As BuzzFeed‘s vertiginous expansion continues to overseas markets, it’s hit on an ingenious strategy to translate its articles: language students. The website has teamed up with language startup Duolingo to use its students to translate its most popular articles into foreign languages, says Farhad Manjoo at the Wall Street Journal. In short: BuzzFeed listlicles are to become a set text.
Luis Von Ahn, one of the engineers behind the annoying/genius CAPTCHA test that determines whether or not you are a humanoid, is the brains behind the language-learning website. And he cites the resourcefulness of language students, saying that, when English-speaking users of Duolingo who were learning German were asked to translate a document with the German phrase “it is the drop that makes the barrel overflow,” several people translated it as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Tick!
Duolingo will get a fee from BuzzFeed which could, says Von Ahn, run into “tens of millions of dollars.” BuzzFeed will get cheaper–and faster–translation than if it used a human translator (the going rate for one of those is around 20 cents a word). Indeed, Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed CEO, describes the deal as “something out of a William Gibson novel. There’s a certain cyberpunk logic to it that got us very excited.” And what about the Duolingo students? Well, they will probably have more fun translating a BuzzFeed story about cats in clothes than trying to work out how to say, “the cat sat on the mat” in French.