Recent studies have shown that bilingualism makes people smarter. If that’s true, then Duolingo may help save the world by putting language learning in the mainstream. Created by crowdsourcing pioneer Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker, Duolingo is the free, science-based language learning platform that has grown to over 25 million users in less than 2 years.

Last year, it racked up the accolades: Apple’s App of the Year, Google’s “Best of the Best 2013,” and “Best Education Startup” by TechCrunch, to name a few.

Most recently, besting almost 100 companies, Duolingo won GOOD Magazine’s Progress is GOOD challenge – a worldwide search for changemaking initiatives.

Ben Goldhirsh, Good Magazine CEO recognizes what sets Duolingo apart: “That the GOOD community directed us toward Duolingo is both fitting and awesome, as this is a company that so clearly lives at the intersection of pragmatism and idealism, and these are the values that GOOD and Progressive teamed up to champion.”

Combining crowdsourcing and gamification makes the app effective. An independent study by the City University of New York has shown that 34 hours spent on Duolingo is equivalent to one US college semester of language courses—for free.

In fact, Duolingo has been so effective that it is now partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to pilot a program that will evaluate a new low-cost test for certifying the English skills of college and job applicants.

In its application to GOOD, they wrote: “The Duolingo Test Center, launched with the support of Google, would enable users to certify English proficiency using a mobile app for a fraction of the cost of existing language certification tests. The test eliminates the cost and inconvenience of traveling to a designated test site, takes less time to complete and provides results immediately. The app attempts to limit cheating using features such as remote video monitoring and test questions that are rarely repeated.”

Duolingo has also launched the Language Incubator, which allows the community to volunteer to create free language courses. Duolingo is already available in all Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Turkish-speaking countries, with Irish, Japanese, Chinese and Korean coming soon.

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment. She is the Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. She writes about the intersection of food, health, innovation and policy.