Could a Crowdsourced Language Program Translate the Web?

Yes, you can translate a language you don't know.

In the 21st century, the wealth of information available through the internet democratizes learning in unprecedented ways. But an age-old problem still keeps people around the globe from acquiring knowledge: Access to information is restricted by the languages you speak.

That could all change thanks to Duolingo, a new free language learning site spearheaded by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Luis von Ahn. The site enables users to learn a second language (or third, or fourth) while simultaneously taking part in a crowdsourced web translation effort.

How can you translate a language you don't know, you may ask? If you're an English speaker looking to learn Spanish, the site starts you off with simple lessons to teach you the basics. But unlike your high school foreign language classes, you get to apply and hone your newly acquired language skills immediately. Beginning speaker are asked to translate simple sentences. As you gain more fluency, Duolingo increases the complexity of the translations you're allowed to tackle. You can also see—and learn from—how other users translate, and rate their accuracy.

While learning a second language obviously helps individuals communicate with people around them, the potential impact of Duolingo on society is much broader. According to Duolingo's creators, if a million people use the service, "the entirety of English Wikipedia could be translated to Spanish in just 80 hours."

Such a feat of translation might just be possible, because the demand for Duolingo is already high. The site launched as a private beta at the end of November—currently, English speakers can get on the waitlist to learn and translate Spanish and German. If Duolingo takes off, it could revolutionize the way we learn languages and further access to information.



Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.

It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less