A while ago, I watched a TED video by Luis von Ahn. His company invented reCAPTCHA (owned by google since 2009), a web security tool that helps digitize books. The characters shown in the white boxes (as seen on the right below) are words from books that a computer cannot recognize. Each time the word is being entered by a user into the white box the word is being digitized.
Von Ahn and his team started a new project called Duolingo which is also based on the concept of online collaboration. Their goal is to get 100 million people to translate the web into the major languages for free. Duolingo offers users free language education; simultaneously each sentence presented in the software helps to translate parts of the web. (Wikipedia, newspapers etc.) The translations of multiple beginners is combined to optimize the result. This is then comparable to a translation of a professional translator. Currently, you can learn 5 languages incl. German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese for English users and English for Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian speakers.
In July 2013 Duolingo had about 5 million users. I signed up a few weeks ago to improve my language skills in French and Spanish, and I took the first level in Italian. I love the playful, interactive methodology which helps me to motivate myself to learn more frequently. I also feel I contribute to translating the web, which makes it really interesting to me.
I always loved going to new countries and being able to communicate with locals. It gives you confidence and once you have the basics you can even practice on your next trip or holidays abroad.
I feel Duolingo is a great tool and a genius idea of using online collaboration on a completely new level.
If you’d like to sign up simply go to http://www.Duolingo.com and let me know how you liked it!