Introducing KatyCatz, Duolingo's newest CM!
We're super excited to welcome KatyCatz as Duolingo's Senior Community Manager :)
Let's start things off with a little intro Q&A. Katy welcomes your questions too!
What's your Duolingo Username?
KatyCatz <-- Yep, total cat lady here.
Where are you from/where do you live?
I'm originally from the San Francisco Bay Area but have been living in Seattle for 12 years. I have also lived in Boston, Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, and Pachuca, HGO.
What are your interests?
Outside of language learning I'm a big fan of reading non-fiction, traveling internationally, and drinking sherry and scotch. Little known fact: I have visited scotch, rum, cachaça, mezcal, tequila, vodka, gin, sherry, cognac and wine distilleries and wineries in more than a dozen countries since 2012.
What languages do you know?
I speak Spanish by way of living and studying in Mexico as a teen but am currently interested in learning more Brazilian Portuguese.
Why do you love language learning?
I am always looking to meet and make new friends. Traveling and studying throughout Mexico as a teenager shaped me as I became an adult. Speaking a second language changed my life and even my career path. I have witnessed firsthand how language learning can open doors to opportunities and change people's lives for the better. The bonus is that knowing more than one language allows you to travel easier, make more friends, and help others, too! It's been such a blessing to know a second language and I'm grateful for all the friends and opportunities it has brought me.
What's your favorite part about working for Duolingo?
Working with insanely talented and creative people who want to bring free education to the world. There's something so inspiring about working for a company whose mission is to offer the opportunity to change people's lives - for free!
What do you have on your desk? What are your tools?
I'm a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique and frequently revisit The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Got a language learning tip to share with the community?
Vowels! If you're learning a Latin-based language or even Japanese, reading and pronouncing vowels is much simpler than doing so in English. AEIO and U only have one pronunciation each, so long as you're omitting words with accent marks. So if you master how to pronounce AEIO and U, you can read in your learning language like a pro! Even long words like Parangaricutirimicuaro will be easy to read and speak.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I'm not at work I'm enjoying playtime with my 5-month-old twin daughters Ava and Frankie. We play music and shake rattles, we go on long evening walks, and we are just starting to explore solid foods together. When the girls get older I look forward to introducing them to alpine skiing, kayaking, and hiking.
Tell us about a common mistake you still make in a certain language.
Learning Portuguese after learning Spanish has proven tricky for me. Some words are extremely similar while others are not at all. Some conjunctions are the same and some words in Portuguese mean something else entirely in Spanish. It's just a reminder that practice makes perfect and using Duolingo to study and brush up frequently is important.
Of course! Thanks to the addition of new language courses and expanded language trees, there are more and more people visiting Duolingo every day. And with that comes more visits to the forums, more people wanting to join the the Global Ambassador program, etc. So I'm here to assist Duolingo's Community team in managing and supporting people who use Duolingo in various capacities. I'll be a presence here in the forums and I'll help manage the Educator Network. I'm basically a conduit and a resource for users of Duolingo.
I'm glad you're interested in Brazilian Portuguese – good course here. But spare a thought for the people who want to learn Portuguese Portuguese! We need a couple of units in the Portuguese course that cover European grammar and vocabulary. These would be something I could spend my lingots/gems on – I've bought the only two add-ons in the shop already!
Thank you! This is great feedback and I'll make sure to send it up the chain. As a small team and small company we have a long long list of to-dos. Adding more courses and of course more languages is always a goal of ours. Hoping we can make this happen sooner than later!
Hello KatyCatz :-)
A few days ago, a new tree was released (to some users, including me) in French. There are several discussions; for example this one https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/29027127
and this one: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/29010358
The question that worries me is this (discussed in the first thread I linked to): Was this new tree created by staff? Were the volunteer contributors involved in the process?
The sentiment that I get from the discussion is that the volunteers were left out, and this would not feel right to me because they have created all the language-related contributions to Duolingo so far.
