Dothraki

Duolingo, the free language-learning app that adapts to your learning style as you progress through its lessons, will have no more languages added by its team. That approach just isn’t scalable. And so, for now, Duolingo’s language count will remain at six.

Well, emphasis on the for now.

Very soon, languages are likely to proliferate like crazy on Duolingo. The Pittsburgh-based startup has just launched a crowdsourcing effort called Incubator that will harness the enthusiasm of language nerds the world over.

With the Incubator effort, interested parties can apply to become moderators of a certain language. The selected applicants, who work for free, will then be provided with a blueprint of Duolingo’s lesson plans and will build a program accordingly. Duolingo’s system will ensure consistency throughout, so the moderators don’t make basic errors. For instance, the algorithms will know if in Lesson 5 you suddenly start using a different word for “mother.” Once the lessons are complete, they’ll enter a beta-testing period, during which Duolingo will monitor for quality and fix any errors.

There are no limits to what languages can be added, so, practitioners of Dothraki, Klingon, and Elvish: start your nerd-gines.

Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn, who previously founded reCAPTCHA, another crowdsourcing effort that he later sold to Google, says he’s Duolingo is done adding languages by itself. Instead, he’s excited about using the power of strangers to perform complex tasks. Meanwhile, Duolingo will shift its resources from focusing on creating to measuring and driving up engagement.

The crowdsourcing initiative has long been in Duolingo’s plans, but it also comes in response to thousands of requests for new languages to be added to the platform. More than 1,000 people had offered to help get that done, von Ahn says, including governments and organizations that want to preserve endangered languages.

“In some sense this can help keep many languages alive,” says von Ahn.

Duolingo was founded at the end of 2011 and is backed by $18 million in venture capital. While the app is, and always will be, free, the company makes its money by using its vast source of language data to auto-translate stories for news agencies.

Listen to our PandoWeekly interview with Luis von Ahn about the future of education.

[Image via HBO]