Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Unlocking the magic of words: Check out how this “Marvel” made learning languages addictive! [Monday: Marketing Marvels]

March 18, 2024

Learning a new language is both an exciting and challenging endeavor. 

To become proficient in another tongue, one needs to understand the nuances of words and how to use them appropriately in various contexts and different levels of formality.

Doing everything said above is a daunting task in today’s fast-paced and busy world.

Fortunately, this Guatemalan entrepreneur developed a free app that was designed to make a person feel that learning a new language was just like playing a game.

His name? 

Luis von Ahn!

Photo from Americas Quarterly

Ahn was born on August 19, 1978 in Guatemala. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Duke University in 2000, followed by a doctorate degree in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 2005.

After earning his doctorate, Ahn became a computer science professor at CMU and focused on “human-based computation,” an area of specialization that integrates human abilities with computers to solve large-scale problems. 

During his tenure, Ahn expressed his desire to create something universally valuable and accessible to people of all social and economic backgrounds.

So, teaming up with his student Severin Hacker, both decided to develop an app for learning other languages.

This decision marked the birth of Duolingo, a free learning app that enables its users to learn over 40 different languages.

The app offers bite-sized lessons covering speaking, listening, reading, and writing in a certain language. Users can earn points, unlock new levels, and receive rewards as they successfully complete various exercises.

Ever since its launch in 2012, Duolingo has become one of the world’s most popular applications, boasting over 500 million registered users. In fact, over 10 million people downloaded the app during its first year of release.

How did Ahn set Duolingo apart from other language learning applications?

Aside from making the app free for everyone, Ahn and his team conduct regular quality assurance checks to optimize Duolingo by tracking user learning speed and adjusting the algorithms as needed to improve the learning process. 

In recent years, Duolingo’s developers have also utilized artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze user data to create better language learning courses. 

Due to the app’s success, Ahn has received several accolades from various reputable publications, organizations, and U.S. government agencies:

  • Recognized as one of the world’s “10 Most Brilliant Scientists” by Popular Science Magazine in 2006.
  • Included in the list of the “50 Best Brains in Science” by Discover Magazine in 2009.
  • Named as one of the “Top Young Innovators Under 35” by the MIT Technology Review in 2007.
  • Included in the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by the Fast Company in 2010.
  • Awarded the U.S. “Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers” in 2012.

These aforementioned accomplishments reflect Ahn’s dedication and contributions to his field.

Aside from these accolades, there are valuable lessons to be learned from Ahn’s success story:

  1. Be persistent in making your vision a reality.

When Ahn was still creating Duolingo, he made many mistakes. However, he never let these setbacks prevent him from creating an app that allowed users to learn new languages for free.

His unwavering persistence paved the way for the success of the app. Through his resilience and refusal to be disheartened by adversity, he turned his vision into a reality that now has a profound impact on millions of people.  

  1. Be detail-oriented.

Ahn attributed Duolingo’s early success to his strong attention to detail. In an interview, he revealed that he oversaw every aspect of the app, from design to functionality and user feedback.

For him, being detail-oriented is essential in ensuring the app consistently delivers a top-notch experience to its users.

  1. Learn to delegate and trust your team.

Ahn realized the limitations of personally overseeing every detail of Duolingo’s development so he learned how to delegate tasks to the people he worked with.

He also made a conscious effort to motivate and guide his team members throughout every step of Duolingo’s development. 

  1. Test your product personally.

Checking Duolingo’s language courses has become part of Ahn’s daily routine.

After completing the lessons, he makes it a point to reach out to his team to provide feedback on any aspects of the app that require improvement. This approach enables him to ensure the quality of the app’s user experience and performance. 

In today’s highly globalized world, knowing how to speak multiple languages provides everyone from differing backgrounds with access to countless opportunities across the world. 

Due to this, Duolingo—and by extension, Ahn—has made a HUGE impact on the world and those who live in it.

We hope you enjoyed reading today’s article!

Stay tuned for next week’s “Marketing Marvels!”

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Mondays: Marketing Marvels”

Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy. 

… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.

The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole. 

What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?

At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success. 

Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators. 

However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.

We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.

Hope you find this week’s topic interesting and helpful. 

Stay tuned for next Monday’s “Marketing Marvels!”


Kyle Yu
Head of Special Projects
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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