The internet is a funny one. On the one hand, it has some people wondering when we’ll finally submit to full tech-induced isolation; one the other, and at the less bleak end of the spectrum, digital technology can bring together communities and help to instigate slow but steady social change. Project fundraising site Kickstarter, for example, has just seen its most-funded project ever (over $5 million), and the US government is now commissioning downloadable apps that aid citizens to take part in their city’s upkeep.
Duolingo is one of the most recent plans to utilise the online community for good. Essentially a free language-learning website, Duolingo is designed so that a visitor can make their way through sentences in German, say, or Spanish and ultimately learn that language for free. So far, so good. But the brilliant part is this: the results of these translations are then agglomerated to create an “average” translation, which will then be used to TRANSLATE THE INTERNET. Yes, the whole internet.
Let’s put this in perspective. If someone were to pay for Wikipedia – which makes up only a very small percentage of the internet – to be translated into just one language, it would cost over $50 million. This way, it’s free.
Duolingo could also go a long way to democratising both the internet – much of which is inaccessible if you are unable to speak English – and language-learning, a traditionally expensive pastime. Duolingo already has a waiting list of 300,000 users, and is set to expand to incorporate more languages as the year goes on. Sign up for yourselves at duolingo.com.