I (finally!) finished the Portuguese tree!
Back when I was starting the course, I found it useful to read about others' experiences of using it, so having (finally) got to the end I thought I'd add my own thoughts.
First of all, a massive OBRIGADA to everyone who has gone through the course before me and asked questions, and even more so to those of you who have answered them. I reckon over 95% of my questions about the exercises had already been asked and answered.
I finished with 12176 XP, just into Level 18. My 'fluency' score (for what it's worth, which I know isn't much) stands at 54%. I have just done the progress test for the first time and scored 3.84. It's taken me about 9 months to complete the course, regilding the tree as I went. A lot of it was done during my daily commute (about half an hour) so about 3-4 lessons each day, with periodic bursts of revising 10-15 lessons in a day.
I had no knowledge of Portuguese before starting the course, and virtually none of Spanish. I'd studied French at school and done a couple of classes since, and can speak that at a basic conversational level. I've also studied German but forgotten most of it, and a few years ago taught myself Italian using BBC, Pimsleur and BYKI (I've forgotten a lot of that too – one day I'd like to go down Duolingo's Italian tree and revive it).
I started the course a few weeks before going on holiday to Portugal; I wanted to learn enough to buy train and bus tickets, order coffee and be able to say Hello and generally be polite. Along with the Duolingo course I used a little BYKI, the ten lessons of Pimsleur European Portuguese and the Collins 'Easy Learning' Audio course. By the time I left I'd got to around the 'People' lesson, and though I felt Duolingo hadn't been useful for 'survival phrases' at that point, I was impressed at what the vocabulary and grammar opened up – to be able to walk past the sala de tribunal and work out what it was, or get the gist of a leftwing political billboard protesting the lack of jobs. When I got home, not wanting to leave a half-finished tree, I decided to carry on. So it's safe to say that without Duolingo it's extremely unlikely that I'd have studied Portuguese beyond basic survival phrases.
The strategies that worked for me were:
Setting a low daily goal and maintaining my streak – at first I tried setting a 'high' goal, and then a 'medium', but often I was finding myself racing the clock to midnight to finish the last couple of lessons and then losing the streak. After Duolingo brought in variable points for reviewing lessons, I set my daily goal to 1. Growing my streak motivated me to log in; tracking my progress down the tree motivated me to do more than the minimum. And at times when I was busy with other things, checking in to do just one quick lesson kept me in the habit of doing Duo and thinking Portuguese, so it was easy to pick up the pace when I had more time.
Regilding as I went along - this was essential for getting a (more) solid grasp on the grammar and vocabulary. It could be pretty demoralising to keep forgetting the same words over and over again but more and more of them went in, and towards the end of the course my responses felt much faster as I no longer had to consciously think about many of the translations.
Moving forwards every day - the problem with regilding on the go is that it was easy to get caught up in just revisiting lessons and not make progess down the tree. Eventually I decided that I'd do at least one new lesson every day (unless I taking a 'holiday' by just doing one lesson to maintain the streak), and then redo earlier lessons. I found though that doing a lot of new lessons each day left me with a regilding nightmare a few days later; sticking to threeish new lessons each day worked better.
Installing the Portuguese keyboard on my smartphone - which, more importantly, also installed Portuguese predictive text. Suddenly, typing menina on a rattling train became so much easier! The predictive text also allowed for guesses at spelling when I wasn't entirely sure of the word. (This may account for only getting 3.84 on the progress test…)
Using both the website and the app - when I started, I didn't even know there was a website, so it was a revelation that there were actually grammar notes for some skills! Even with the Portuguese predictive text, I found typing on a computer keyboard so much faster than using a phone keyboard that using the PC was invaluable for burning through a regilding session. It also enabled me to make use of some quiet moments at work, and of course the website didn't let me use that predictive keyboard 'cheat'.
Installing userscripts (http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Duolingo_Userscripts) - it took me a while to bite the bullet on this one, and I'm sorry I didn't do it sooner. The Duolingo Script Bundle makes typing accents much, much faster, the 'Tree Trimmer' helpfully only shows the skills that need practising, and 'Course Progress' put an end to manually counting the gold and grey skills and trying to work out how far through the tree I was.
Turning off the sound - the audio lessons with their bitten off words were my least favourite and really slowed down my lessons, so I very happily took Luis_Domingos' advice that European Portuguese learners should turn it off (https://www.duolingo.com/comment/10055167).
So, what next? I have two partially completed trees for languages I've studied previously (French and Esperanto) and it's tempting to use my Duo time to work on them. But having finished this course I am very aware that there is a lot more to do, and I feel this is the time to consolidate, particularly as I will be visiting Portugal again in three months which will give me the motivation to press on.
Obviously I have a lot of work still to do on properly learning the grammar and vocabulary of this Portuguese course, so I'll continue to keep the tree gold and strengthen skills (the Duolingo Skill Strength userscript helpfully identifies the weakest skills even on a gold tree), and retake the progress test every month or so.
But I really want to focus more on listening, which I've not really cracked with any language I've studied. So I'm going to try working with the Practice Portuguese Podcasts (https://www.practiceportuguese.com/) and perhaps see if I can find a Portuguese tutor to practice speaking.
And if I need a 'new Duo language' fix in the meantime, I might have a go at Irish, which as a non-romance language with completely different grammar to anything I've learned before will hopefully not interfere with the Portuguese.
Try the reverse tree.
That's what I did after I finished the Spanish tree, and what I'll probably do after I finish the Portuguese tree.
Your English is very comprehensible, so lovely. When I read BBC news or The Guardian is so much different, a lot of new words.
Vou escrever em português, assim você pode praticar. Bem, português não é uma língua fácil, e ver que existem outras pessoas querendo aprende-la é uma honra. As diferenças entre written language e spoken language dificultam bastante o aprendizado, e até mesmo nós brasileiros temos muita dificuldade em falar o português corretamente. Aliás, suas estratégias são ótimas.
Eu te desejo muita sorte! See you soon :)
Parabens! Today I ended the Portuguese course too. Took me about 3-3.5 months. I never went through any lesson again (but hope I will). Guys, I think the best way is speaking with natives but if there is no one around you with the speaking skills you can try to read comics, esp translated manga (they has a lot of fresh and spoken language and it's interesting), watch movies and the hardest way is thinking on this language...brrr, cause it's brain cracking... but it's like you boxing with the weights on your hands. If you are Russian speakers, try "Poliglot" series by Petrov. It's fun, smart and gives instruments for future studying. Muito obrigado para as pessoas fizeram esse curso!
Parabéns! O português não é uma língua fácil e às vezes uma pessoa só se apercebe disso quando começa a estudar outra língua (como foi o meu caso). Se tiveres alguma dúvida em relação ao Português Europeu, posso tentar ajudar-te, se quiseres.