Duolingo – a Crash Course

An introduction to Duolingo

Duolingo: the next chapter in human computation: Luis von Ahn at TEDxCMU 2011

[Side note: reCAPTCHA is helping to digitize books. 10% of the world’s population is digitizing human knowledge.]



Duolingo is a 2 year old company that offers free language learning – no ads, no subscription costs.  In exchange, learners translate documents as they learn.  For example, Duolingo powers the translations for international content on CNN and Buzzfeed.  30 million people learn from Duolingo.

Duolingo started with the Romantic languages. Currently, you can learn English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, and other languages are being added.

Duolingo has a a mobile app. Duolingo won iPhone’s App of the Year and Best Education Startup.

Duolingo has the financial support of investors (ex. NEA) and a staff of 32 people.

First impressions are that this is a well designed application that looks slick and works well. The screens are simple, the process of working with it quite intuitive, and it has a rather seductive quality of wanting you to come back every day. Because the users are producing value in the form of translated texts, the company wants loyal users who return often. Duolingo doesn’t even offer Korean, and I am tempted to use it.  Maybe I should help them to create an English course for Koreans?

Here is a quick “crash course” in using Duolingo.  Duolingo Wiki

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 “If we can put a man on the moon with a project using 100,000 people, what can we do with 100 million people?” – Louis von Ahn

1.2 Billion people are learning a foreign language.

How effective is Duolingo?  34 hours of study on Duolingo is equivalent to 1 semester of a university course. “The main factor for higher effectiveness was the motivation of the participants, with people studying for travel gaining the most and people studying for personal interest gaining the least.”  (Call the travel agent now! Haha)

Duolingo has a fair business model.  It benefits all.  Duolingo’s vision is to provide free language learning, that only costs time, so that it is available to far more poor people, while at the same time getting the benefit of translation and more internet accessibility worldwide.

So my only question is: when will they add Korean as a language?  They are creating English for Korean speakers now.  (Bilingual? Apply to contribute to the course.) [6/23: Per usagiboy7 ” to answer your question, once the English for Korean speakers course is complete, that same team will be building the Korean for English speakers course :)”]


duolingo35Polyglit’s vision for translating the world’s literature (video) could be fulfilled by Duolingo’s users if the languages were implemented.    More than fulfilled … once Korean, Japanese, and Chinese languages were implemented, any book in those languages that could be scanned in would be accessible for rapid translation.  How fast?  The example they use is 100,000 users could translate the entire English Wikipedia to Spanish in 5 weeks.  To pay translators to do it would cost at least $50 million USD. Duolingo users do it for free.

I find it terribly inspiring to think the world of human knowledge is being made available to all, not just those who speak the native language.  It is revolutionary.


Video | This entry was posted in Korean, Learning, Tech and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Duolingo – a Crash Course

  1. Pingback: duoLingo Course – English for Koreans – closer to completion | Hanguk Babble

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