Luis Von Ahn and his company, Duolingo, are helping to translate the Internet by incorporating bits and pieces of Creative Commons documents into language lessons. Users who are learning a new language (currently French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese, as well as English) are given sentences and paragraphs from these documents and are then asked to translate them. “You can try your hand at as few or many sentences as you wish, and you earn points for each completed sentence. Duolingo will give you hints about what each individual word means, but it’s up to you piece the sentence together in a way that makes grammatical sense.” The translation doesn’t even have to be completely exact; other students can offer their suggestions.
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What’s the Big Idea?
Translation of Web sites on the fly has been Google’s domain for a few years now. However, as anyone who’s attempted to use Google Translate in a work setting knows, machines simply aren’t yet able to do what humans can do. Plus the translation is only available for so long as the browser window is open. Von Ahn’s very lofty goal is to be able to have the entire Internet available in multiple languages for anyone to access at any time. With a $15 million venture capital investment behind him, it just might happen.