Would it be possible for you to give a clarification of the matter?
I'm sorry that I have to post this in this thread, but I couldn't work out any other possibility of contacting you. Many thanks! :-) Heike
Hello! I apologize for my delayed response as I have been in meetings throughout the day.
So clarify, the new French tree still includes all the content from the previous tree. The change is that our language experts have added additional content to the beginning of the tree in order to provide better coverage of A1 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) content. Our plan is to continue to iterate on the course to improve its effectiveness. We do this incrementally by starting with the latest version of the course and continuously adding new material to improve our vocabulary and grammar coverage an help learners reach a high level of fluency based on our test results and a rigorous scientific framework. Volunteers who helped create course content have been and will still be involved in improving the courses. In fact, much of their content will also still be used in the tree. As with all Duolingo courses, we are constantly testing and improving our content as we grow. Please rest assured knowing that our main objective is (and always will be) to teach people languages with the best possible content. This sometimes means we have to iterate on contributors' work by adding insights from our own language learning experts. It's collaborative. And while we have gotten (much needed and much appreciated) help from our volunteers, we do also rely on our own staff and their expertise as well. We couldn't do it without everyone involved and while we made the mistake of not announcing these course changes, we are grateful to everyone who has played part in this effort to improve Duolingo and the French course by offering a deeper and richer learning experience.
Hello Katy :-) Thank you very, very much. My more wordy reply is here: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/29010358$from_email%3Dcomment&comment_id%3D29042784
My favorite scotches all come from Islay, too. (Gotta love that peat!) But if I could be choosy I'd select Airigh Nam Beist from Ardbeg. It's my favorite release of theirs and is sadly no longer available. But I have a bottle at home! Along with about 250 other bottles of Scotch.
Oh, a fellow peat lover! Slainte! Another Islay sm I like is Ardbeg 10 and Islay single malts are generally my favorites. Maybe some day I have a whisky cabinet full of all kinds of tasty single malts. From Highland and Japan as well.
E você está aprendendo português brasileiro também, muito legal! Boa sorte!
Ever been to the Whisky Fringe in Scotland? We went once many years ago: 10 pounds for a snifter you get to keep and tastes of any whisky from nearly every distillery in Scotland--all in a gorgeous defunct church with pre-Raphaelite murals on the walls (by a largely unknown woman painter!).
The incredible venue: http://www.mansfieldtraquair.co.uk/history/
The price may have gone up, but if you love whisky, Edinburgh in August is the place to be!
certain rules with whisky enjoy http://jackelliot.over-blog.com/2017/05/whisky.html
How I got here: I'm a lifelong fan of language, began learning Spanish as a child, traveled to and lived in Mexico off/on for many years. (30/31 states, to be exact!) My mother is an ESL teacher and I found Duolingo a few years ago when working for the second time at a Brazilian-owned company and wanted to learn more Portuguese. Learning language has always been a hobby among all my family members so knowing about Duolingo and their mission to bring free language learning to the world was one that I aligned with well. Knowing two languages has changed my life so I wanted to be a part of a company that changes lives for that same reason. Fun facts: My twin sister is fluent in French. I am a Spanish speaker. My father also speaks Spanish, plus some Russian and Japanese. My mother is always practicing her Spanish but struggles to really become fluent and so she diligently uses Duolingo to improve. My brother only speaks "sports".
Why was I chosen: I wish I knew the exact reasons. In job interviews no one ever tells you why you did or didn't get the job. I can only surmise that I was either the best (or only?) candidate. I'd like to think the former! I have 10 years of experience managing online communities and so I hope that combined with my interest in language learning, it was enough to sway the interviewers in my direction. But really, who knows? I just applied, interviewed, and was asked if I wanted the job and said, "Duh. Heck yeah!". So here I am. :) Sorry it's not a juicier answer, I'm sure HR knows more about my hire than I do. I just applied and the rest is herstory.
