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Duolingo Team Stories: meet David & Hideki

Curious about the people that bring you Duolingo? We'd like to introduce you to two amazing team members. David is a software engineer, who helps scale the learning experience to millions of language learners. Hideki, also an engineer, works on making the lessons more fun and individualized, using data to make sure your lessons are just right for you.

<h1>Meet David</h1>

Where are you from? New Jersey

What languages do you speak? English, Yiddish, and some Chinese

Why do you love language learning? I love finding differences in the way languages categorize things. Some languages go into great detail about some things (for example familial relations in Chinese) that are not treated with the same nuance in other languages. The other day, my colleague, Antonia and I were talking about the differences between the words student and learner in English versus German. In German, a student is specifically someone studying at university, while in English, it could also be a child in elementary school. In German, these would be called learners, but in order to call someone a learner in English, you have to specify what they're learning.

I also love the feeling I get when speaking with someone in a language other than English. It feels like it shouldn't be possible, yet somehow everyone can still understand each other.

What do you have on your desk? What are your tools? Notably, not a keyboard. I keep it suspended underneath my desk to help me avoid hunching my shoulders when I put my wrists on the desk. I also use a couple of reams of printer paper as my monitor stand. Cheap and effective.

Do you have a language learning tip you'd like to share with the community? Try to spend as much time thinking in the language you're learning as possible. If you have a question, ask about it in that language. Not only does the additional practice help, but the things you practice will be inherently relevant to your life.

What's your favorite part about working for Duolingo? Everyone here comes from such a different background. Who would have guessed there would be so many people from all around the globe working together in an office in Pennsylvania, but I guess something about a language company attracts people from all over. It's not uncommon to hear people speaking in other languages, and I always enjoy learning little pieces of culture from my coworkers.

What do you like to do in your free time? My favorite free-time activity at the moment is acrobatics. I'm also a pretty avid blues dancer, and I play the accordion in a klezmer band.

What's a common mistake you still make in a certain language? My biggest stumbling block right now is gender. I'm very conscious about using correct gender and case, so when I want to use a word for which I don't know the gender, I usually just wind up listing all of the possible options.

Anything else you'd like to share with the Duolingo community? You guys rock! It's hard for me to believe how many of you there are who are so dedicated. All I can say is keep on doing what you do because it's awesome and it makes you awesome.

<h1>Meet Hideki</h1>

Where are you from? Tokyo, Japan

What languages do you speak? I speak Japanese and English. I took French, Spanish and Chinese courses during undergrad but I already forgot many things. I’m refreshing my memory of French and Spanish on Duolingo.

Why do you love language learning? In addition to a language itself, I like seeing what’s behind it. It’s interesting to know how diverse languages are in terms of varieties in different linguistic phenomena such as word order, case, agreement, animacy etc. If you have the same interest as me, I’d recommend reading “Language Universals and Linguistic Typology” by Bernard Comrie.

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

Besides my laptop and display, I have some English textbooks written in Japanese. They are useful for understanding how they teach differently, what’s missing there, or how specific they are for Japanese students.

Difference between the textbooks and Duolingo? We try to find the best way to teach from data -- through the analysis of hours of user logs. This allows us to keep on improving the course quality at a fast pace. We also optimize learning for everyone using data.

Do you have a language learning tip you'd like to share with the community? I think having fun is one of the crucial keys. There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “suki koso mono no jouzu nare” (we tend to be good at those things we like). When I was twelve, I started listening to music in English, and that helped me to keep motivated in learning the language. Also, I found many people fluent in Japanese as a second language typically a big fan of manga comics. Have fun, keep on learning and improve naturally.

What's your favorite part about working for Duolingo? Awesome co-workers and awesome community of learners!

What do you like to do in your free time? I like hitting the trails on weekends. While running, I ponder random things or just mindlessly indulge myself in the act of running.

What are some common language errors your still make? Japanese people typically know at least a few thousand Kanji characters. However, since I rely too much on software-based input methods for computers, I keep on forgetting how to handwrite some of them.

