Duolingo Wants To Translate The Internet By Helping You Learn Another Language

    November 30, 2011
    Josh Wolford

Duolingo’s premise is quite simple. How do you get people to translate the web for free? Their answer is to turn it into an experience that is part game, part language instruction, and all ambitious crowdsourcing.

Duolingo is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon professor Luis von Ahn, and it first jumped on everyone’s radar earlier this year. Back then he told TechCrunch:

The solution was to transform language translation into something that millions of people WANT to do, and that helps with the problem of lack of bilinguals: language education,” von Ahn writes. It is estimated that there are over 1 billion people learning a foreign language. So, the site that we’ve been working on, Duolingo, will be a 100% free language learning site in which people learn by helping to translate the Web. That is, they learn by doing.

And today, it looks like the program is in its early stages of actualization. Duolingo has announced that today, November 30th, marks the start of the private beta period:

First wave of invitations for the Duolingo private beta will be sent out this Wednesday! http://t.co/I8BvGiID 2 days ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Starting to gradually roll out private beta today. In the meantime, here’s our awesome video: http://t.co/FdnCTYUm 6 hours ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Having not yet been able to play with Duolingo, it’s easy to explain how it works because it’s such a beautiful concept. Once you choose the foreign language that you wish to learn (Spanish or German, with French, Italian and Chinese on the way), Duolingo gives you foreign language phrases from actual pages around the web. It only gives you phrases that match up with your level – like beginner, intermediate and advanced.

You then go to work translating those phrases. Duolingo helps you out with suggestions if you get stuck on certain words and everyone’s translations are submitted to be voted on so that the community can choose the best translations. The experience also includes some sort of language tutorials for words that you had trouble with.

In theory, Duolingo could help people learn another language while doing something more important – translating the far reaches of the internet. It’s basically crowdsourced translation as a game. Pretty neat, huh?

You can visit the Duolingo site to register for a private beta invite via email. I know I’m anxiously awaiting my chance to give it a try, although I know I must be patient –

People asking me for @duolingo invites: Patience, grasshoppers :) 1 hour ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Check out the video they just dropped –