Duolingo Team Stories: Meet Monica & Karin

Every week we share stories about our incredible Incubator volunteers in a series called, 'Incubator Stories'. Catch up on the latest stories here. We're going to continue sharing these!

We've also been asked by some of our contributors to share a little more about the Duolingo Team :) So, here we go! First up are Monica, a Duolingo Language Expert and Incubator Mentor for several teams, and Karin a Software Engineer who works on the Incubator.

<h1>Meet Monica</h1>

Duolingo Team member, Language Expert, Incubator Mentor

Where are you from? Massachusetts

What languages do you speak? Italian, Polish, English, enough Spanish to get through Don Quixote and... well, not quite enough Chinese :)

Why do you love language learning? The more the merrier! Each new language you learn teaches you something else about the ones you already spoke. Each language you fall in love with gives you more words and concepts to explain the world around you (not to mention yourself!) Speaking of love... I love language learning because it always comes with a side dish of romance.

What do you have on your desk? What are your tools? Crunchy snacks and a dry erase marker. Someone made a nice doodle on my desk, so that's here as well.

What's a language tip you can share with the rest of the community? Never give up. Someone who has just decided to pick up a second language is no different from a professional polyglot. Everybody always has more to learn.

What's your favorite part about working for Duolingo? You guys!

What do you like to do in your free time? Cook delicious things, share cheesy jokes, and take things on wheels out into the woods.

What's a common mistake you still make in a certain language? Weird... or wierd...

<h1>Meet Karin</h1>

Duolingo Team member, Software Engineer

Where are you from? I was born in Iowa, but have lived in Pennsylvania almost all my life:) My parents are from Taiwan.

What languages do you speak? English, some Spanish (I finished my tree!), and conversational Mandarin Chinese. I'm a lot better at listening to Chinese than speaking/reading/writing it.

Why do you love language learning? I think you enrich your life by sharing a bit of it with people from different walks of life. Learning a language opens up opportunities to reach out and help people you wouldn't have been able to easily before.

What do you have on your desk? What are your tools?

Stereotypical developer: soda

Stereotypical female: chocolate

Necessity: computer

Fun: I randomly have a bunch of Darth Vader heads surrounding a Lulu cupcake I got from PAX East (Lulu is a character from a video game called League of Legends, which I play a lot) in the arrangement of a classroom. Luis likes to annoy me by randomly knocking one over when I'm not looking T_T

What's a language tip you can share with the rest of the community? When you're losing motivation, remember why you're learning in the first place, and find encouragement from others - you aren't alone. The opportunity to educate yourself isn't one that everyone has (and we're working to change that!), so seize the opportunity!

What's your favorite part about working for Duolingo? I can't pick one, so I have to list a few:

  • The chance to actually change the world for the better

  • Having amazingly talented, smart, and funny co-workers (family) who love what they do

  • Working for a company that's the "good guy" for real and that doesn't take itself too seriously ;)

  • Being inspired by the volunteer efforts of our amazing Incubator contributors every day

What do you like to do in your free time? I'm a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon so I like to do campus activities, including dancing/choreographing (mainly hiphop). I also love video games and playing with my dog ;)

What's a common mistake you still make in a certain language? In Spanish, "por" vs. "para" still gets me. And don't even get me started on subjunctive/imperfect/conditional conjugations...

July 25, 2014


Sorted by top post

It's nice to know a little more about the team! I mean, it's nice seeing the Incubator stories and the great accomplishments achieved by the contributors during the development of the course (not that I don't appreciate their work, they're awesome!), but the team deserves a little more recognition. After all, they helped to make Duolingo happen! And make it more popular than booring Rosetta Stone. The best part is that it's a great motivator for users to

[...] learn, love, and speak a language.

A little unknown fact for non-contributor users: The contributors of every Duolingo course do not develop the course by themselves; they have a mentor (from the Duolingo team itself) to guide them and help them with course difficulties mostly during Phase 1. Yes, the contributors mostly develop the course, but don't the mentors deserve a little credit too? So really, the team does much more behind the scenes than you think!

Round of applause for the Duolingo team everyone! Woohoo! They really deserve it!

July 25, 2014

Great stories, Kristine!

Monica, it is great to know more about you. It is absolute pleasure to have worked with you for most of this year. I am amazed to see how many courses you mentor at the same time. You seem to be omnipresent in the many chat rooms of the incubator :)

Karin, it is great to know more about you too! Your work is very much appreciated. I do miss your round the clock presence of the incubator as in the past, but I can understand.

Duolingo, the product as well as the community, has inspired me to myself start learning multiple languages, not just one or two, simultaneously. The Dutch course has provided me with the momentum for this. Let's see how this learning spree goes :) While learning Portuguese, I now get how some of the words that have come to Marathi via Goan Portuguese. Very true what you said, Monica!

To end, Kristine, I think you have let your colleagues off the hook. You have simply let them tell their story. I was hoping for the other more funnier side of their personalities shared from your side. There is still time, I look forward to your further additions on such interesting tid-bits. :)

July 25, 2014

Jitengore those stories are for another series ;) Happy to hear you're learning more languages. Thanks for your thoughtful comments (and of course all of your contributions to the community and Incubator), as always!