Edit: I received a few dislikes. For what? For asking why you would say 'herstory'? I didn't say anything negative about women. I solely responded with a touch of surprise, because I am a lover of words, and behind every word there is a meaning; thus, when you used the word, "herstory" instead of the correct "history", I immediately noticed the meaning (the advocacy of feminism). Now, the debate upon feminism is such an old and on-going one, that to add my pinch of salt to the conversation would be redundant. But I would love for the world to know how fair the playing fields are for women in America alone. Really. Feminism worked (before the 1980's, when it was actually NEEDED), but now it seems like pure boredom.
The word has been around since the 1970s.
Wikipedia: Herstory is history written from a feminist perspective, emphasizing the role of women, or told from a woman's point of view. The principal aim of herstory is to bring women out of obscurity from the historical record.
Among the earliest works of herstory are the books of Ruth and Esther in the Bible, The Trojan Women, by Euripides, and the Buddhist Therigatha (Verses of the Bikkhunis, the women's Sangha).
We don't have courses in Biblical Hebrew, Classical Greek, Pali, or Sanskrit, but modern Hebrew, Greek, and Hindi will do to get started. Actually speaking a modern language makes it much easier to get a firm grasp of the ancient versions.
Thanks much! As with most CM jobs, I exist as a sort of bridge between Duolingo and the community of users that Duolingo has. I'm around to engage with folks on the forum, answer questions, and really just be a voice and advocate for the community to HQ; I can collect feedback and raise concerns that you may have with new features, new products, etc. I am also around to assist with anything relating to the Global Ambassador network, and beyond.
I have enjoyed Star Trek but cannot claim to be a big fan. If I were to attend a Star Trek trivia night, for example, I would let the team down. But I don't dislike Star Trek; I just have more interest in non-fiction than sci-fi or fantasy. Much to my husband's dismay.
In school we are reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. https://www.amazon.com/Narrative-Life-Frederick-Douglass/dp/0486284999 ^ Link to the book
Thank you. I enjoyed Boston very much despite not having much experience with such cold winter weather in the past. My mother is from Boston so it was nice to spend time there and learn more about where she grew up. I still have family there but haven't been to visit in about 3-4 years.
This is a great question, Janie. We don't currently have a way for users to socially connect with other users who are on a specific level but I like the idea that it could be something people would want to do. Perhaps one way to look for people on/near level 24 Spanish would be by posting a Discussion topic about it in the Spanish forums. Are you using the Spanish forums at all? Here's a link to connect you. It's where conversations and discussions take place among felling Spanish learners and speakers. https://forum.duolingo.com/topic/2/hot
Latin would be so so so amazing! Similar to questions raised about other languages/courses here in this thread, I don't (yet) have a specific answer to that question. Duolingo's goal would most certainly be to have as many language courses as possible for people to learn. But we have to make calculated moves that don't stretch our resources too thin. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to how we expand and when. So hang tight! I know lots of people want Latin and I hope to see it on Duolingo one day, too.
I'm originally Spanish and I'm studying Chinese since I just L-O-V-E the culture there.The language and history is awesome too. I've been recently motivated to learn it since my mom now starts watching Chinese dramas instead of Spanish telenovelas. How will you be helping the duolingo community? Oh my,where are my manners?!Welcome KatyCatz! Bienvenida! Huanying! ☺☺☺
Thanks for the welcome! The answer to your question about how I can help is rather a long one, in truth. Ultimately I'm here to facilitate a safe learning environment, to manage fun social engagements, and to generally help keep our forums a clean and fun place for people to "hang out" while they're learning (a) new language(s).
First off, there are other places to post this. This isn't a good location.
Secondly, I would recommend against joining a stranger's classroom, as it gives the "teacher" access to personal information. In some cases, they can even prevent you from certain parts of the course!
Hello and welcome! I am Alex, nice to meet you.
