Tag Archive | "translation"

Duolingo Raises $20M Series C Led By Kleiner Perkins To Dominate Online Language Learning

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The popular language learning platform Duolingo today announced that it has closed a $20 million Series C round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. As Duolingo’s founder Luis von Ahn told me, the company plans to use this new funding to continue on its path to dominate the language-learning market.

Duolingo previously raised a Series A round led by Union Square Ventured in 2011 and a $15 million Series B round led by NEA in 2012. Duolingo also counts Ashton Kutcher and Tim Ferris among its investors. The company’s previous investors also joined in this new round.

Von Ahn told me Duolingo now has about 25 million registered and 12.5 million active users. That’s up from about 10 million the company reported by the end of last year. This means that more people now learn a language with Duolingo than in the U.S. public school system. Von Ahn attributes at least a part of this growth to Apple choosing Duolingo as its iPhone App of the Year, which marked the first time the company choose an education app for this honor.

As for why the company decided to raise a new round, von Ahn told me that he received quite a bit of inbound interest from venture capital firms. While he talked to a few, Kleiner Perkins felt like the ideal partner, not in the least because Duolingo will work with Kleiner partner Bing Gordon who will also join the Duolingo board as an observer.


The company also plans to use the additional funding to ramp up its hiring. Duolingo currently has 34 employees — most of them engineers and designers — but plans to get to 50 in the near future.

Duolingo will soon release a groups feature that will make it easier for teachers to use the service in their classes (and track their students’ progress). Duolingo also expects that large companies, which now often use Rosetta Stone and similar tools to train their workforce, will start using this groups feature.

Von Ahn has a track record of building successful products based on these hybrid approaches that bring together human collaboration and technology. With reCAPTCHA, which he sold to Google, he turned CAPTCHAs into something useful by combining them with OCR technology.

With Duolingo, he is building a language learning and translation tool that is based on these same principles. The service teaches you a language, but at the same time, you are also using some of the practice translations to translate real sentences for paying customers.

Last year, the company partnered with CNN and BuzzFeed, for example, to translate some of those company’s articles into Spanish, Portuguese and French. The company is working on similar deals with other publishers and both CNN and BuzzFeed have renewed their original contracts.

Going forward, this will obviously be a major source of revenue for the company, but von Ahn also expects that Duolingo will open its self-service portal for translations within the next two months.

Duolingo doesn’t have an immediate goal to break even, though. “We have revenue, and that’s good,” von Ahn told me, but his plan for now is to grow the user base Most importantly, though, von Ahn wants to increase Duolingo’s user base (and that, in return, will also strengthen the translation side of the service). “Our main goal going forward is to become the de facto way to learn a language,” he told me.

When the company asked users why they use Duolingo, many said they considered it a game that is both entertaining and useful. This isn’t something Duolingo set out to do, but based on these findings — and with Bing Gordon among its advisers now — the company plans to add more game elements to its service in the future.

One thing von Ahn says he won’t do in the future, though, is pay for advertising. It has never spent a single dollar on ads and doesn’t plan to do so anytime soon.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Google Updates Chrome For iOS With Built-In Data Compression, New Tab Page And Translation Support

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Google today released the new version of Chrome for iOS. With this update, it is bringing a number of features that were previously only available in the Android app to Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

Just like the Android app, for example, Chrome for iOS now supports Google’s Opera Turbo-like, data-compression proxy. By having your web browsing flow through Google’s servers, the company can compress your data (and especially images) to help you save up to 50 percent of bandwidth while you are browsing. Google will not, however, use the proxy for any connections to any sites that use secure connections (HTTPS).

Users will have to explicitly enable this feature, which makes sense, given that once enabled, all your browsing will touch Google servers – something not everybody will be comfortable with.


Also new in this release is built-in support for Google Translate, a feature both Android and desktop users have long been able to access. Whenever Chrome notices that you are surfing a site that isn’t in your native language, you can just tap the translation bar in Chrome and see the translated version.

With this update, Google is also starting to push out an updated new tab page for iOS that is meant to make “searching faster and easier.” As far as I can see, this means Google will show both a prominent Google Search bar on the new tab page, as well as a list of most-visited sites and recently closed tabs. Google says this part of the update will roll out slowly and will only be available on the iPhone at first.

