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Translating the Internet: A Collaboration

Luis von Ahn, inventor of the security feature CAPTCHA and the project Duolingo, proposes a mass translation of the internet, via outsourcing:

Okay, so there’s a lot of things to say about this question. First of all, translating the Web. So right now the Web is partitioned into multiple languages. A large fraction of it is in English.If you don’t know any English, you can’t access it. But there’s large fractions in other different languages, and if you don’t know those languages, you can’t access it. So I would like to translate all of the Web, or at least most of the Web, into every major language. So that’s what I would like to do.

Now some of you may say, why can’t we use computers to translate? Why can’t we use machine translation? Machine translation nowadays is starting to translate some sentences here and there.Why can’t we use it to translate the whole Web? Well the problem with that is that it’s not yet good enough and it probably won’t be for the next 15 to 20 years. It makes a lot of mistakes.Even when it doesn’t make a mistake, since it makes so many mistakes, you don’t know whether to trust it or not.


His solution not only translates the Internet, but also teaches a foreign language to users. The service works both ways!


Check out the TED talk here, with his Duolingo discussion starting around 9:00.