I am one of the long-standing Duolingo users, who has become alienated over the past few years. I used to actively promote Duolingo, I even made some YouTube videos about it...but I have mostly stopped using the site because I feel like it has no longer been useful to me after some of the major changes. For years I felt super grateful to Duolingo and wanted to give back to them in the form of donation, and was frustrated I was unable to do so. As soon as I was able to join Duolingo plus, I did...but that happened at a time when there were changes being made to the site that I really disliked. I subscribed for two months and then cancelled my subscription, feeling angry and betrayed. I have been mostly unhappy with the direction the management has been taking Duolingo in over the past two years, and from my perspective, the site is effectively broken for me because it no longer is useful for language learning the way it had been when I started using it.
I am always interested in sharing my perspectives, experiences, and thoughts with anyone who is interested in listening. I think it would be possible to address some of my concerns. Whether or not management is interested in doing so, however, is another question. But I'm willing to share my perspectives if someone wants to listen.
The lack of communication with the userbase has been one of my largest points of frustration, although I also have deep concerns with the product / system itself, and I think major changes would need to happen for me to come back as a user and advocate for Duolingo.
Hopefully you can help address what I see as one of the weakest links or largest deficiencies in the whole Duolingo system, the lack of communication between the paid staff or employees who run the company, and the users. I think if this communication could be improved, it might lead towards some of the deep deficiencies in Duolingo being addressed in the long-run.
And good luck with Portuguese. I saw great results with Duolingo's portuguese course, using it as my main resource when learning the language from scratch a few years ago. I found it yielded real-world results as measured by my ability to understand native speakers, understand video online, and converse in person! I don't know if the site or app is still as useful as it was to me back then...I no longer feel like it's helping me much in any languages, so I would be doubtful of its potential to actually work for you the way it did for me back then. But I hope you're able to see some progress with it anyway.
I was wondering what alienated you? I was very, very disappointed that immersion was dropped. It really was the only feature of duolingo that went beyond a B1 or B2 level. Probably half of my duolingo friends quit after that. They have gone to, and even created, alternative translation sites. But the sites are not the same. I hope some day duolingo will find a way to bring immersion back.
Another feature I miss is the activity stream. It was suddenly removed about a year ago. Luis stated that it had been slowing down the system. He promised that they would invent some sort of replacement, but so far there has been nothing. I found it very useful in communicating with my students and a couple dozen of duolingo friends.
I was also very frustrated when I lost my nearly 1,000-day streak in part due to a glitch, and despite writing desperate notes, emails and forum discussions, I never heard from any staff member. And in those days you could even buy a streak repair on IOS! I'm so OCD that I probably would have paid $40 to get it back. Or better, 5,000 lingots. ;)
I have only been on Duolingo for three or four months, but I have heard about this 'Immersion' from many speakers. Right now Duolingo is indeed up until B1, with possibly some B2 grammar, but after that you have to move to other media. I did, however, not see this as a bad thing. I currently have a B2 level in French and am aiming to reach C1. But once you have this level you can read French novels and watch French films, which is even more fun than learning via Duolingo. I mean, films for studying!! So now that I learn French by other media, I moved to my second language on Duolingo: Swedish.
I see that I get an English next to my name, but that was only because I simutaneously did the French -> English and English -> French courses.
You may not be able to reach that level with Duolingo alone, but I've found that supplementing it with a lot of practice can still get you there. Of course, there is no substitute for practicing with a live person, but consuming media is a very effective way to get to the level you seek on reading and listening comprehension.
Netflix is actually a great resource. You can watch many shows with closed captioning in the target language (i.e. Spanish with Spanish closed captioning for the hearing impaired). Yes, thee are times when the oral dialog doesn't match the closed captioning, but those are relatively few. Chinese language shows also have a lot of subtitles in the original language because of mutually unintelligible dialects and the sometime use of Mandarin and Cantonese speaking actors in the same program.