Google had previously announced some of the iOS updates, though apparently it took the company a bit longer than planned to release the updated version.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Verbling Launches Live Study Groups And One-On-One Tutoring Service, As Its Spin On Language Learning Begins To Catch On

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Learning to speak a new language with any kind of fluency is a daunting task. Not only only does it require time, patience, and a great teacher but, ultimately, there’s no “right” way to go about it. Just as language learning tends to resist a one-size-fits-all approach, today the market offers a laundry list of services, apps and startups to choose from – each with its own approach to helping you become a polyglot.

To help it stand out from the pack and take on the Rosetta Stones of the world, Verbling has put a new, yet familiar spin on language learning. To help immerse students in a new language (and learn more effectively), Verbling uses frictionless, in-browser video chat to connect its learners with native speakers, live, in 3-D. What’s more, unlike many of its cohorts, the Y Combinator-backed education startup is focused on the Web, not mobile, and native apps, if they do come, are still a ways off.

From the outset, Verbling focused on building a network of native speakers in a few core languages so that it could instantly connect users with someone who’s fluent in the language they’re trying to learn. However, when we checked in with Verbling late last year, the company had begun to expand its scope – both by adding new languages and by moving beyond its original one-on-one video immersion model. The update saw Verbling add support for nine new languages and bring one-to-many, Google Hangouts-powered “classes” to its platform, with instruction led by an official, TEFL-certified Verbling teacher.

Today, Verbling Classes are group language lessons taught by trained teachers over live video chat in the browser. The startup limits class rosters to nine students per class, which allows it to keep class size manageable as well as offer language learning courses every hour, 24-hours a day, on-demand – with no advance reservation required. Since launching, Classes are now offered in a total of four languages and have quickly become the most popular feature on Verbling, says co-founder Jake Jolis.

Again, while Verbling’s focus on building a Web-sans-mobile product (at least for the time being) may make it seem behind the times, it allows it to offer on-demand, around-the-clock service no matter what time zone students are connecting from. While remaining hyper-focused can also be limiting, Jolis says that this always-on availability has come to be one of its most appealing features and a point of differentiation in a crowded space.

“It’s not uncommon to find people from 10 different countries in one single Verbling class,” he says, and this language-focused, cross-cultural experience can be a powerful tool not only for learning and engagement. After all, students can participate in these classes from the comfort of their living room couch.

Building on the success of its live classes, Verbling has continued to round out its language learning platform. This started with the addition of “Verbling Groups,” a free feature which allows anybody to start or join a Group video chat with up to 10 participants sharing the same target language. And, today, the startup is taking the next logical step with the addition of a new tutoring service.

Verbling’s new tutoring platform will enable language students anywhere to easily book live, hour-long private tutoring sessions with their teacher of choice. The new service is designed to have a premium feel and is aimed at the most dedicated students, Jolis says, while simultaneously allowing Verbling teachers to leverage their following and increase their income.

Whereas class prices are fixed at $3 for one class, 10 classes for $19/month and unlimited classes for $45/month, Verbling’s new tutoring platform allows teachers to set their own price and accept payments via Stripe and PayPal. Tutoring will be available in the same four languages that Verbling Classes are offered in and will be available on-demand.

Beyond increasing the language learning options for its students and signaling its gradual expansion into a services platform, Verbling Tutoring also represents another potentially key revenue channel. Though the startup remains a lean operation and is still just five full-time employees three years in, if Classes are any indication, the team has reason for optimism.

Even though students can now watch classes without registering (or paying), students are still willing to pay for unlimited access, which Jolis tells us has become the startup’s most popular pricing plan. (And it also happens to be the most expensive.)

For this reason, Verbling has been able to maintain double-digit month-over-month revenue growth since it began accepting payments for classes eight months ago. Monthly revenues now stand in the “five figure range and growing,” Jolis adds, and Verbling’s monthly active users are now at over “six figures.” All in all, while that means Verbling is still relatively small compared to some others of its ilk, things definitely seem to be moving in the right direction.

As a result of its recent revenue growth, Verbling has also been able to raise an additional round of seed capital from Sam Altman and Hydrazine Capital, with contributions from Learn Capital, FundersClub, Rothenberg Ventures and Kevin Moore.

