Last week I was on a holiday to the south of France. My knowledge of French is pretty basic. When the French talk slowly, I can understand them quite well. When they don’t, I’m lost. I’m also having trouble coming up with an answer before they’ve moved on to another topic.

After I came home I found Duolingo and Duolingo is brilliant.

Duolingo is a website and app (for iOS and Android) from the makers of the CAPTCHA codes. I know you find them annoying, but did you know that every time you type a CAPTCHA code you help digitize books, little by little? They wanted to do something with the time people waste typing those codes, and thus found a way to digitize books to be read online.

After that, they wanted to make the web accessible to more people, as most of the web’s content is in English and not accessible to people who can’t read or speak English. So, they thought: how can we get people to translate the web for free?

How can you get people to translate the web for free?

That’s where Duolingo comes in. You start learning a language at a basic level, and improve by doing. They’ve gamified the concept of learning a language, which makes it fun to do as well. And while you’re becoming a professional at a language, you’re translating the web. If one million people used Duolingo, they could translate Wikipedia from English to Spanish in 80 hours.

Holy shit.

Projects like these really excite me. Making something awesome and improving people’s lives at the same time is hard. Duolingo is gold. Be sure to check out the video on their website for a detailed explanation.