The language learning site Duolingo has recently left beta for a full release, and it is nothing short of thrilling. It is a free site which, in its own words, helps users ‘learn a language and simultaneously translate the Web.’ Not only is the interface sharp, engaging, and extraordinarily intuitive, it personalizes language learning in a way that should keep language teachers salivating. With each successive unit, you are given new translating tasks (most of which are from Wikipedia, though it appears this will become more diverse as the site grows) which build upon and help to assess what you have learned.
Whoever saw language learning as the start of crowd sources translations was definitely on to something. When you translate authentic material from the web with Duolingo, it is assessed against all other submissions, ultimately identifying the most accurate or most correct.
Through this, it takes into account the fact that any language, at its most essential root, actually is an exercise in crowd sourcing.
The programming behind all of this magic must be pretty astonishing, but the entire learning process looks seamless and perfectly tailored to each learner (not to mention, entirely free and a new significant competitor to Rosetta Stone). French, German, and Spanish are already live. I am looking forward to Swedish and an iPad version.