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Updated January 15th, 2024 at 12:19 IST

Duolingo adopts AI-first approach, laying off human translators

Duolingo's recent decision to leverage generative AI tools for content creation has led to a restructuring that affected 10% of its translation contractors.

Sankunni K
Duolingo AI Transition
Duolingo AI Transition | Image:Duolingo
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Duolingo layoffs: Duolingo, the widely used language learning app, has made a significant shift in its operational strategy, letting go of 10 per cent of its contractors as it phases out human-led translation in favor of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The company claims that the majority of its workforce remains intact, stressing that no official "layoffs" occurred. However, the move has triggered a backlash on social media, reflecting growing concerns about AI replacing human jobs.

Duolingo's embrace of Generative AI raises concerns

Image: Duolingo

Duolingo's recent decision to leverage generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, for content creation has led to a restructuring that affected 10 per cent of its translation contractors. The move, while partly attributed to the company's increased investment in AI, was executed by allowing the contracts of temporary workers to conclude at the end of 2023 without renewal.

The company asserts that no active layoffs took place, and remaining translators will oversee AI-generated translations to ensure quality. However, a Reddit post by an ex-employee shed light on the situation, sparking a discussion about Duolingo's shift and its impact on human translators.

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Duolingo faces social media backlash

Image: Duolingo

Despite Duolingo's claims that the changes were part of a broader organizational evolution, the move has drawn criticism on social media platforms. The company's shift away from human translators has triggered concerns about job security and quality control. The Reddit post, originating from an ex-contractor, details a shrinking team and a shift to reviewing content produced by AI.

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CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn previously highlighted the company's use of AI to enhance efficiency and productivity. However, employees and external observers express skepticism, noting the potential repercussions on the quality of Duolingo's language lessons.

Larger trend of AI adoption and job displacement

Duolingo's move aligns with a broader trend in the tech industry, where companies are increasingly adopting AI tools to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Similar instances of workforce changes in favor of AI have been observed at companies like Accenture and IBM. The prevalence of AI in various industries has led to concerns about potential job displacement.

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Published January 11th, 2024 at 14:08 IST

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