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Could Duolingo power real-time mobile translation apps by providing very fast translations of single sentences?

How quickly could single sentence translations be done with Duolingo given its expected user base size?

Could people carry on a conversation with Duolingo providing real-time translations?

Much of what people say — particularly tourists — is not that original and one might expect that most translations could come from a database while others would be done in real-time.

Such real-time translations could be done by Duolingo learners reading and typing or listening and speaking.

May 11, 2012



I think it might depend on how big of a user base there is to do such real-time translations. Also for sure the most qualified translators (most skill points? fastest translation time?) would be the ones that would be able to do the real-time translations reliably.

An idea could be to distribute Duolingo as a smartphone app, and then encourage app users to do quick 5-min exercises frequently to maintain their language skills. One of these could be a list of the latest Spanish/French sentences that people have said. Of course, these sentences would have to be tailored to the user's translation ability otherwise they'll both give inaccurate translations and get discouraged.

Once the server correlates multiple users' submissions, it can provide the translation to the conversation.

Things to watch out for: - If the userbase is too small at that particular moment, then it could take a long time to get a translation for a sentence - would users in a conversation want to rely on Duolingo to translate a conversation if it takes even 30 seconds? Ideally, you'd want Duolingo users to be spread evenly across the planet so that the real-time translation service doesn't only work 8 hours of the day :P - There's no context of the conversation to a single-sentence translation, so it increases the chance for a technically accurate, but inappropriate translation - In conversations, people tend to use a lot more slang, idioms and misspell words much more. This is likely to confuse the translators, especially if they are beginners.

I like the idea a lot, but these are some roadblocks. If you have ideas to address them, then I look forward to hearing them and you could end up with a really useful and workable system!


You could provide context by having translators stay with a particular conversation for more than one sentence if they want to.

And if they join a conversation in the middle, maybe show them a transcript of the conversation so far.

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