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  5. A Duolingo Success Story - Ho…


A Duolingo Success Story - How I became a bilingual teacher

This week marked my two and a half year Duoversary, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share my success story.

It all started back in 2013, when I was working in an ESL preschool classroom in Chicago. While I had thirteen languages in my classroom, the most spoken home language was Vietnamese. I decided I wanted a tool that could help me communicate with the families and my students, so I did a search on my iPad for a free Vietnamese translation app. I didn't find one, but I did find this little thing called Duolingo, and I decided to try it out.

I soon discovered that it did not have a Vietnamese course, so I went for the second most spoken home language in my classroom: Spanish. As I progressed through the course, I began using the Immersion section of Duolingo to translate my blog into Spanish. I went to Hispanic restaurants and spoke with the proprieters in Spanish. I began volunteering with a bilingual newspaper proofreading Spanish translations of English articles. When I finished the Spanish for English speakers course, I started on the English for Spanish speakers course, which I completed a few months later.

I found my Spanish improving by leaps and bounds. When I went out to do some field reporting for a radio station I volunteered for, I found I could interview more people in the crowd at the protest, and I got a great interview from a Colombian tourist who had showed up at the protest.

After nine months on Duolingo, I went to Mexico. I signed up for an immersion program in Zacatecas, and they told me that I was Intermediate 1 at the time that I arrived. While in Mexico, to avoid using any English while still continuing my Duolingo streak, I started the course for Spanish speakers to learn French. I found that my Duolingo foundation made it possible for me to communicate effectively while I was there. I kept a journal in Spanish, and after about a week and a half I found myself starting to dream in Spanish. When my three weeks in the program ended, they assessed me at Intermediate 3 in Spanish.

By this time the Duolingo English for Vietnamese speakers course was in Beta, so about a month before my Mexico trip I erased my English progress (from Spanish) and began taking the Vietnamese course. I supplemented this with weekly Vietnamese courses at a local temple that some of my students attended. Nonetheless, I found the course more challenging than the Spanish had been. Vietnamese is a more distant language from English than Spanish is, and while the grammar is fairly easy for me to grasp, vocabulary has been a challenge for me.

While I struggled in Vietnamese, my Spanish continued to flourish. I found myself doing parent-teacher conferences in Spanish without a translator. In fact, when a Spanish-speaking staff member left, I then became the default translator for Spanish at my center.

Knowing how successful my Mexico trip had been for my Spanish, I planned a similar trip to Vietnam the following summer. However, I was not able to connect with an immersion program as I had done in Mexico. I stayed with the family of one of my students (I like to say it was the farthest and longest home visit I ever went on). I struggled immensely, but I noticed growth. This time, I did not try to avoid English entirely. My journal was in a mix of Spanish, English, and Vietnamese.

I noticed as the three weeks went by that the quantity of Vietnamese I was using in the journal relative to the other two languages was increasing, as was the grammar (I learned there how to indicate past and future tenses, something I had not yet gotten to on Duolingo).

On my way back to Chicago from Vietnam, I stopped off in San Francisco for a job interview at a bilingual Spanish preschool. Less than a week after I returned to Chicago, I received my job offer. After my Chicago students graduated, I packed up and moved to San Francisco, where I started teaching in Spanish in November.

I now attend almost as many professional development teacher trainings in Spanish as I do in English. Earlier this week I gave a presentation to a Spanish language teacher group, and three days a week I speak only in Spanish to my students, teaching Spanish to the English-speaking students in my classroom.

While there were many other resources I relied on to achieve this, the primary resource that has built my language competence to this level has been Duolingo. Thank you, little green owl. :-)

(Having achieved this by learning Spanish, I can't wait to see what I can achieve by learning Vietnamese.)

March 26, 2016



This is an amazing accomplishment in only two years. I am in awe both of your ability to help others and your facility gaining fluency. Many congratulations.

March 26, 2016



A pleasure indeed to hear from you again

Your wonderful story should inspire us all

March 26, 2016


Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that you will soon be fluent in Vietnamese as well!

March 26, 2016


Thank you for sharing. This is very encouraging. I admire your determination to succeed.

March 26, 2016


Wow, this is inspiring.

San Francisco is also a good place to learn Vietnamese, and if you need any help in Vietnamese, let me know. Good luck!

March 26, 2016


What a great inspiring story!! Thanks for sharing it! Congratulations!

March 26, 2016


Congratulations and thanks for sharing such such an inspirational achievement.

March 26, 2016


Wow, that's very impressive and inspiring. Well done for your Spanish and good luck for you Vietnamese!

March 26, 2016


I bet your students love when you talk to them in their native tongue (Spanish or Vietnamese).

Very impressive story, humbly told, from one of my favourite duolinguists. Congrats :)

March 27, 2016


Wow, congratulations! It is amazing how much you have accomplished in such a short time span. Very inspiring; thanks for sharing! Good luck doing the same with Vietnamese. :)

March 26, 2016



March 26, 2016


Wonderful, thank you for sharing this!

March 26, 2016


Felicidades!! WOW, es impresionante como has aprendido español y lo dedicada (o) que eres a tu carrera. Buena suerte en Vietnamese. Congratulations!!

March 26, 2016


What an amazing and enspiring language journey, thank you for sharing.

March 26, 2016


That is indeed a magnificent achievement!

March 26, 2016


Wow! What is your story!? You know so many languages! Incredible! Are you fluent in all the completed one?

June 20, 2017


You can speak four languages fluently, and I'm still struggling with Spanish...then again, I'm only 14. And I only started taking Spanish this semester at school. Your story is a real inspiration for me to keep going. Good luck learning Vietnamese!

