way back in November of 2011, Duolingo opened up their private beta and was hit with a flood of excitement in the form of invite requests. "People asking me for Duolingo invites: Patience, grasshoppers," said creator Luis von Ahn.
For those of you who never got in, or who are just hearing about it for the first time and want to get your language learning on - Duolingo is now open to the public.
“Duolingo leverages the brain power of millions of people who are currently learning a new language to help translate the web,” says Luis von Ahn, co-founder of Duolingo. “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 to not only provide accessible education resources, but also make the internet a truly world wide web.”
And that's the incredibly simple but brilliant premise of Duolingo. Once you choose the language you'd like to become more proficient in, Duolingo feeds you words and phrases from around the web - based on your skill level.
Next, you translate those phrases. If you have trouble, Duolingo helps you out a little bit with hints. Your translations go into a giant pool of all user translations, and part of the Duolingo experience is voting on the translations submitted by the community. That way, they most correct translations can rise to the top.
So, in theory, Duolingo allows people to learn a foreign language while simultaneously crowdsourcing the translation of the interwebs.
With their public launch, Duolingo says that they already have over 125,000 active users as a result of the private beta. Since November, those users have translated 75 million sentences in english, Spanish, German, and French. Other languages are on the way, they say, including Portuguese and Chinese.