July 26, 2014

WOOHOO!!! Finally this moment has arrived :P.

@Monica: thanks you for all your work in the Italian - English course here. That course is the reason I found Duolingo ^ ^. Thank you for being so kindest and nicest and friendliest and blah blah blah (The list will keep going on :P).

@Karin: Im so impressed by your work here :D

We should soon have an Duolingo stories book!!!


July 26, 2014

Thank you Kristine, for starting this great series.
Monica, the Hindi team couldn't have asked for a more wonderful and responsive mentor.
Karin, your constant help and support, especially during the first phase of the Hindi course, is something our team could never have done without.
It's nice to know a little more about both of you. Thanks for all you do.

July 26, 2014

Thanks for sharing, Monica and Karin!

@Monica: Weird or wierd...the world may never know.

@Karin: That's the first time I've ever seen that someone is better at listening than writing or speaking or a language. Especially with the different ones in Chinese, how do you do it? :) *And that story about Luis is hilarious. Well, the knocking over of Darth Vader isn't funny, just the story in general. ;)

July 25, 2014
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Haha it's not actually that impressive - it's because my parents would speak Chinese to me but I would respond in English. So I had to be good at understanding what they were saying but not necessarily forming the sentences myself or reading/writing it. I think a lot of other American-born people with immigrant parents have similar experiences:)

July 25, 2014

Ah, now I understand. I have Haitian friends, and the mother speaks to her children in Creole sometimes, but they respond in English. Same for a Spanish friend. :)

July 25, 2014

I had the exact same experience growing up. I could understand Mandarin well but my speech was like a child's because I just responded in English. My friends always knew how upset my parents and I were based on what languages were being spoken.

  • Parents in English, me in English: No big deal. Need to take the trash out.
  • Parents in Mandarin, me in English: Whoa, getting real. Broke some rule.
  • Parents in Mandarin, me in Mandarin: Get out while you can! Probably crashed the car. Into the other car.
July 25, 2014

Good to see a different duolingo stories

July 25, 2014

How about User stories. That would be interesting!

July 25, 2014

Absolutely! We've been sharing Incubator volunteer stories (they are passionate volunteers and users of Duolingo). We hope to feature more people from this global community.

July 25, 2014

It's nice to meet the staff as well though! Always nice to see these posts (both staff and users) and to get to put faces and personalities to the names!

July 25, 2014
July 26, 2014

Thanks for sharing! @Karin How do you fit in studying with language learning, I'm at university as well and I'm not sure how I will fit it all in! @Monica I totally get weird and wierd mixed up all the time too..... :)

July 25, 2014
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I actually think university is a wonderful place to learn language! It depends on your school, but oftentimes you'll meet people from all around the world at university. It's a great place to find people with which to converse in a different language, learn about different cultures and backgrounds, and pick up on hallway conversations in other languages.

That said it's certainly busy sometimes. I loved using Duolingo even before I started working here because I could learn at my own pace on my own time. Now with the apps it's easy to take advantage of small time windows like arriving early for a meeting, before lecture, etc. :)

July 25, 2014

yes, I'm going to sign up for classes next term but we'll have to see how it goes, I wish I'd done more during my undergraduate degree when I had more time! Weirdly enough I don't actually have the app - I've just been using Duo on the laptop, am definitely going to download it, perfect for passing the time in boring lectures ;) Good luck with your studies!

July 25, 2014

Though I am not very talkative in contributor chatrooms, that doesn't prevent me from knowing how much effort and passion you guys have paid in this course. Let's keep going and make it even better! Hats off to both Monica and Karin!

July 26, 2014

@Monica: you are through Don Quixote? Is it really a donkey, or a horse he is riding? ~ Egal. :P Great stories-YOU INSPIRE ME! Can't wait to see English for Chinese course graduate from Beta-we ain't giving up ;). @Karin: Your tools, i.e. soda, chocolate, and computer, are a part of my life as well. :D I might risk my waistline like you do ;) I can not 'engineer a software' like you though,, so, keep doing what you do! Thanks for sharing.

July 26, 2014

Another great stories.

It is always great to see how new courses are being developed, and congratulations for you and your teams!, I'm also very amazed since me being a native spanish speaker I could not read Don Quixote without a dictionary in my hand hehe.

I noticed also the new questions btw =)

July 26, 2014

Thank you for this story, Kristine!

It's great to know more about the Duolingo team. All of us seem to know much more about the Incubator moderators and contributors, but we seem to be a little out of touch with the Staff. I think this is an awesome opportunity for all of us who daily look into the forums and ask and answer questions to grow a little bit closer to the group of people who manage this amazing site day in and day out. I hope to see more of these stories, and once again, thank you to all the Staff!

Happy language learning, ~Hdn

July 26, 2014

Thanks for all of your hard work, both of you! I love Duolingo and I am so thrilled to be learning Dutch now that the course has been successfully put into beta. The incubator is awesome, but not as awesome as you people who work at Duo. :)

July 28, 2014

I just realized you forgot to link to Remy's story.

August 5, 2014
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