Luis von Ahn, known for inventing reCAPTCHA and earlier participation in the development of CAPTCHA, came to China for the very first time  to search for a country manager for his language-learning app Duolingo, for the Chinese version gained 1.5 million users in mainland China the first week since launch, with no marketing effort.

Duolingo app, first launched in June 2012, has gained much traction around the world because of, according to the company, the gamification elements introduced for the learning process. Like many games, you have several ‘lives’ when starting learning with Duolingo and will lose them after having made too many mistakes. In the meantime you can earn “skill points” by completing lessons that will be deductible for mistakes.

The app is for free and the company doesn’t plan to monetize it through any paid services or advertising. Instead, Duolingo encourages users to collaboratively translate text files from third parties who pay for translations.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com