This follows on the $20K Verbling received when it graduated from Y Combinator in 2011 and the $1 million in seed funding it raised in the months following from DFJ, Learn Capital, SV Angel, Start Fund, Ace & Company, Meck Investments and Inspovation, among others.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Google Search Gets Improved Dictionary Definitions With Sample Sentences, Synonyms, Translations And Usage Stats

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Here is a small but cool update to Google Search: Google’s dictionary definitions — which you can invoke by using a query like “define crunch ” — now feature significantly more information about virtually every word in its catalog. The update, Google says, is meant to “give you more information about these words beyond just their definition.”

The dictionary box recently began showing sentences that contain the words, as well as their synonyms, for example. In addition, it’ll show a word’s etymology (sometimes as a flow chart and sometimes as regular text), as well as how often a word was used over time. Google gets the usage data from its Ngram Viewer for Google Books.

The dictionary box now also features a built-in translation section that supports over 60 languages. Sadly, the translations don’t feature any sample sentences yet.

While most people will still likely type their queries into the search bar, you can also use voice queries like “What’s the definition of fortuitous?” and “What are synonyms for fortuitous?” to have Google speak its answers back to you.

Just like before, you can still tap the microphone button to hear how to pronounce a word.

These new definitions are now available on desktop and mobile. As is so often the case, all of these new features will first launch in the U.S. and in English. It’s not clear when Google plans to bring it to other countries and languages.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

One Hour Translation’s Patented Tech Enables Speedy And Accurate Real-Time Translation Of Online Content

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One Hour Translation

Founded in 2008, One Hour Translation is one of the oldest and largest online translation companies, with more than 15,000 active translators in 100 countries who cover more than 75 languages. The Cyprus-based company processes 100,000 projects a month for customers ranging from large corporations (including Toyota and Shell) that need enterprise-grade multilingual content management systems to smaller companies in search of a more polished alternative to cutting-and-pasting content into Google Translate.

Over the last five years, CEO and founder Ofer Shoshan, who bootstrapped One Hour Translation, has seen an increase in demand for online translation as companies seek to diversify into global markets.

“When there are financial crises in certain markets, we see customers from those markets that want to start getting international customers,” says Shoshan. “In this context, the translation market has done well. It’s a huge market, worth more than $30 million last year.”

Though there are many online translation services now available (including Gengo, Conyac and Dakwak), Shoshan says that One Hour Translation’s advantages are its scale, speed and patented technology.

The company’s proprietary products includes WeST (short for Web site translation), its latest offering. WeST allows administrators to add multilingual support to their sites by inserting a few lines of code. Once implemented, WeST maps all site text and automatically sends updates to human translators. This allows content to be translated on an ongoing basis. One Hour Translation’s Translation Memory cloud, another of its patented technologies, reduces the cost of translation by eliminating charges for repeated phrases. The company’s platform also allows real-time peer edits of translations for quality assurance.

Though technology facilitates the speed and accuracy of its translations, One Hour Translation’s most important resource is still its 15,000 translators, who have to pass an exam before they start working for the company. Translators only translate content into their native language and include people who specialize in copywriting and app localization, as well as legal, medical and financial documents.

Want to try out One Hour Translation? The company is offering free home page translation (up to 200 words to any single language) for the first 1,000 TechCrunch readers who use this link.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Jordanian Startup Dakwak’s Translation And Localization Platform Helps Web Sites Go Global

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Jordan might not seem like the most obvious place for a tech hub, but the country is leading the Middle East’s growing startup industry. 500 Startups’ current class features two Jordanian companies, including Dakwak, a Web site translation and localization platform that wants to help small- to medium-sized businesses go global in the shortest amount of time possible.

The company, which launched its current platform six weeks ago, was founded in 2009 by Waheed Barghouthi after he attended a conference about how developers can help increase the amount of Arabic language content on the Internet.

“I wanted to make simple tools for Web site owners to translate their sites in an easy way, that would not only increase Arabic content, but also content in all languages. Many business owners are still in the mindset that 70% of the world’s population speaks English, but that number is only about 27%,” says Barghouthi. In addition to 500 Startups, Dakwak’s investors include Jordanian accelerator program Oasis500, Silicon Badia Ventures and IV Holdings.

