According to the Bible, Genesis 11:7, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” And if the creationist story is right, for the past 4,000 to 6,000 years humans have been suffering from poor communication, that is, until now.
A group of Carnegie Melon engineers, who created the reCAPTCHA technology in 2007 to help reduce spam and keep automated bots from logging into websites, decided to use their considerable skills, including crowdsourcing platforms, to offer computer-generated exercises in 50 languages. The current incarnation of the program, known as DuoLingo, supports about a dozen languages, most of which are of Latin origin: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Ukrainian, Esperanto, Polish and Turkish.
DuoLingo has been available since 2013 with millions of users taking advantage of the free offering. According to users, the system is at least as good as language learning systems that can cost as much as $500 and 34 hours of DuoLingo is equivalent to a semester-long university-level language course.
Because the program was created by talented Carnegie Mellon engineers, the software has been designed to provide many types of exercises and a good grounding in grammar and vocabulary. In addition, DuoLingo simulates feedback that would be typical in a classroom setting where errors made by the user can be identified and corrected. At the same time, designers of DuoLingo have created a “skill tree” that is unique to language learning programs.
Following is a quick review of DuoLingo, emphasizing advantages and disadvantages.