Trying to find math inside everything else

 

So my first My Fav Friday is another website I learned about recently – Duolingo, for learning new languages.

You know those Captchas we all hate? Where you have to prove you are human? Comp Sci PhD Luis von Ahn noticed how much time people around the world spent filling those out and decided to put all the work to good use. So he invented ReCaptcha, which uses the deciphering power of all those humans to digitize scans of old books and newspapers. The scan is just a picture, but 100s of people say it’s a certain word, and now we know it is. A real good use of something we’re all doing anyway.
So now Luis von Ahn is working on Duolingo, which has the same idea. Lots of people want to learn new languages. And there’s lots of websites on the Internet that need to be translated. So why not combine them and have the people learn by translating those pages? (And other lessons.) And to make sure the translations are good, people can also see others’ translations and determine if they are good or not, and vote accordingly. So eventually the crowd will agree on the best translation of an article, without needing a professional translator or wasting anyone’s time, because we’re learning anyway.

 

Of course, the best way to learn a new language is to use it with people, and I have plenty of students and coworkers I intend to. I’m also just brushing up, because I did take 6 years of Spanish in school and remember a decent amount of it. But it’s good to improve my vocab and other things I forgot, and then I can talk to (some of) my students a little better.

 

(Only some, though. They don’t have Chinese on the site, which is the other major language of my school. They do have German and French, though. And also English for Spanish speakers.)

I also like the site because each lesson has you do 4 different things: translate something written to English, translate something to Spanish, listen to Spanish and then write it (in Spanish), and say something in Spanish.

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