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Luis von Ahn's Duolingo - translate the web
June 20, 2012 12:23 AM   Subscribe

Luis von Ahn has spoken about the idea of Human Computation in the past, he's the guy who created ReCAPTCHA's, using those anti-spam tests to help decipher digitized books. Now he has a new idea, Duolingo - learn a language for free while helping to translate text from the web.
posted by stbalbach (19 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Duolingo has been in beta since late last year and went live to the public June 19th.
posted by stbalbach at 12:24 AM on June 20, 2012


Neat idea.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:30 AM on June 20, 2012


They should do something like this for audio Captcha, where it subtitles films or creates trascipts of news programs or podcasts for the deaf.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:39 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Huh. Interesting idea. If it were truly free, though they would make all the data generated available. I assume their business model is to use this system to do paid human translation work.

Also, you have to use facebook or twitter to log on, which I don't really feel like doing. Is the only supported languages at this point Spanish and English?
posted by delmoi at 1:01 AM on June 20, 2012


Good concept, poor execution. I wouldn't have bothered with the whole structured lesson part. They certainly could have supported a lot more languages that way.
posted by dkleinst at 1:08 AM on June 20, 2012


Anyway, there's no shortage of flashcards out there to help you memorize vocabulary I happen to like Mnemosyne, I tried Anki a couple years ago and it annoyed me at the time.

You won't learn grammar that way, but you can probably look it up.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cool idea, bummer it's only 4 languages atm.
posted by smoke at 1:11 AM on June 20, 2012


Wait, Google Video still exists? I thought they shuttered it long ago and moved everything to YouTube. (* time passes *) Oh, apparently they threatened to do that and then people complained and so they relented. Or something.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:20 AM on June 20, 2012


Also, you have to use facebook or twitter to log on, which I don't really feel like doing. Is the only supported languages at this point Spanish and English?

Actually, you can set up an account with just an email address. The link should be on the main page reached by the 'duolingo' link in the post.
posted by moneyjane at 1:42 AM on June 20, 2012


delmoi: "Huh. Interesting idea. If it were truly free, though they would make all the data generated available. I assume their business model is to use this system to do paid human translation work.

That's the first thing I thought, too. "How are they making money from this?" Great minds and all, I guess.

delmoi: "Also, you have to use facebook or twitter to log on, which I don't really feel like doing.

There appeared to also be an old fashioned "sign up via email" option as well, so I don't think the twit or FB are actual requirements.

delmoi: Is the only supported languages at this point Spanish and English?"

It said German as well, IIRC.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:44 AM on June 20, 2012


I'm trying it right now for French and I like it so far. Je suis un homme.
posted by pracowity at 1:55 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


you know what would be cool is if we didn't even need to maintain the trickle of innovation necessary to produce better computing equipment and faster software

just meatsource that stuff, making a computer do it is hard and costs money with no immediate return
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:37 AM on June 20, 2012


Hooray duolingo! I got my duolingo invite a weeks ago, and I've actually been using it every day since.

I can't say that I really like the web translation part (sort of the point of it according to Luis von Ahn), but I have really enjoyed the structured lessons. They're definitely the best part of the site for me.

I'm going through French from the beginning and I think I've been learning at a pretty rapid pace. The game-y aspects of the site really have me hooked (life points on lessons, an achievement chart, friendly competition, etc...), it's actually sort of addicting when you get into it.

The site wins on instant feedback after every question (correct or incorrect with explanation of why), letting me learn from my mistakes quickly, but the vocabulary can be a bit dull and repetitive at times. Maybe that will improve though as I get to higher levels.

I've tried other language sites before (livemocha and busuu) but I never really got into them because they seemed too complicated. Duolingo is nice and simple.

Perhaps some people will enjoy doing the web translation exercises, but for me they make me feel too much like a Mechanical Turker. But for the free language lessons (german, french, spanish) duolingo is worth a try.

If you're already on the site or going to give it a try please add me. My username on the site is rosettastone, but in reality I don't have an affiliation with either company, I just wanted to see if anyone had taken that username and I got it!

There's also a subreddit with more info /r/duolingo

I'm not sure if duolingo is completely open to the public yet, but anyone needs a duolingo invite just msg me.
posted by mnop at 3:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is really neat. I wish they had Chinese. And I hope they don't need to use the microphone, because a) I don't have one and b) even if I did, it would be difficult to use secretly at work.
posted by DU at 5:48 AM on June 20, 2012


@DU: You won't need a microphone. At least in my 5 french exercises I took, I didn't need one and it can be turned off in your settings. Although you might need speakers in order to hear stuff, you will then have to type.

I'm no fan of the texts to translate (e.g: The French Wikipedia site about Robert Schumann, with only the headings (which read like "Symphonie n°1"..."Symphonie n°x") to translate). Besides that, I like the site it a lot.
posted by KMB at 6:39 AM on June 20, 2012


Luis von Ahn has spoken about the idea of Human Computation in the past, he's the guy who created ReCAPTCHA's, using those anti-spam tests to help decipher digitized books.

So you can be a free mechanical turk for Google! That's why I put "doityourself" as the OCR for the turk portion.
posted by Talez at 8:45 AM on June 20, 2012


Yes, that is their business model, or at least part of it--people pay to have their stuff uploaded to Duolingo and turned into a lesson, and then the members will translate it. It's free right now, and depending on how fast you want it translated you can pay more "for speed and accuracy". Duolingo upload center.

It's odd. I both like the idea and hate it at the same time.
posted by tatma at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2012


"So you can be a free mechanical turk for Google! That's why I put "doityourself" as the OCR for the turk portion."

I assume you have pledged to abstain from using google services and google books?

Anyways, one of the clever bits in Stephenson's Reamde was when he had MMORPG players work as crowd-sourced TSA agents guarding gates. Summarizing: watching for the 1 in 10000 persons who walk the wrong way up a gate is an incredibly boring job that the human attention span is not meant to do, it happens despte a posted guard who is desensitized out of alertness...

but if you gamify it, aka pulling a video feed from the gate, and turning it into a game mechanic, having players get rewards when they alert that a random monster went up a certain ramp, WIN-WIN!
posted by stratastar at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2012


FYI you can turn off the speaker portions in the settings as well.

El gato bebe la leche.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:52 PM on June 25, 2012


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