Future of Duolingo

(First of all, I love duolingo. This is not meant as criticism of its business model. I'm simply curious and concerned about how it will keep itself running)

I've read that Duolingo doesn't make much money off its translations. I also read that it's planning on focusing on testing as its source of revenue. Will this be enough to keep Duolingo running? If not, what will Duolingo do? Hopefully it wouldn't come to requiring people to pay (that seems to go against the whole principle of the website) but how likely is it that it will have to turn to donations or ads to keep itself afloat? Is its future in jeopardy, or is it like Wikipedia - so important that somehow it will be kept alive?

(A few other questions)

How do translations get put up on wikipedia in the end? Are there any pages on wikipedia that have been translated by duolingo, and if a wikipedia page is updated, does the original posted for translation in immersion get changed so that the translation can be updated?

October 20, 2015


I'm sure that people like Bill Gates and other will step in and help them if it truly comes to that. So don't worry to much about it. Duolingo will be around for centuries. :)

October 20, 2015

I think that depends on if duolingo is partnered with MIcrosoft or not. I don't know, I just wanted to say that.

October 21, 2015

I personally used Immersion to translate the Wikipedia page from French to English about Madeleine Brès, and then created an English page and posted it there, after I saw a post about how she was an important historical figure and there wasn't even a Wikipedia page about her. So there's one! It's a user-driven process, though, not an automated or Duolingo-driven one. I assume there's more - especially from English into other languages that might be missing some subjects.

October 20, 2015

Some Wikipedias are trying to use Duolingo as translation platform, e.g. Czech and Esperanto one. I have caught a comment, that translating for Wikipedia on Duolingo is more motivating than translating on Wikipedia because of some "virtual money" :) And yes, it os a community driven process.

October 21, 2015

Can you give us some more information on how Duolingo can be used to translate the Esperanto Wikipedia?

October 21, 2015

I've done this before myself, though not with Esperanto. I just found a page that exists on the Spanish wiki but not the English and submitted it to be translated here. After the duo crowd translated it I copied and pasted the finished product into a word document, edited it a bit for clarity (very necessary since multiple users are translating, often without looking at all of the context), and then added it to wikipedia.

I don't know of any way to do it without that bit of legwork at the beginning and the end.

October 22, 2015

I wouldn't mind paying to use Duolingo at all. Over the years we've paid for cable TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, eating out, and other things. If I can afford those things, I can afford to pay to use Duolingo.

October 20, 2015

I asked Luis (the CEO) about paying, he said that DL will remain free. I would mind paying either, but they want to teach everyone in the world and many people cannot pay.

October 20, 2015

I agree, but I think that having non-voluntary payment would go against the spirit of the website. The point is for it to teach language for free.

October 20, 2015

The course contributors and moderators work for free and they do a lot of work, especially the people who are building the courses. They'd have something to say about paying to use Duolingo if they still had to build the courses and moderate for free, out of the goodness of their hearts.

October 21, 2015

I am all for the contributors being paid to create these courses. That's one thing our payments would go toward. :)

October 21, 2015

While you wouldn't mind, I bet a lot of people would do. Many people in the world have next to nothing and english or other "important business" languages (depending where you live and so on) are amongst their best chances to qualify for better jobs.

Maybe there could be "some" kind of premium subscription that would not disadvantage the users that don't subscribe, or a simple donation button.

October 21, 2015

That's great for you, but a lot of people can't afford those things and couldn't afford to pay for Duolingo, either.

It's my impression that Duolingo is primarily aimed at people who can't afford other high quality language instruction.

October 21, 2015

I would definitely mind paying. What about us high school kids that can't get a job? How can we afford it? My mom doesn't even know about me using this website, and I'd hate for her to find out in the form of a bill. The CEO should keep duolingo free, or he'll lose the favor of high school kids to learning through google translate.

October 21, 2015

I really hope Duolingo to remain free. I am actually a 14-year old kid and I have passion on learning languages. As I have no Credit Card, I wouldn't be able to afford DUO. I'm pretty sure that in Brazil there would be no gift cards for Duolingo, and I have no doubt that my parents wouldn't pay me Duolingo. That way I hope it to remain free. I kindly ask too for DUO to add a donate button, because I would surely donate ASAP.

October 31, 2015

They have no plans to do anything other than keep their current offering free.

They are using a model based on the gift economy. You give something away free so that so many people rely on your service so much that it becomes easy to figure out ways to make money (monetize) your product while still keeping the basic platform free.

The creators of Duo look at Google, not Microsoft, as an inspiration.

When every public school in Brazil is using Duo, every welfare agency there recommends it, every seniors center offers access, when people around the world say ....I am going to Duo French (Portuguese, German, etc.) next summer. After that I think I will Duo an Asian languge.... that's when Duo can sell out to someone like Google for a billion of two. And Google has a lot better ways of making money than relying on scratching a couple of dollars a month from fourteen year old Brazilians.

From Duo's point of view, you using their service free is the future of education. They believe they are disruptive. What makes the disruption of the existing model is not the change in delivery model that enables you to sit at home, although that is very important. The transformation is that neither you nor anyone else has to pay for it.

The other transformation is that Duo is usercentric. It is all about you. You can go fast or slow. You can work hard or not. The program doesn't care. It just shows what work there is to do, how much you have done and how well you did it. The program will not tell you that you get a gold star even though you got the question wrong because the program is really, really worried about hurt feelings and how that might affect your social adjustment. The program doesn't care. It just marks you on the basis of whether your answer fits into the parameters of a correct answer. The rest is up to you as the user of the program.

