Fascinating Use of Web-Based Collaboration

I just read about Duolingo on CNN. The concept is fascinating: teach people foreign languages for free, by feeding them text to learn and/or translate, some of which comes from real websites. In the end, you end up translating the entire web—the real goal. Some of the gotchas are obvious: getting enough participation to succeed on such a large scale, for example. Others are less obvious: e.g., how to get enough help translating text in truly obscure languages (those with a few million speakers or less). Still others are very obscure: how to translate text that, in many countries, either is illegal to view at all or at least raises potential difficulties for the viewer (for example, translating Wikileaks material or “how to” manuals dealing with explosives may draw attention). In other words, some parts of the web may stay “dark,” at least in some languages. And in any event, non-native translators will be doing the vast majority of the translation.

At the end of the day, I have no idea how well Duolingo will work, but it’s a very interesting concept.

One Reply to “Fascinating Use of Web-Based Collaboration”

  1. This is interesting, and far more useful than the dumb translation tools we have now.

    For example, I love the game Gaplus, a somewhat rare game from the classic age of Arcades.

    http://kani.ninpou.jp/gaplus/gaplus.htm

    Only a fraction of this is useful.

    http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ja&tl=en&twu=1&u=http://kani.ninpou.jp/gaplus/gaplus.htm&usg=ALkJrhg7O4KwUWfh1cCE0TJqRsz93R15tA

    An unknown portion of the text that doesn’t make any sense isn’t even close to being accurate even if it was coherent.

    Lucky for me the guy who sits next to me at work lived in Japan for several years and can translate Japanese.

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