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Does "lesson practice" function has to be close to useless?

I've been learning Spanish for 2 months now, completed 1/3 of the tree, and every time I use "lesson practice" I get mostly, or only, sentences from first 2-3 skills. I've translated "You drink water" so many times, while something a little more complicated like "We make food every Sunday." I can practice only going directly to the skill it was in.

So there's no way for me to practice the whole material at once. Going skill by skill and lesson by lesson is not really the optimal option.

Is that supposed to look like that? Maybe something could be fixed?

Love you anyway, Duo.

November 2, 2013



I have also competed about 1/3 of the Spanish tree by now and feel exactly the same about lesson practice.

What I did last weekend was practice until every word in my Vocabulary (400+ at that time) got marked as practiced no earlier than "today". They all got full strength, too. Since then I go to my Vocabulary regularly and make sure there are no words practiced too long ago. When all the words have full strength, Duolingo usually gives you less recently seen words first. Thus I make a "cycle" of all my words repeated regularly. This is not a perfect way and it requires much more sessions than just reviewing really weak words, but that's the best I can think of for myself in the current system to make sure I don't leave something out by accident.


I really hope this has been recognized as an actual problem though. I too get to see the same basic sentences over and over while later material is suspiciously underrepresented. Tricking the system into working can't be the end of it, or so I hope.


How did you do that? did you just do lesson practice and timed practice 50+ times?


If you click the "Vocabulary" tab at the top of the page, you get a list of all your vocabulary learned so far. You can click on the "last seen" column tab to sort the list so that least seen words are at the top. Then click on the word to practice just that word - usually 2 or 3 sentences with that word. It's a quick way to get 2-3 points too!


Yeah that was the only other option that I could think about, but that certainly doesn't work for me -- too many words!! Clicking each one would be a real pain. But maybe I just try to do it with five or so words every day and see where I'm getting


Well, not 50+ times, but I earned more than 400 skill ponts that day, so I believe it was 20+ times anyway. Duo was rather consistent and gave me each time the words that were less recently practiced - according to Vocabulary, of course.

At that time, I felt I had forgotten quite a lot, so I didn't mind reviewing all my words.

I find that Lesson practice is only helpful when done really many times to cover a lot of words. Otherwise, it gives you what it thinks weakest words and what is in fact not exactly so.


I've just finished a rather big timed lesson practice: 318 points (which equals to 16-18 sessions as I usually got 18-20 points). I counted the words that are marked as practiced today, there are 230.


wow you are definitely way better at timed practice than I am!


I type rather fast - about 100wpm in English - and I usually do some untimed practice beforehand :-) If I fail to beat the clock, this is a sign I'm not ready to speed up yet.


Nice tips Olimo!


I completely agree, it's frustrating useless. I'm tired of translating the same words/sentences again and again, after a certain point they are scarred deep into your memory.

What makes it worse is often they aren't even sentences you're likely to use in your everyday life. "Elle a une botte rouge" / She has a red boot. Cool story bro, what else is new with you?


Agree. they have to give us the option to jump ahead. I keep looping back on the same words I ALREADY KNOW. But get dinged because of typos or wrong verb forms even if I have the right word... I need to build more vocabulary to keep me interested.


I have grown so tired of doing the same simple exercise everyday with "Strengthen Skills". How do I start on a new lesson or move up the difficulty level?


Well, today I actually realized something about vocabulary practice, if you practice enough, it eventually tells you that all your words are 4 bars, you should not practice anymore and suggests that you learn more lessons. From that I surmise that perhaps that's how it should always be, perhaps the algorithm works best if you practice until you see a picture like this:


Then it is likely to show you new words every time.


Hmmm... in looking at your vocab, it looks like there's a bug that's added duplicate vocab words for you from the early skills. So, Duo doesn't think you've seen these words very often. Very sorry about this!!!

I'm looking into this and will try to get a fix in later this week (I'm on vacation right now).

Also: "Lesson practice" (or "Strengthen Skills" in the apps) picks your weakest individual words according to our spaced repetition algorithms, but may not pick words from your weakest skills per se.


This may be the cause of an issue I noticed yesterday in my vocab list. Words that I had just practiced were showing up as ´not seen in X weeks'. I thought it was odd, but thought it was just a temporary glitch and moved on.
If you get the time, you may want to check out my vocab list to see if the duplicate vocab words is a father reaching problem.
edit: one of the words I noticed not updating was araña which right now is listed as not seen in a month


Well, thank you very much. Appreciate you made some effort to help me!


