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Duolingo CEO And The Mission Of Eliminating Education Barriers Through Technology


Bài viết này có ngôn ngữ: Tiếng Việt

With the mission of making education accessible to the world, the young CEO from Guatemala, Luis von Ahn, and his team invented the free English learning app Duolingo and then created Duolingo English Test, the online English proficiency test which is currently accepted by more than 2000 universities all over the world.

As of early 2020, more than 300 million global users are learning 38 different languages for free through Duolingo. Meanwhile, the online Duolingo English Test is also witnessing tremendous growth with a 700% increase in test takers since the beginning of 2020 — and particularly in the Chinese market, the growth rate has also increased tremendously, reaching 1000% over the same period last year. 

With that fast-moving development of Duolingo and the Duolingo English Test, Vietcetera talked with the founder Luis von Ahn to learn about his mission to lower barriers to education as well as how Duolingo English Test is forecasted to replace IELTS and TOEFL.

Luis von Ahn – Co-founder and CEO of Duolingo

What inspires you to create Duolingo?

Duolingo began with a question: what if we could teach languages for free? Learning a language used to require expensive classes, CDs, or tutors. I grew up in Guatemala, where learning English could double your income potential and change your family’s life. It always seemed unfair that only those with money could afford a good education, while those without money could barely learn to read and write. This idea became the mission of our company: to make education free and accessible to everyone – a mission that still guides us today.

What do you think about Vietnamese traits when it comes to learning English?

In Vietnam, demand for English learning has been skyrocketing, especially for families planning to send their children to study abroad, their need for English is even more crucial. Statistics show that Vietnamese parents collectively spend US$3 billion each year to send their kids to study overseas.

Not only students who want to study abroad but also people who want to advance their careers feel the need for English. However, it is still widely recognized that average English proficiency in Vietnam remains relatively low, and lags other countries in Southeast Asia. Inefficient traditional teaching methods and lack of access to high-quality, low-cost learning resources are contributing factors.

How do you evaluate the trends for language education towards the online platform in Vietnam? Where is the opportunity of Duolingo in this emerging market?

Vietnam has a very active internet community and high smartphone ownership. The country has over 140 million mobile subscriptions and more than 64 million internet users, which is a perfect environment for online learning. In fact, even though we never really marketed our products in the country, there are already over 2.4 million people in Vietnam learning a language on Duolingo. 

The Duolingo English Test uses artificial intelligence to evaluate test-takers’ performance. 

What is the story behind designing a high-technology but affordable cost test?

When I was growing up in Guatemala and wanted to apply to university in the US, I had to certify my English ability by taking the TOEFL exam. Unfortunately, there were no TOEFL test dates left in Guatemala in order for me to complete my applications on time, so I had to fly to the neighboring country of El Salvador to take a test. I’m lucky my family was able to afford this, but for most people, the process of certifying their English ability creates a barrier to higher education.

We created the Duolingo English Test to make it easier, more convenient, and more affordable to certify your English ability through the use of technology.

Why do you think that Duolingo English Test is appropriate for the Vietnam market?

Duolingo English Test is our solution to the expensive and inconvenient high-stakes English test that students currently have to go through in order to study abroad. In the US alone, there are over 30,000 Vietnamese students and all had to go through the time-consuming and stressful process of taking an English test in order to apply to university. 

Duolingo English Test allows students to take the test online, anytime, anywhere. They don’t have to worry about making an appointment in advance or traveling to the test center. It is accepted by over 2,000 universities around the world with more joining every day. 

How does the technology in Duolingo English Test objectively evaluate test-takers’ performance and enhance the accuracy of the results?

The Duolingo English Test uses artificial intelligence to evaluate test-takers’ performance. The AI is trained to rate English ability the same way a human rater would. It’s a computer-adaptive test which means the difficulty of the test adjusts in real-time to the performance of the test takers. This allows the test to reach confidence about the test-takers’ ability much faster than a traditional standardized test.

Duolingo English Test can lower the barrier to your studying abroad dream

What makes the Duolingo English Test stand out when joining the race with other reputable English tests?

The Duolingo English Test is the first high-stakes test to use AI end-to-end, from test creation to administration, security, and scoring. It can be taken online, on-demand. The test is computer-adaptive which allows the test session to last less than an hour, compared to 3-4 hours for other tests. It costs a fraction of the price of other tests at $49. Our research shows that scores from our tests are highly correlated with scores from TOEFL and IELTS, meaning that the tests are all measuring English ability in similar ways.

What are your struggles and how did your team overcome it when first introducing Duolingo English Test to institutions and persuade them to accept Duolingo English Test as an alternative for English requirements?

The biggest challenge has been introducing new technology in a market that hasn’t really changed or innovated in decades. At first, many schools had questions about this new model of testing, and how it could be as accurate and secure. But now after conducting extensive research about our test, we’ve been able to address these questions and demonstrate that there are many advantages to an online exam that benefit their students and their admissions offices.

What is the future plan for the Duolingo English Test?

We plan to keep growing the Duolingo English Test to ensure that it is accepted everywhere that students are applying. We also plan to introduce new features to help the test results be insightful to both students and universities.

About Luis von Ahn:

Luis von Ahn, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, is widely known as the father of crowdsourcing (create products by gathering information or opinions from a group sending their data over the Internet). He created reCAPTCHA to differentiate between humans and bots and at the same time, digitized millions of old books. The company was acquired by Google in 2009. Two of his most recent products, the language learning app Duolingo and Duolingo English Test are also gaining much success.

Written by Trinh Nguyen.

Bài viết này có ngôn ngữ: Tiếng Việt



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