When customers first sign up for Dakwak’s platform, all they need to enter their Web site’s URL and select a target language. Dakwak’s least expensive option is a machine translation, while professional translations are performed by Gengo’s translators. Translated Web sites, which have their own language subdomain, are stored on Dakwak’s servers, allowing the startup’s team to make quick updates. Dakwak’s clients have access to a dashboard that allows them to order and review new translations and then publish it to their Web site.

dakwak | the web speaks your language from Waheed Barghouthi on Vimeo.

“There’s no email back-and-forth with translators. You can send your guidelines, but there is no operational headache,” says Barghouthi. “Web site owners just need to keep sending new content, and it comes back translated. If you have a lot of information to maintain, the network is the right solution because you don’t have to manage your Web site’s translation.”

Dakwak’s localization services go beyond written content–the platform’s dashboard lets Web site owners replace images and stylesheets and add JavaScript for specific languages. The startup is also developing email translation software that will allow users to read and respond to translated emails through Dakwak’s platform. The company currently offers an email translation service with an average turnaround time of 30 minutes to an hour.

Since launching its full platform six weeks ago, Dakwak has signed 30 customers, with the most-requested translated languages being English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French and Arabic. The company currently has five employees and offices in Jordan and Mountain View. Barghouthi’s goals for the next four to five months are to find more distribution channels in the U.S. and build the platform’s user base.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Translation App Linqapp’s Developers Are Running Around Taiwan To Promote Its Startup Industry

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LingApp logo

Though Taiwan is known for its technological prowess, startup founders there still face many obstacles, including the lack of early-stage funding. As a result, the developers of social translation app Linqapp had to get creative–and their solution brings new meaning to the term “bootstrapping.”

Co-founders Sebastian Ang and David Vega plan to complete several marathon-length runs around Taiwan during July, joined by Linqapp (pronounced “link up”) engineer David Huang on a bike. Their routes will eventually take them around the island’s perimeter and, the team hopes, help them score publicity and downloads for their app, which will launch on Google Play in August. Though the trio won’t start off until Monday, their intention to run around the country, at the height of summer no less, has already scored them plenty of local media attention and 1 million likes on a photo uploaded to their Facebook page.

Ang and Vega first met in 2010 while pursuing MBAs at National Chengchi University. Before arriving in Taiwan, Vega was a lawyer in his native Guatemala, while German national Ang’s prior startup experience includes founding Singapore-based rental portal roomsDB.net in 2008.

Linqapp, which launched in closed beta mode last month and connects people seeking language help with native speakers around the world, will work on a freemium model. Users can ask questions for free, but have to purchase credits if they want to upload photos or audio files.

The duo bootstrapped the development of Linqapp and hope that revenue earned from the Android app will help fund the creation of an iOS version.

Ang and Vega initially planned to combine their run around Taiwan with a crowdfunding campaign, but abandoned the idea because they worried soliciting money too early would undermine their credibility. Though Taiwan is home to several major tech companies, including HTC and Foxconn Technology Group, Ang says that startups are taken much less seriously. That attitude can make it difficult not only to secure early-stage investors, but also hire talent.

“I have to admit it was not easy to find an engineer,” says Ang. “Our engineer is directly out of university and usually they face a lot of pressure to join a big company.”

Instead, Vega says that their goal is to promote the app, Taiwan’s culture and the country’s open attitude toward foreign entrepreneurs.

“It’s not so easy for tech startups to get funding here, but we thought we can do it our own way,” says Ang. “It’s true that the network is not the same as it is in Singapore or Silicon Valley. There’s a very big difference. We hope that with our Taiwan Run we can create awareness that there is a startup scene in Taiwan and it deserves more attention.”

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Viki Moves In On Chinese Audiences With Two New Video Deals

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Video sharing site, Viki, is continuing its push into China with two new video distribution deals with Chinese video-on-demand sites, LeTV and Xunlei Kankan.

This move follows its first distribution deal, set up last July, with Renren—also known as the Facebook of China. That deal with Renren was Viki’s first such agreement with a third party to serve videos on an external site, and saw Renren setting up a dedicated channel called VikiZone on its site.

This new deal with LeTV and Xunlei Kankan will also have VikiZones created on the Chinese sites.

Viki’s video community is quite unique, in that it puts users together in real-time so that they can help to translate videos on the site. The open-source style of working means hundreds of translators can lay subtitles on a video quickly.

