Duolingo launches English certification exam

The gamification of language learning has opened the door for certification of online students.

Shadyside-based language learning app company Duolingo announced the official launch of the Duolingo Test Center, a project devoted to language certification. The Test Center, currently an Android mobile app and website, allows anyone with Internet access to take an exam that measures proficiency in English and grants official certification to individuals who pass. The company is working on an iOS app for Apple products.

At $20, the exam is a drastic price break from similar certification tests, which normally cost around $250. The app’‍s 20-minute test time is also a major shift from traditional certification exams, which take an average of two hours, according to Duolingo.

Duolingo co-founder Luis von Ahn, who launched the educational gaming company out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2011 with chief technology officer Severin Hacker, said the Test Center will “remove yet another barrier faced by millions worldwide who are trying to get ahead.”

“Millions of people around the world can’‍t apply for better job opportunities or school programs because they can’‍t afford to certify their language skills. We believe there should be a better way and created the Test Center to give everyone fair access to certification,” said Mr. von Ahn in an email statement.

The Test Center will certify students through Duolingo’‍s English Proficiency Exam, a test that has been determined to match standard English certification programs during an independent University of Pittsburgh study. The site will soon add Spanish language certification and will ultimately add certification for all languages taught through Duolingo.

In an effort to ensure the proficiency exam passes only eligible students, Duolingo teamed up with CMU to examine how effectively Duolingo Test Center evaluates English proficiency among prospective students who are not native English speakers. The company has also teamed up with Menlo Park, Calif.-based online freelancing company oDesk as its first industry partner and is working with the government of Costa Rica and the Ideas en Accion organization to distribute the exam across the nation’‍s schools.

The Duolingo Test Center is available on the Google Play store and can be accessed online at http://testcenter.duolingo.com.

Deborah M. Todd: dtodd@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1652. Twitter: @deborahtodd. First Published July 23, 2014 12:00 AM

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