Fast Company reports on Duolingo, a Carnegie Mellon-designed website where visitors can learn a new language while translating sentences on the Internet.
How it works: You pick a language that you want to learn (Duolingo offers Spanish, German, and English for now, with more to come). The program takes you through some initial training and then it pulls a sentence from somewhere on the Internet and asks you to translate it. If you do a good job, then your new sentence gets added to the Duolingo database, as a valid translation for the sentence in question.
"The whole idea was to translate the web into every language," says Luis von Ahn, founder of Dulingo. "We thought we needed computers but it turns out that (machine translation) won’t be any good for 20 years." So they decided they needed humans. You need a lot of humans to make it work, and you can’t pay them because of scaling issues -- it’s just not affordable. The question became how to make it possible.
The payment for translating sentences is that you get to learn a language through everyday drills mixed with lessons. Duolingo has enough intelligence to figure out the rough difficulty level of a sentence, but it hands the reigns over to you to make that sentence work. It aims to give you sentences that are appropriate to your skill level.
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