Duolingo Wants To Crowdsource Translation of the Web



Many of you may have seen Luis von Ahn’s recent TED Talk making the rounds on the interwebs. Luis was behind the creation of Captchas, and subsequently re-Captchas, which help digitize books each time you fill out an online web form. It’s an elegant solution for two difficult problems. And in this most recent TED Talk, Luis discusses his latest project called Duolingo.

The very ambitious goal of this endeavor is to crowdsource the translation of the entire internet into many different languages. How exactly? Well, you can jump ahead in this TED Talk to the 7:30 mark where he begins to explain how:

To make a long story short, it’s a little similar to the recaptcha idea: language learners are given short translations to do based on their current language-level. These translations come from existing content on the web, and by offering learners a free study system, the problem of motivation is elegantly solved. Check out Duolingo’s promo video at the bottom to learn more.

I’m fascinated with this for a couple of reasons. First, if it did succeed, then it could ostensibly shatter many existing barriers on the web (language, culture, perhaps even China’s Great Firewall?). Second, it’s a wonderful example of how powerful a simple idea can be. Where else can this kill-two-birds principle be applied?

We’ve featured two such creative startups in the past. Singapore’s Gastro Couture addresses both the online restaurant reservation problem as well as customer demand for discounts, providing deals once a small ‘commitment’ payment is made when making the reservation. Likewise, Sageby (recently pitched at Myojo Waraku) tries to monetize the time ‘captive customers’ who might be in a cab or waiting for a meal by giving them surveys to fill out.

Know of any others? Let us know in the comments.

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