March 28, 2016


Just for clarification, I cannot speak four languages fluently. I can only speak English and Spanish with fluency, but my Vietnamese is far from fluent, and I only took the French course for the three weeks that I was in Mexico, and I can barely remember a handful of words.

March 28, 2016


I apologize for my stupidity. I don't blame you; French is complicated. Moreso than Spanish. But I still admire you for attempting to learn French! It will benefit you greatly one day.

March 28, 2016


Wow! This is so inspiring! I'm in healthcare in Southern California and solely using Duolingo to learn Spanish so that I can better communicate with my Spanish speaking patients. Your story really makes me believe that I can achieve my goal! Thank you for sharing :)

March 27, 2016


Congrats dude! Given that you are based in the Bay Area now I'd encourage you to look into Cantonese in the future. I attend university in the Bay Area and I have many friends who grew up here who speak it as a heritage language. Additionally, I have a friend who works at a preschool somewhere in Oakland who deals with Cantonese speaking children on a daily basis.

March 27, 2016


That's awesome! Congratulations!

March 27, 2016


So exciting to read this! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with the community.

March 29, 2016


Ouah, c'est très impressionnant. Je vous souhaite bonne chance.

March 26, 2016



March 27, 2016


I love stories like this. Your students are so lucky to have such a motivated and talented teacher. Way to go! Keep on learning so your students can learn even more! You rock! :) #changetheworld

March 27, 2016


A wonderful story! I hope to become as proficient as you in a few languages.

March 27, 2016


Would you mind provide us the contact info for the immersion program in Zacatecas? I assume it's one you would recommend, correct? Or have you found something better since then? Thanks.

March 28, 2016


Bien hecho!

March 29, 2016


thx for sharing your story. that was so inspiring!

April 4, 2016



May 3, 2016


nice story i not much of a reader but it took me 3 days to read it love it mine is "I was looking for a "learning language" site and i found Duolingo and i got sooooo excited so i met a lot of AWESOME friends and no other tool is better than this one and the tools i was using before they FAILED so bad and i tried to get 100 day streak and failed at 21 and took a few months off and tried again and i DID it (yay) then i tried 1000 i knew i was not going to make and i did not but i got to 237 and i had a lot of encouragement from a lot of people." hope you like mine because i like yours!!

May 3, 2016


This is a fantastic story! It encourages me no end.

I started on Duolingo French, twenty days ago. This morning I read and understood three paragraphs in French. There was only one word in the last paragraph that I was not competent with, however, I kind of infered what it meant from the context. I am only at level 11.

This Duolingo application seems to be so powerful. Previously, I had really tried to learn French on three occasions in the past, with next to little progress made, and everything forgotten almost instantaneously.

Now, I can feel the absolute progress I am making. The strengthening functionality is a godsend to me. This app is making the world a better place in real time.

I am so happy to have read your story!

June 5, 2016


This is so inspiring / Motivating :) I'm following this post and i frequently come back here. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!

March 14, 2017


As a beginner here on Duolingo, I find this a very inspiring story! I'll hope to succeed as much as you will :)

April 25, 2017


Congratulations! I started Duolingo Spanish 45 days ago, after learning bits and pieces from a community education course and hotel and restaurant staff in Mexico and elsewhere. I'm amazed that I've begun to think in Spanish, although it's perhaps a little easier for me because I'm fluent in French. I'm looking forward to more improvement! Thanks for your story.

October 28, 2017


Wow! What a story. I think once you master bilingualism, becoming a polyglot is an irresistable challenge!

July 26, 2018


Greetings from the North Bay ! Your story is very inspiring. I am planning on going to a language school later this spring at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I wish to accomplish as much as you. My own language story of the week: yesterday I took a family member out to lunch for Easter and we had a French waiter. I was easily able to converse with him, that was such an incredible feeling, which I credit all to Duolingo, and hope to also be able to have in Spanish. In the fall, I hope to volunteer my time at the French-American Charter School in my town. My next language is also Vietnamese. I spent a month there in 2006, and loved it, and look forward to having the ability to communicate on some simple level next time I go there. Thanks again for your inspiring story and being a great member of the Duolingo Community !

March 29, 2016


When was the first time you spoke to someone in french? This can't be the first, right? You're at level 25 now. When was the first time you started to understand full spoken sentences? I tend to get very nervous and embarrassed when I speak french. I'm very impressed that you could converse with your waiter easily.

March 29, 2016


You are right, not my first time, I have someone that I chat with for a few minutes at a time every few months. For some reason, this time, everything really clicked, and it was surprising and delightful. I've been studying on Duo for almost two years, and it is sinking in :) I've gone through the tree many many times, and now do 100 XP timed practice every day in about 35 minutes. I was in the same "nervous and embarrassed" phase as you not too long ago. Keep up your hard work, it will sink in!

March 29, 2016


Fantastic. Admirable application of your studies.

May 25, 2016


WOW! Such an inspiration. Encourages me to keep going with Duolingo!

May 17, 2017


Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.

May 25, 2017


This is VERY inspiring!! Thank soooo much for sharing this!!

May 28, 2017


Congratulations!!!! Very impressive and inspiring your story!

June 22, 2017


That is very inspirational . Thank you for sharing.

June 25, 2017


Great story, thanks for sharing!

August 19, 2017


That's absolutely brilliant revdolphin! What a fantastic effort and a sensational result to boot. Good on you and thank you for posting your success story.

November 13, 2017


This is an incredible story! Very inspirational!

November 13, 2017


Thank you for sharing your story. Very inspiring. Keep up the good work. I hope you post a follow up some day.

May 17, 2018


Wow. This is very inspirational

January 4, 2019


Great job.

October 21, 2019
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