Same in German. I think I know what "der" and "von" mean by now.


Agreed, I find it hilarious that a level 25 like yourself has "der" and "von" come up. :)


Thanks again for the feedback, everyone. Has this problem gotten any better?


I made another minor change to Lesson Practice today that should help with the the problem of seeing verbs (especially) from basics more often than it seems like they should.


I think it's much better today. I was having the same problem as others (in Spanish) but today I did some practice and found it to be great! There was only one question about anyone drinking milk! Thanks a bunch!


I don't know what have you done, but today I got a lot of already forgotten words instead of "The girl is eating the apple". Thank you very much


Hmm. I went to my newly decayed Italian Basics 2 skill in the app and found that it was still showing as decayed, but had changed its mind about which words were weak and in need of practice. It now thought that all my basic pronouns needed practice, don't think I agree. Have done the practice, will wait to see what materialises in 2 days time.


This change won't affect word strength or skill practice, only which words are allowed for the "global" practice of words from all skills.

In looking at your particular vocab, it looks like you did see some basic pronouns like io, •loro and lui*, but it's unlikely that Duo was trying to get you to explicitly practice them (the model predicts you can go another 8-9 months before needing to practice any of these again).

If you saw these in a Basics 2 skill practice, you probably saw these pronouns because we teach them in that skill, and have many sentences to teach them in addition to the other words in that skill. The vocab for the Basics skills is very limited... we try not to give you words from deeper in the course when doing skill practice.


In the app, when a skill decays, when you tap on it you get taken to a "weakest words" screen. Since Basics 2 was still showing as decayed, I did this to see if I would get the usual leggo/scrive/ donna/leggono stuff and found I was instead shown pronouns as my weakest words, and those were what I was made to practice to bring the skill back to gold. So it seems to me that I was being made to practice those words in particular, unless I was happy to leave the skill to decay.


I just came here today to see if anyone had mentioned the problems with this feature. I don't know what it was like before, but receiving 'the chicken' to translate at this stage of my german doesn't seem very useful - I found the practice much too easy in general.


Yes, I think it is better, more words from recent lessons, but words "beber" and "comer" are still too often, I think. Maybe that is just my impression, I know both the words really well after all this time. Thank you so much for help.


Good to hear. We are still working on this, so it should only get better. Thanks!


I would definitely say it has improved. However, in german at least I see that there are some huge words which I always have trouble which are still with 3 bars even though they have been reviewed 3 weeks ago. Words such as Zahn+bürste, Regen+schirm.

I would say as a general rule (at least for me), huge words which are not cognates will be forgotten almost immediately after one completes a lesson. Yet these words were tested long ago and they are still relatively strong.

P.S.: Since the word strenght is much better, maybe you can pick a simple item to implement from the "wishlist"(http://www.duolingo.com/comment/988674).


Not for me unfortunately - I wonder if my account could be suffering from the bug you mentioned above?

  • I get Basics in all languages, Verbs Modal and Être/avoir in French, Ser/estar in Spanish, verbs conditional in Italian over and over again - eg French Verbs modal three times in the past four days, ditto (I think) Italian Verbs conditional.

  • if I look in the app screens to see which words it thinks are weak in those skills, I see overwhelmingly words that are showing in my vocabulary lists as full strength and recently practised, and for which I know this is right

  • If I use 'strengthen weakest words' I get elementary sentences over and over again, until I think I will scream if I have to translate man, woman, child, apple, water, book or newspaper, or the present tenses of be, have, eat, drink, read or write. The other day I had fourteen decayed Italian skills (mostly at the advanced end of the tree) following the changes to the algorithm and thought that if I kept at 'strengthen' weakest words for long enough they would eventually turn gold. What I actually got was overwhelmingly basics style sentences and vocabulary, and after twelve full untimed exercises ie 200+ sentences, only one of the skills showed as refreshed.

I do very much like the much improved practice of the more recently learned lessons - I am seeing this in Spanish. But I remain convinced that there is something very wrong, perhaps only with my account and a few others given that relatively few are commenting. And it really is terribly demotivating, I look at the website each day with what can only be described as a sinking heart.


Are these annoyances specific to "Lesson Practice" ("Strength Skills" in the apps) — which targets your weakest words across the board — or are things more reasonable when doing "Skill Practice" from the skill page — which only targets words from that skill?


