is launching a massive initiative this week that will begin building interactive language lessons for every language in the world, including some rather unusual tongues.
Called The Incubator, the new offering will not only expand the number of languages currently being taught by the Pittsburgh-based startup, but will preserve other languages for posterity, says Luis von Ahn, CEO and founder.
“We’ve received interest from thousands of people wanting to help (with the new platform),” says von Ahn. “In essence, we will be crowdsourcing language education.”
Launched in beta in November of 2011, Duolingo is a free language-learning website and app that has attracted 10 million users to date. The site teaches foreign language skills through online gaming exercises that allow users to practice writing and dictation.
Duolingo users are demanding more than 50 languages that are not currently offered, says von Ahn. The best way to stay abreast of demand is through The Incubator, which will grow the language website organically.
The crowd sourced approach is far more expedient than if Duolingo were to hire employees to do the job. The creation of one language alone would take one person four to five months, he says.
“Once we deem it (a language developed through The Incubator) good enough we will launch it in beta and watch how well people are learning,” von Ahn says. “We will let the community drive it. In many cases, we think the community can do a better job than us.”
Duolingo currently offers courses in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Brazilian and Italian. The languages most in demand include Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic and Swedish.
Users are also asking for unconventional offerings like Esperanto, a politically neutral language created to foster world peace, and Elfish, a tongue derived from the world of J.R. Tolkien, he says.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking because in a sense we are giving control away,” he says. “But we will be watching everything. With the incubator, it will be up to the people, not just us.”
Most of the users to date are from the U.S. (25 percent) and Brazil (15 percent). Duolingo has yet to tap the Asian market. Through The Incubator, Duolingo expects to add 15 to 20 languages within the first three to six months and another 50 beyond that.
The company is expanding and will move into its larger office space on Walnut Street on Oct. 28th.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Luis von Ahn, Duolingo