Anything else you'd like to share with the Duolingo community? How can Duolingo help you have more fun learning a language? What do you like about language learning?

Did you miss previous team stories? Catch up below :)

Meet Vivian & Shawn, Meet David & Beth, Meet Bren & Pam, Meet Monica & Karin, Meet Kerley & Myra.

February 5, 2015



Cool team stories. Does Duolingo sell that owl plush? If so, I might have to get one :)


Thanks! Unfortunately, the Duo plush is not for sale. As you may know, you can still get Duolingo t-shirts (American Apparel; 100% cotton) and stickers at http://gear.duolingo.com/.


I know, I just ordered the green Duolingo shirt with the owl on it Tuesday, I can't wait for it to come in!


Will it be available in the future?


suki koso mono no jouzu nare

I learned this a while back on a Japanese language learning blog. Maybe you should watch movies and read anime instead of studying. I've seen many funny examples of people learning English singing along to campy pop tunes. Keep it simple and fun.

<h1>Welcome David & Hideki</h1>


Or maybe "instead of" needs to be "in addition to" :) Thank you for the warm welcome!

  • 1688

Suddenly I feel so much better about my ineptitude with kanji.


Like etymology in English, learning by Radical/部首 may help!


Welcome to the team, gentlemen!

¡Bienvenido al equipo, caballeros!

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It's nice to see these are back! Good to 'meet' you David & Hideki :-).

And I love that running pic!


It's from the Columbus marathon in Ohio. Nice to meet you!


nice to meet you david and hideki


Hi, nice to meet you!


Thanks for posting this myra, it was good reading about you two David and Hideki! :)

So there is someone on the Duolingo team that could be making an ENG to JP course!!! :P


Right, I'll make sure to include ポケモンゲットだぜ :)


Wow. That is a really good post. Welcome guys!


Thanks for welcoming us!


So wonderful to meet you both!! (:


Nice to meet you too!


I want a Duo owl plushy...


Currently, you can get this plushy only in a special event like this.


Yiddish iz a sheyn loshn :D How did you come about speaking it? Home language? I presume it has personal connexion to you since you play klezmer as well.


I only started learning a few years ago. My parents don't speak it, but my grandfather did.


This was such a fun post to read, but I'm so distracted by my sudden acquisitive desire for that plushy Duo on Hideki's desk. I'm not so secretly 12... and Duo is so cute!


It's really Impressive.

Thank you all for what you are doing


Merci beaucoup!


Thanks to you we have fun with our courses :)


"It feels like it shouldn't be possible, yet somehow everyone can still understand each other."



Thanks guys for helping creating this big opportunity for everyone!


I play the accordion as well, this is so awesome =) Hello to you two! =)


Hi! My father used to be a music teacher and he also played the accordion at home when I was a kid :)


Nice to meet you David and Hideki. : ) .
Thanks David for such appreciation for us. I really feel happy.


Hi Hideki,
What do you do in your leisure time? Do you read Manga or Light Novels ? Or anything else?

I am learning Japanese and trying to memorize Kanjis. But there are lot of them. I forget them and try to re-memorize them a lot of time.In beginning I used to think why there are so many Kanjis but I now I have started to like them. Anyway, There's still a lot: mada mada dane .


Other than running, I play tennis. I used to do bouldering or play the guitar as well.

Some kanji are like emoji, and knowing the original shape should help you to memorize them.

(source: this website)


I'm looking forward to the Japanese for English Speakers course. I'm guessing it'll be a while before the reverse course gets out of beta.


Great to see the people behind the hard work. Thank you for a great tool. I am really loving your work.

I started using Duolingo about a month ago and I cannot stop using it. I am sticking to learning one language for now. But I will definitely try another once I am happy with my progress.

This is the first time I am attempting to learn another language and I am loving the way you put the lesson's together. Really great example of how to keep the learner engaged without being present. It is always such a tough thing to measure how much someone has actually learnt but I think you guys got it spot on. The application constantly allows me to check my understanding. I love the discussion forums as well as the achievement levels.

Really great job. Thank you again for all your effort.


Hi, How long does it take to get test results?

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