You are at the beginning of societal change in the understanding of what education means. Duolingo, Khan Academy, Code Academy, Udemy, Youtube and others are changing what learning means to the average person.

The first and most important step of all their programs is that you sitting there in Brazil don't have to pay for the service. Or if you do have to pay for a very specialized sub set of their services it is so low as to not be a barrier. It is a requirement of their business model that the broad based portion of their programs be completely free and accessible to everyone. All of Duo is broad based.

October 31, 2015

I completely agree with you. Our society is changing. Just take a look at how are schools now and how were they one or even two hundred years ago. It is the same thing. Today, students are becoming tired of school. Times changed: I wake up every morning at 5:30 AM, I have a breakfast, I take a shower, I do my homework and 7:20 I am having classes. Chemistry, Portuguese, Math, English, and lots of others that I like a lot and others that I simply have no interest.

I predict that in the future, the student will learn basics at school (really basics) because they'll have interest in modern ways, such as Khan Academy for math and w3 programing. In Brazil we have awesome YouTube channels for physics, and JUST that way students learn. Most of us HATE school and because of that, they understand NOTHING. I feel that all my friends, indeed, are showing lots of interest on learning languages, but their 9 year minimum english at school were useless. When I got to school after 1 month hollidays and said I've learned Italian, they all came talking "how" or "that's impossible", but as soon as I've talked about Duo, they were all using next week and learning "difficult" languages such as German, Danish...

Student interest is coming from himself, and not more from teachers that are just worried on making tests and teaching people who are tired of this system and looking for something new. These students will learn everything today, but tomorrow they'll forget. My grammar teacher, for example, forgot what is logarithm used for. Neither we, that learnt it last year were capable of tell what is it used for. Many of us couldn't solve a simple log problem, while we all could tell what was the French Revolution. Why? We were interested in.

School MUST change, and that's why each one of these websites are popular at the web. And it must be free, because school can't turn web-based if many people can't even acess it. If Khan Academy, Youtube or Duolingo were paid, the students who can barely acess the internet won't be able to learn.

Thanks a lot for answering. That made me a lot more calm. Also, sorry for my bad english, I know I'm not a good english speaker yet :(

October 31, 2015

First, let me say your English is excellent.

I'm not sure exactly what form education will take in the near future but it definitely will be different from the industrial model that we use now that was developed over a hundred years ago.

It is good to see you intend on adapting to the new modes and exploit the advantages they offer. Those students who sit passively, waiting to have knowledge forced into them, will end up social and economic road kill.

F.W.I.W. German is relatively easy for English speakers. It has a lot of compound words but if you know the root words that are combined to make them, they are not as hard as they look. Even better, English speakers consider almost all German words to sound pretty much like they look like they should. They can even figure out how to spell a German word they don't know and have never heard before, a good part of the time. Not so true for French, say, even though a lot of the vocabulary overlaps. Of course German does have a dozen words for the which means a lot of memorizing, of this and other material, in the beginning but it is pretty logically constructed.

November 1, 2015

Thanks for the praise about my english :D

German has lots of big words, but most of them, as you said, are all connected and together. As an example, the word "Wohnzimmer" didn't take me so long to learn, because I knew "Wohnung" and "Zimmer", so it becomes easy when you learn more. That whole story that tells that German is difficult, or even the most difficult language is turning into a lie right now.

I imagine that english speakers learning german is the same that portuguese, spanish or even italian speakers learning french. We have similar words, but a lot of them are completely different and maybe dangerous false-friends (idk if you call like this). Anyway, learn spanish or italian is easy because root words are exactly the same. We have a high compatibility between these 3 languages, and also some words have kind of a "pattern" of translation.

Just for curiosity, italian has 4 forms of telling "the". "il" for masculine, "la" for feminine, "l'" for words which start with a vowel and "lo" for masculine words which start with s+consonant, gn, x, z and ps.

November 2, 2015

I understand that Duo has moved into the schools. If so, they are likely becoming something that will have social value in being supported.

Otherwise, I don't see Bill Gates or others being much interested in spending their charity dollars facilitating people like me to indulge myself with free, high class language instruction.

October 20, 2015

Bill Gates may not be interested in funding you or I, but he (and various other donors) might be interested in funding the hundreds of thousands of ESL learners on Duolingo. In those cases, and in the couple new languages being added for Arabic speaking refugees, learning language isn't voluntary but vital.

That being said, original poster, I don't think there's anyway for us to guess what Duolingo will do if they start to struggle.

October 20, 2015

Uncle Bill has donated a lot to Khan Academy. If you haven't heard about it, go and give it a look. It gives you the opportunity to learn about math, medicine, etc for free. :)

October 20, 2015

Khan academy is in the schools. As I said as, it appears that Duo is moving in to the schools also and may well attract the attention of donors.

Otherwise, donors will look to projects that are currently plugged into or intend to become engaged with an institutional environment.

October 21, 2015

I'm already apart oh K.A. It's bookmarked on Chrome for me. I'm learning some coding skills, and also on Code Academy, too. I'll start ruby on rails in a year or two.

October 21, 2015

Do not worry about that, DL has venture capital from some of the most important VC companies in the world. They have money from people and companies that have funded Amazon, Google, Adobe and others. I am sure they will find a way to make money. This is one of the VCs

October 20, 2015

I hope it won't ever require payments.

October 21, 2015

I don't think any wiki pages are posted from DL any more.

October 20, 2015
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