The company said in April this year that 30 percent of its views are now coming from mobile phones. It serves 1.5 billion videos to 22 million viewers a month, with over 320 million words translated.

The startup was launched in 2007, and its founders moved the headquarters from the U.S. (at Harvard, to be specific) to Singapore in 2008, following a funding injection from Singapore-based Neoteny Labs.

In its early days, the founders spent a lot of time setting up licensing deals in Korea, and started expanding that effort out to Bollywood movies and Japanese anime.

Last year, Viki partnered with Indonesian telco Axis to deliver its apps to Axis subscribers’ phones. Viki also syndicates its content with crowd-sourced subtitles to sites like Hulu and Netflix. It also has an ad deal with the BBC.

Viki raised a Series A round in 2010 of $4.3 million, and another round of $20 million in 2011. It has offices in Palo Alto and Seoul as well.

Google invested $5 million in Xunlei Kankan in 2007, netting it 2.8 percent of the company. Xunlei Kankan was going to list on NASDAQ in mid-2011, but didn’t go through with it in the end. LeTV is listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange and recently started selling smart TVs.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

YouTube Founders Hurley And Chen Have Released An Asian Clone Of Vine

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Photo Jun 06, 11 52 52 AM

AVOS Systems, the company founded by YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, has just launched a new app that appears to be a Chinese version of Twitter’s popular six-second video-sharing app, Vine. I hate to use the word clone, but… clone.

The app is called Wan-Pai, (or Wanpai, we’re not really sure due to complexities in the translation from Mandarin) which seems to mean “Beat” based on the various translations Google is giving me. (It could also mean Play Racket, Play Shoot, or “to play Mahjong”.) The app lets you record video in the same manner as Vine, by holding a finger to the screen to record, and letting go to pause.

Here’s the official wording from the site (as translated by Google):

Press and hold anywhere on the screen to start shooting, let go pause, then press and hold to continue shooting, it’s that simple. Shooting clips simultaneously, easy magic effect!

It gets even more intense with the ability to add filters, choose to include or mute audio, and decide the direction the video will play in (forward only, backward only, or in a forward and backward loop).

The camera itself is very similar to Vine, boxing off the camera window against a grey background, and showing your progress bar (on the top instead of the bottom, but still). And the most offensive rip-off would be the six second limit, which is present on both apps (even if a 16-year old can get around it).

The content stream is also very Vine-like, except for the salmon theme color instead of Vine green. It shows an Instagram-style vertical feed of one clip after the other. Unlike Vine, users must tap each clip to get it to play, but things like comments and likes are all in the same place.

In fact, the animations (such as the clip floating under the user name and avatar bar) are even similar. Wan-pai, which is available for both iOS and Android, also lets you share to various social networks, Sina microblogging, or email clips from the feed to your friends.

You can check out the Wan-Pai app here.

This one is just for fun:

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Microsoft Launches Bing Translator App For Windows With Augmented Reality Translations, Support For 40 Languages

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Microsoft today launched its Bing Translator app for Windows (including Windows RT). We don’t usually write all that much about Windows apps and translation apps aren’t exactly new, either, but it’s nice to see that Microsoft has finally brought virtually all of the features of its mobile translator app for Windows Phone, including camera-based translations for 7 input languages, to the desktop. Bing Translator, which is only available in Windows’ Modern UI/Metro mode, supports a total of 40 languages and also allows you to download language packs for offline usage.

For the most part, of course, this is par for the course for language translation apps these days. Google’s Translate for Android app also features all of these tools and supports 70 languages.

Here are the languages the Bing app currently supports:

  • The 7 camera input languages include: Chinese (Simplified), English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  • The app can translate to: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong Daw, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Klingon, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese.

Microsoft’s implementation of the camera-based “augmented reality” translation mode is a bit smoother, however, as it will just overlay a translation over the camera image (and you can tap to save the caption). Google Translate, on the other hand, makes you tap on the words you want to translate. Admittedly, that’s not exactly hard, but Microsoft’s approach feels a bit easier and more like what iPhone users are accustomed to from tools like Word Lens.

Heavy Windows 8 users (there must be some…) will also appreciate that the app integrates with the Windows 8 “Share” charm to give you easy access to the translation tools.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

April 2014
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