Is catching up even doable?
I'm about 2/3 through and I have a strength meter that needs some attention. however, when I practice it's like a drop of water in the desert. Is there anyway to get some gold back in the skill tree?
Practise individual skills rather than using the general practice button.
The more you practice, along with the less you peek or make errors, the slower your rate of decay becomes. There are a lot of different strategies people use. I personally practice skills more often than I complete new ones.
(My Spanish tree is starting to decay; but it stayed golden for nearly two weeks while I went off and started a tree with a different language base. It only recently started to decay again because I stopped practicing more than just to get 10-20 points for my streak. The other tree I'm working on is all golden though :)
Did you use one of the placement tests to skip over some of the skills, or have you built it all up the hard way?
My Spanish is very strong, so when I started it, I placed out of forty-some skills, and I started working on the ones below that. I would use the "strengthen" option once or twice a day, but it always seemed to surface material from the lessons I had done--not the ones I placed out of.
A week later, though, those lessons I skipped over started to "go bad". Fourteen or so at once. No amount of use of the general "strengthen" option made any difference. So I started doing them individually. In a few cases, I had to strengthen a skill two or even three times to get it to go gold again. I think this is associated with how many lessons there were in each skill. A large skill introducing fifty words in ten lessons may well need three dedicated practice sessions to strengthen. (But I'm only guessing.)
For Italian, I didn't place out of anything, but I'm not doing any strengthening until I see a skill turn color. Then I'll try and see if it makes a difference.
My approach to French (which I never studied before at all) has been to do one lesson per day and do the generic strengthen three times. That makes for slow but satisfying progress. We see if that keeps skills from every going stale.
This is just my ninth day on Duolingo, so I don't have a whole lot of data yet, but my theory is that anything you place out of will lose it's gold color real fast.
Yesterday, I had 14 "weakened" skills. I strengthened all but six of them, but I didn't realize not to use the hints unless I really needed them. This morning, I was back up to nine--including one I strengthened yesterday. So today I strengthened all but 4, and this time I avoided the hints unless I really had no idea. Wasn't really much harder--I didn't earn any lingots, but that's okay. Now we'll see if that makes these stick longer. A funny thing about this task. Even though it's irritating, it has exposed a couple of blind spots in my Spanish, so it really has been worthwhile. However, I want to get back to finishing the tree; ten lessons a day of strengthening isn't something I want to do indefinitely.
Just keep working on the reviewing. I myself less than a week ago had every single one of my skills down to either 2 or 3 (two had hit 1) but now I'm making progress just by doing overall reviews and then doing specific in each skill reviews. I suggest doing each skill review by itself it goes by faster and it does bring up levels much quicker. :3
I drill almost every day using Anki, which is a flashcard program. I put vocabulary and sometimes phrases into my Portuguese deck. If you're making mistakes during lessons, I'd recommend making flashcards or even just a list on paper of the things you're having trouble with, and studying there as well as here.
It sounds like it would be counterproductive to spend a lot of practice time off the site, but it means I sometimes know when I'm having a bad brain day before I start trying to do lessons. Things seem to decay at a similar rate or slightly faster than they do on here, so it distributes the mundane mind blanks and silly mistakes between the two, which seems to help.
If mistakes are not an issue for you, that probably won't help much. Either way, I agree with the suggestion to practice one thing at a time. If nothing else, You'll be able to see your progress more easily, which will probably be more motivating. I'd start at the top and work down.
I think I've been thinking about this the wrong way. It really does seem to be doing a good job of finding my weak points and drilling me on them. It's just a little frustrating because I placed out of so much of the tree, and my weaknesses are scattered randomly. That and the fact that the general drills (as opposed to the skill-specific drills) didn't appear to know anything about skills I had placed out of.
Someone who only does three or four lessons a day might get discouraged by this, though. It might take two or three weeks to catch up. It's nice to see visible progress, meaning down the tree. But, if the truth is, I placed out of stuff that I really wasn't 100% on, it really does make sense to nail it down.
Perhaps placement should not start by showing all of those skills as gold. That may be the real mistake here. If you started with only one or two bars, then you'd definitely feel you were making progress when you drilled them and strengthened them.