December 17, 2012

Duolingo – Learn A Language By Translating Text

Learning a new language is something that’s at the top of most people’s bucket lists, and yet very few people actually get around to becoming fluent in a foreign tongue. Duolingo is a web-based tool that people can use to learn Spanish, French, German, or Portuguese online for free.

Whatever your excuse for never mastering Spanish may be – whether it’s because you never found the time, or because you couldn’t afford expensive audio books or personal tutors – Duolingo can help you overcome it. Tell the web-based language tool which languages you currently speak, and which you’re interested in learning more about. Duolingo will give you a sentence in whichever language you’re learning and ask you to translate it into whichever language you’re already fluent in. The sentences you’re given are designed to fit your current language level, ensuring you’re never given anything more complicated than you can handle. If you really get lost, hover over any words you don’t know and Duolingo will give you a list of translation options to choose from. You can also see how other students translated the same sentences you were given, and vote on the quality of their translations.

Rather than strictly functioning as a language learning center, Duolingo actually serves as a multi-purpose application. The sentences that users translate come from actual sites and publications posted on the web, which means that you’ll actually be helping to expand the online universe by translating content at the same time you’re expanding your mind by learning a new language.

Practical Uses:

  • Master a foreign language
  • Translate text from a Spanish website into English
  • Improve your French skills
  • Rate how well others users have translated text into other languages

Insider Tips:

  • Duolingo is always free for users
  • A complex algorithm is used to determine users’ language levels
  • Duolingo currently supports Spanish, English, French, German, and Portuguese
  • People can upload content to Duolingo users to translate into other languages

What we liked:

  • People can use Duolingo to learn a foreign language without paying any money
  • Duolingo utilizes special tools to help people memorize new phrases and words
  • Translations by Duolingo users are more likely to be accurate than the automated translations done by computers
  • Users can hover over a word if they’re not sure of the translation

What we didn’t like:

  • Duolingo doesn’t currently offer a mobile version of its service


Company Info:

  • Launched: November 2011
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Founded by: Luis von Ahn, Marcel Uekermann, Hector Villafuerte, Antonio Navas, Severin Hacker, Brendan Meeder, Vicki Cheung, and Jose Fuentes
  • Web site:


  • Free


  1. As a Chinese language learner for the past 6 years, I’m wondering how this might work for Chinese? Given that it’s in a script a learner often won’t know.

  2. Severin Hacker
  3. I really want to learn Spanish but I never find enough time for this. I hope Duolingo is going to help me a lot in learning Spanish from now.

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