A few weeks ago, a new website was launched for public use that has received lots of media attention. The website, called Duolingo, combines language learning and crowdsourced translation. The idea is the brainchild of Luis von Ahn, a Guatemalan computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He has said that he was inspired by the deficiencies of the Spanish language web, and the fact that non-English speaking friends and relatives often had much less access to information on the internet.
Duolingo, which is still in its nascent stages, works by having individuals who are trying to learn a language translate short segments, with varying levels of difficulty, to their native language. The segments that they translate come from websites and documents whose creators want them translated, and who receive these translations for free. In addition to offering language learners the chance to translate segments of websites, Duolingo also offers basic language lessons and gives learners the opportunity to see translations of individual words by hovering the cursor over words. For now, the site offers Spanish, French and German lessons for English speakers and English lessons for Spanish speakers. Plans are in the works to also add Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.
As of now, there have been no independent evaluations of the accuracy of the translations produced by Duolingo. Although the website seems to be a fun and interesting concept, I wonder whether it will fully serve its intended purposes. That is to say, I am not sure that the service will ever be able to provide completely accurate translations, as the “translators” are people who are only just starting to learn the source language. What’s more, I don’t believe that an individual could solely use this website to learn a language. While it may be helpful to those who are learning a language in terms of reading and listening comprehension, there is not much in the way of learning how to speak in another language, for example.
Having just briefly tried the website myself, it seems entertaining and somewhat helpful. However, for those who want completely reliable translations, Trusted Translations has a team of professional translators and language experts who are ready to help. Contact us for a Free Quote on your next translation project.