Crowdsourcing to translate the Web

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Crowdsourcing to translate the Web

A new language learning Web site is hoping to provide its patrons with more than just a chance to brush up on their Spanish, Smart Planet writes.

Users of the site Duolingo will also take part in a massive effort to translate the mess of languages floating around the Web.

The latest project, from Carnegie Mellon professor Luis von Ahn, attempts to teach users foreign languages while simultaneously using their newly acquired skills to translate Web sites and other corporate assignments.

Mashable reports that, after spending months in a private beta testing phase, the site opened up to all comers late this month, offering free online English lessons for Spanish speakers and lessons in Spanish, German and French for English speakers. Other languages, such as Mandarin and Portuguese, are expected to be added later this year.

The territory isn't entirely new to Von Ahn. In 2000, he helped develop Captcha - the test that Web sites use to distinguish humans from spam-spewing robots by asking them to re-enter blurred or distorted strings of letters and numbers. After that, Von Ahn created reCaptcha - a system that harnesses Captcha tests to digitise the text of old printed books.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, for the learners, Duolingo offers basic lessons, followed by sentences to translate, one at a time, from simple to more difficult.

For online content providers wanting translations, Duolingo offers, for now at least, free labour. Because it is still in its early days, there are no independent assessments available of how accurate or efficient it can be.

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