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Skill decay / why it could be better not to keep skills gold

A lot of people have been complaining recently that skill strength decreases too fast, that it's impossible to keep skills gold, and therefore impossible to make progress in the course. But gold status is not an ultimate or strictly necessary goal. Some information here from duolingo indicates that it's sufficient when the skill strength is above 50%.

This article for example, which provides an in-depth description of duolingos repetition algorithm, says:

As soon as you finish a skill, its strength meter is usually at full bars (with a gold icon). Once the meter slips to half-full, though, you know it's time to practice.

So, this indicates that you don't necessarily need to practice immediately after the skill loses gold status. In fact, other research indicates that fewer practice sessions with longer intervals between them might even be better for learning than frequent practice (the "lag effect"). So, you might even improve your retention if you don't aim for gold status first.

All this might lead to a two stage approach: the first stage is to keep the skill strength at half or more (e.g. 4/5 on the web and 3/4 on the app). This is a reasonable and ambitious goal in itself! Only if this status can be maintained easily, go for full gold!

Here are the related sources:

  1. Why don't my skills stay golden?
  2. How we learn how you learn
  3. Lag effect
June 8, 2017



This might be a radical idea but instead of having two levels where practice isn't necessary, maybe the staff could change the algorithm so that the skill strength doesn't drop to 4/5 until it needs practicing.


Very well put. I think it kept me from progressing further in French while I struggled to keep even just fifteen skills or so golden at a time, and I learned much faster when I stopped worrying about it.


I agree, sometimes I just go over the old ones I am reasonably familiar with to keep my brain ticking, and not having to think too hard, others I dive into the more recent more taxing stuff, to keep me Interested and learning. keeping each gold was as you say keeping me stuck on early and easy levels, no progress to speak of and I got bored and felt like giving up. amf


Did you 'learn' faster or did you 'progress through the tree' faster? Not necessarily the same thing.


Excellent distinction . . . I was not at all clear on that. You're learning no new words when you continually repeat the same exercises, so I learned new subject matter as I continued down the tree. By virtue of making longer and longer sentences, I also reviewed old material as I went along, keeping me fresh on the first lessons and adding on with the later lessons.


I'm not sure that's quite true, I think there have been some nodes of the tree that have presented 'new' words to me after I've reviewed them multiple times.


The only reason I keep certain skills golden is to re-learn them over and over so I can pound them into my head for future use. Some lessons I have completed are so lost in my memory banks that I have forgotten pretty much all of them. I would second this motion by agreeing with Portofan about not trying to keep your tree golden unless you are working extremely hard to obtain bilingual status.


I think it makes a difference whether one is going through a tree for the first time or whether one has a completed tree that is being reviewed. For the latter, keeping the nodes of a tree gold might be more meaningful.


There's a "Strenghten skills" button that was pretty useful: it took you to practicing skills that needed revising.

Now, the gold decay changed and instead of practicing stuff that really needs it I have to practice stuff I've already re-gilded yesterday or the day before that.

For example, I have several skills I've learned 2 weeks ago that are now at 1/5. I also have several skills I've been "practicing" for the past two weeks - some of them are 4/5, some are 5/5 but not golden. Guess which one would the "practice" mode make me run through again? I'll make them gold again, but that would only last until tomorrow.

I could keep track of stuff that needs strenghtening manually, but at that point I'd be reinventing the "practice" functionality of the site.

If an update makes users look for manual workarounds to get the same functionality they previously had then I say that the update breaks said functionality.

Given that main point of Duolingo for me was in it keeping track of stuff I've learned to present me with stuff I need to revise when the time comes to do it most efficiently, it's really sad that the update had broken this.

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