Why Translation is the New Gold Rush – Transfluent Duolingo and Babelverse

It’s been a good week for startups in the translation space. Transfluent, a startup that I have been covering over at EDUKWEST from its early beginnings announced that they raised $1 million in angel funding and that the team is planning to relocate from Finland to New York.
In an interview with GigaOm CEO Jani Penttinen said that the startup will set its focus on the U.S. market.
“We’ve seen there’s a lot of demand right now to translate from English to Chinese and Spanish. It’s very concentrated to a few key languages, but there’s a lot of demand from businesses and currently not that much on offer – the translation industry hasn’t really developed.”
Transfluent has a staff of over 15.000 freelance translators who work in 60 languages. The service enables companies to get their websites and social media outlets translated in nearly real time by human translators. Earlier this month Babelverse, a real time interpretation service for live events and conferences raised a seed round led by 500 Startups.
But the biggest funding, $15 million, came for Duolingo, a very interesting startup that aims to translate the Internet by teaching people languages for free. Sounds weird? Here is the idea.

The startup was founded by Carnegie Mellon professor Luis von Ahn, the creator of reCaptcha which he sold to Google. The idea behind reCaptcha was based on the same concept of crowdsourcing information. While the plugin helped websites to keep away spam bots, the users helped to enhance optical character recognition by identifying the words.
Similar to reCaptcha, Duolingo’s content comes from websites and blogs. By translating those sentences while learning the target language, the users of Duolingo create content that can be sold back to content creators who want to translate their magazines or online publications. This way the language learning part of the service can be given away for free and without any ads while Duolingo is still generating revenue by selling the translations.
I started to play around with Duolingo a couple of days ago, and I have to say that I kind of like it. I will write a first review of my experience with Duolingo for Fair Languages, soon. It’s modern, fast and though it does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to the different kind of exercises, I like the general idea behind the service as it seems to be sustainable which is, of course, important for learners who don’t want to get surprised by sudden changes in the terms and conditions.
As we recently wrote, the Internet is evolving into a much more heterogenous space with more and more websites and services launching in languages other than English. Yes, 56.6% of all pages are still in English (like this one) but offering localized content is probably becoming more and more of a must for any global brand.
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