No, it isn't just about the lesson practice function. The pattern of skill decay in my trees is just so peculiar since the last algorithm change - partly for the better, in terms of the more intensive practice of very recently learned skills, but partly for the worse, as described in my previous post. It is as if at some level the system simply isn't registering my knowledge or practice, despite appearing to do so in the vocabulary page.

In the past I have mainly used the directly targeted skill practice to repair decayed skills. I went to the general lesson practice as a one-off to see whether I could repair them more quickly this way when the new algorithm took effect, and found that in Italian at least this was almost entirely ineffective. So I went back to skill-specific practice.

Edit: I just checked my trees and find that Italian Basics 2 has decayed for the third time in four days - I practiced it on 9th when it came up, again in 11th when it came up again (and got it all correct - I kept a note that time) and now two days later it has come up again. And these are lessons from before the first keyhole test which I used and passed when I began the Italian tree back in the spring.


Weird.. I've never had any problems with that. I completed my German tree a long time ago and I still find lesson practice quite challenging.. the same goes for French (although I've started learning it just recently, so it doesn't really count - even sentences like "she has a red boot" are pretty difficult for me at this stage:)


I actually haven't noticed this in Spanish. It usually picks 4 or 5 words I haven't seen in a while and practices those.


Maybe easy/medium/difficult options, with easy only hitting the early concepts difficult for the later ones and medium for a mixture.

-- I also got another idea: maybe have 'focuses' where you choose whether to focus on vocabulary or grammar.


The Lesson Practice and Practice Weakest Words are the same thing. Unfortunately, I find the words that duoLingo thinks I'm weak on isn't always very accurate. One thing I've done to 'improve' the accuracy of my weakest words is to sort my Vocab List by Last Seen and redo individual lessons (not sections) where I have words that I haven't seen in over three weeks.
I'm not sure exactly how the algorithm works, but I've had much better results after doing this.


So far it works good for me in the French language, it has been a lot about a red apple and a black dog but now I get other sentences. I think you have to get through the beginner sentences and then you will get to some newer stuff. It makes sence because the beginner sentences are the excersises we made the longest time ago so they need to be refreshed first.


It makes sence because the beginner sentences are the excersises we made the longest time ago so they need to be refreshed first

That's the biggest nuisance in fact. They have been also practiced more, so they should decay much slower than newly completed lessons.


Yeah I go though each lesson individually to practice as I have the same problem


This is one of the most important posts I've seen so far. The vocab practice must be more efficient in order for us to utilize our whole range of our new language skills. Thanks for posting the problem.


I would like to be able to jump ahead and start building vocabulary. Users are mostly adults here and we all learn differently and we each know how we learn best. If I am traveling to a country in a few weeks, and want to be able to speak and understand at least basically, I don't need (for now anyway) to write spell and conjugate perfectly. I live in NYC and understand people who speak English as a second language even when there grammar and verb forms are not perfect. I think if I go to a Spanish speaking country, my relatives there would appreciate how hard I am trying to learn and speak, even if I have my verb forms a little confused... I think we should have the option to unlock the basic vocabulary sections. I also do not want to translate "you drink water" 10 times when my time should be spend building up basic vocabulary. This is a fun program but I am really ready to quit at lesson one because I am not getting anywhere... I knew boys and girls and men and women before I even started. THanks


Practice is not mandatory. You can do new lessons one by one without practicing the old ones if you like it. And, if you had some previous experience, you can test out of whole skills or even groups of skills and move on faster.


I try to do new lesson without having to practice 100 times the same words or sentences. Can you show me how to do it ? ( I am in Spanish lesson, now on lesson 8)


Right now, you have new lessons in Verbs: Present 1. Go to that skill and do the lessons :-)


You can test out and skip ahead if you know it


I agree. Sorry tatou, but for me this is the most unmotivating thing about duolingo. I don't think, that I could learn everything in the tree without using Practice skill function (I could finish the tree, but not know everything). And it makes me make stupid errors, because I don't care, I don't pay attention. For example today my fifth sentence was "We are women" (the third one of the five containing the word woman), and I was thinking while typing how pointless it is to do this, so I ended up "Wir sind women"... So duo will still think that I don't know the word Frau. Later I also failed the sentence Sie sind Frauen because of the same reason. I think word strength is not the only thing which doesn't work well, every day I look at my vocabulary, sort it by last practiced, and wieviel is every day on the top part, saying I practiced it the same day, which I didn't. When I click on the word, times seen is always 1. Oh, and there is no day without strengthening the word "lesen".

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