If you use netflix and rewind to the place you didn't understand, then put on the English subtitles, you learn a lot of interesting slang that you wouldn't otherwise find in any course. Doing this is getting me to the level you're seeking, and I regularly read the online papers in Spanish, French, and Catalan. I also regularly do Netflix with these languages (although there is far too little available in Catalan, there are more resources online, and both Merli and Benvinguts a la Familia are totally worth it). I do it in Mandarin occasionally too (be sure to check out the Disguiser if you like spy shows).
Best of luck in your studies!
Alex, thank you for your candid response. It's both great to hear and sad to hear. Great because I want this feedback and I want to change your experience. Sad because you've been unhappy and have scaled back your level of participation in the community that you once loved so much. Let's fix that! I'm going to be visible here in the forums for you (or anyone) to reach out to me.
Welcome onboard. I hope that as part of your job you go through the different on-going discussions on new languages and give feedback. There used to be a list of links to requests for new languages to go into the incubator, but I can't seem to find it now. One such request for Basque can be found at: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/7674974/Let-s-make-Basque-happen. For over 3 years Crush and many others have been trying to get Basque into the incubator, and, despite meeting all the conditions, a draft course and an on-going letter writing campaign that has attracted the attention of a large number of fluent English/Spanish - Basque speakers, we have gotten almost nothing in response, which is quite frustrating to people. There have been discussions of allowing groups/governments to contribute funds toward the development of new courses, but nothing has been heard from Duolingo on this idea. Anyway, best of luck on your new position and I hope there will be more communication from Duolingo in the future. Regards RGB
I believe the number of requests for various courses and languages come in at such a high volume that it has not become possible to respond to them all. Which is a good problem to have, I suppose? It's hard to say 'no' so often because it's not for a lack of wanting to offer new languages. The long and the short of it was touched on above, however. Duolingo is extremely thoughtful and methodical about how/when to add new languages and while the plan is to have every language possible available to language learners, we have to go about that carefully. It's about quality of lessons over quantity at the moment. Please trust the process. I hope to see Basque on our language list one day as well, though! Also, fun fact... Did you know the largest Basque population outside of Spain is in Boise, Idaho? I was there on a work trip years ago and discovered that there are some 11,000 expats that have emigrated over the last many decades. There's even an entire neighborhood dedicated to Basque culture, businesses, food, etc.
Hi KatyCatz Thank you for your reply. One problem we have is that nobody seems to know what the process for adding a new language really is. What was put out does not seem to match reality. For a new language to be approved seems to depend on either the personal interest of someone on your team (which explains the two fictional languages) or the number of comments you get from existing members, which of course does not include all the people who do not use Duolingo because it does not offer languages they are interested in. I am glad you know about the Basque population in Boise. The university there also offers a minor in Basque as does several others around the world. Due to the large migration of Basque people in tthe 19th & 20th century, there are also a large number of communities in South America and letters from the heads of several Basque cultural groups have sent Mrs Awodey messages in support of a Basque course. Anyway I am glad we have someone who at least responds and hope that whatever system you have for approving new languages will eventually get around to approving Basque. regards rgb
I know. It's extremely frustrating not to hear back. And for that, I'm sorry. We can do better and I will personally try to be as transparent as I can be whenever possible. There are some company policies and procedures I cannot share and I hope you can understand that. Currently we are (fortunate to be) bombarded with thousands upon thousands of requests for new courses. More than we can possibly manage in a thoughtful way, in fact. And rather than respond to each of these emails and comments personally, we have a team focused on developing and building and supporting new courses. With +300 million users we rely on user data, the number of requests, and various other factors to determine what our next steps are when adding courses. This is not a team I work on personally so I don't want to speak out of turn or make assumptions, but I trust the process and know it's slow-going as we're currently still a rather small company with limited resources. If we could do it all and do it well, we would. But we can only go so fast while still maintaining the quality we demand of each course.
