Luis von Ahn has a pretty impressive track record when it comes to Google acquiring his companies. Not many entrepreneurs can count two exits to the search giant. Google acquired von Ahn’s ESP Game, which crowdsourced people to look at images and label them to improve image search, in 2005 and renamed it Google Image Labeler. In 2009, Google bought von Ahn’s Captcha startup Recaptcha as well. And now, von Ahn’s latest project, Duolingo, is finally launching in private beta.
von Ahn explains to me that computer language translation is a broken system. It can be very expensive to pay for quality professional translators to translate web applications and pages on a large scale. That’s the problem Duolingo is trying to solve.
von Ahn’s solution is to help people who want to learn a new language while also helping websites translate their copy. Duolingo 100% free language learning site in which people learn by helping to translate the Web, and companies can get quality translations for less.
From the learner’s standpoint, Duolingo provides the ability to learn a language in exchange for translating copy. So if you are looking to learn Spanish, Duolingo will give some easier sentence to translate, and you can translate the sentences in Spanish into English. If you don’t know a given word, you can hover over it to get the translated word. The more you learn, the more complicated the translations are, says von Ahn.
In order to quality check each translation, each sentence is translated by multiple people. People actually vote on which translation is best, and Duolingo throws in some wrong translations in these tests to weed out people who are poor translators.
In terms of monetization, Duolingo hasn’t finalized an exact plan for web publishers.. But von Ahn is leaning towards providing free translations for creative commons content, and paid translations for everything else.
He tells me that he feels Duolingo has a “compelling learning experience,” and already early users are testing as well as language learners who took Rosetta Stone online classes. For now, the site is in private beta but will be rolling out additional invitations soon.