Hi KayCatz Thanks for your answer and please don't let negative comments get you down. It is great to get responses, even if it isn't what I want to hear. Hopefully Duolingo will allow organizations to donate money and resources toward developing new courses so you can offer more languages. Best wishes rgb
Great question! When I was a child we always had 1-2 cats in our home at any given time. In order we've had: Nicky, Chloe, Chessie, Paisley, Phantom, Phoebe, Riley, Sofi, Burlington, and then Weasley. As an adult post-college, I moved out of state and I got Moxie. She's 11 now as of June 29. She's a Pixie Bob from a rescue situation. I have also had an amazing cat named Peaty. Sadly, Peaty passed away in 2015 at 6 mos old due to complications from a botched neuter. We have decided it's best to give Moxie the solo-cat life as she did not completely seem to enjoy sharing a home with a second cat.
Everyone in my family is a cat person. By brother has a cat named S'mores and my twin sister has two cats: Penny and Persey.
I have been to Japan 3 times, so far! I absolutely LOVE Japan, am obsessed with the food, and can't wait to take my kids there. We've decided it will be our first trip abroad with them when they're a bit older. I have some distant cousins who are Japanese, actually.
Que buena pregunta! Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde que leí un libro en Español pero leí el Hobbit y lo disfruté mucho. ¿Ves películas en español? Pienso que es una excelente manera de aprender el idioma también. Para mi, las de Pixar o Disney fueron las que me gustaron más. Mi película favorita que he visto en inglés y también español es Shrek. Para mí, es mucho más divertido en Español.
Hello Katy, welcome to DL. While I am happy you are here, I have to agree with OGIK1, who said we are here to learn a language. Socializing is not high on my list. I need answers with grammar for instance, and people who speak a language fluently are not necessarily able to teach it. I speak fluently German, English and French but only learned how to teach, and answer language-related questions after a couple of university degrees. So my question is simply this: why did you write " tengo solo una gata" instead of using the adverb "solamente", or, if it was meant to mean, I have merely one cat, "tengo solo..." (with and accent mark), or even "tengo una sola (with accent) gata, I have an only cat... Those are the questions I would like to have answered, all the social talk is fine but not for me. Tettah
I find it ironic that you point out Katy's omission of the accent mark when you didn't or couldn't use it yourself. They are super easy to install on a Mac, and I'm sure Windows has also developed simple solutions. At any rate, she has explained that her role is to act as a liaison between the DL staff and community of users. As far as answering grammar questions, many moderators and advanced learners add their contributions to the discussions regarding individual sentences. The best points have links to online grammar sites. You might supplement your studies by regularly reading and working on one of those (for example, studyspanish.com). There are many. Do some research.
Hi Tettah -- you said, "So my question is simply this: why did you write " tengo solo una gata" instead of using the adverb "solamente", or, if it was meant to mean, I have merely one cat, "tengo solo..." (with and accent mark)." This is implying that she omitted the accent mark. You are correct, sólo is the same as solamente, i.e. "only," whereas "solo" means "alone." Wish I had more resources for you. SpanishDict.com is an excellent online dictionary with some grammar (and complete verb conjugations), and WordReference.com is similar with the bonus of having a searchable community forum. Best of luck in your studies.
Social talk will happen here in the forums whether you want to participate or not. The best way to avoid social conversations is by simply not reading or responding to threads that don't interest you.
I'm not here in the forums to teach language; that's what our app does. I'm here to facilitate in making connections between our users by hosting them and welcoming them to the forums so that their experience meeting other users is safe and fun.
I chose to type sólo instead of solamente because the words are interchangeable. The accent was omitted in my response simply because I forgot to add it. Even as someone who knows a second language I often make mistakes, too.
Hello Katy - I did not mean to offend, nor did I look to find fault. I am just learning Spanish and wanted an answer.
So you are not teaching, which is fine, but where can I find quick and reliable answers to my grammar question, without having to read twenty other "opinions" with no
assurance that they are correct??? That is all I want to find out. Thank you, T.
Sorry but I don't know where to post this, I've tried. How do you start learning a second (3rd) language? I've always been frightened of losing my main language info. How do you use red lingots and what are they for? How do you find out how many XPs you use in a day or accumulate? I use an iPad.