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  5. Got the golden owl in 11½ days


Got the golden owl in 11½ days

I'm not sure if this was mad or not. I checked my welcome email and it was timed at 12:17 pm on Wednesday 22nd January. As far as I remember I set to at once and found it was a lot of fun. I'm recently retired and learning Gaelic was on my retirement bucket list, and as the weather was - let's just say typical for Scotland - I just sat and did the course, like playing a computer game. I finished at about ten past midnight on 3rd February, but as I haven't been to bed yet I'm counting it as finishing on Sunday. Twelve hours short of twelve days anyway.

I didn't know how to slow down. I could have (and maybe should have) gone back and practised skills I had already completed, and I did do a little bit of this, but the lure of advancing down the tree and seeing these medallions turn gold one after the other was too strong. Really, short of getting up and doing something else there was no way to go more slowly, given that I had the time on my hands and wanted to do it. (I did go out and do other things, but when I was in the house I kept at it.)

So now what? I have a lot of words and definitions banging around in my head like bagatelle balls, sometimes connecting with each other and sometimes not. I have a sort of scaffolding of grammar that the balls are trying to arrange themselves on, but it's a bit precarious as well as incomplete. I've got two auditory concepts for quite a lot of words - the correct pronunciation as presented in the audio clips, and the phonetic pronunciations I had to use to try to remember how to spell things. I can pick out more words from BBC Alba than I could have done a fortnight ago, but no way can I understand it!

I need to go back and revise of course, and I'll probably do the whole tree again to get some concepts clearer in my mind. But as a crash course it was an interesting experience. It could be interesting to know how this differs for people who are spreading it out and just doing a little bit every day, or who are resisting the lure of the golden tree and reviewing the skills more conscientiously as they go.

I'm fairly aware that there are constructions we haven't touched on. I don't know how to say "if". Or should or ought to. We've only been exposed to simple sentences. Maybe by the time the next part of the tree is available I'll be more secure and ready to move on to things like that. But as a demonstration of what someone can be taught in less than a fortnight, it's quite impressive.

February 3, 2020



One thing I found was that the first three crowns in each topic were very very easy for me. I could pick out the right answer too quickly a lot of the time, which meant that I didn't necessarily absorb the information I was meant to absorb as well as I should have. I saw someone else commenting the same thing. It only got challenging on the fourth and fifth crowns.

So the idea of doing the basic levels on several topics and then levelling up at a later stage didn't work so well for me. I could gobble up the early levels too easily, and then when I went back I had all the harder stuff to handle all at once. Latterly I found it better to work higher up initially so that I had periods of less hard work (the lower levels of the next topic) interspersed more frequently.

I suppose different people learn in different ways and we have to take the material in our own way. But there is so much truth to learning by doing and learning by repetition. I did a very difficult university course, well before computers and the internet, and used to sit staring at books actively trying to force things into my memory. I made lists of words (technical terms) and tried to commit them to memory. It all had to be done because there were exams to be passed in June, and no pass, no career.

But then later, I was responsible for mentoring students. By this time I had absolute fluency with the material because I was using it in my daily life. I didn't have to learn things consciously, it was all just there. I had to force myself to remember how it was back in the day, how it is for students who don't have the time and the experience to be learing in a more natural way, and not get cross when they couldn't remember something I regarded as basic - they were cramming, I no longer was.

I think this may be the strength of the Duolingo method, simply making the student repeat things in slightly different ways, getting it into the long-term memory without the stress of actively cramming. I'm still at the start of the journey despite the full set of golden crowns decorating my computer screen.


11 days ... :O

I started when the course started in Nov. Roughly half way thru as I do a truckload of revision ... helps memory retention ... so they say ;)

I bought a book Scots Gaelic in 3 months for when I finish. Hopefully it will improve both my vocabulary and grammar.

Oh! Well done!!! (Smarty pants ... ;) )



I think you're right to be doing the revision. I started by intending to revise every topic before going on to the next stage, but the lure of the golden owl was too strong for me. I'll just have to do the revision from now.

That book sounds good. Does anyone who's used it have any opinions? Should I buy it?

I'm not trying to be smarty-pants, rather the contrary. I think it was probably counter-productive to bash at it so fast, but the way the course is laid out like a computer game was way too much for me and I literally couldn't stop.


If I didnt revise I just couldn't retain it. Whilst I don't even consider myself conversational I feel I have a better chance with the revision I do ... which is approx 10 lessons (ten circles) per day. I also do the same for Russian ... which is taking me much longer to learn than Scottish! But it has allowed me to manage my language learning so I did feel I picked up the Gaelic words & phrases easier than I would have with the Russian work behind me.

I also use this book Gaelic in Twelve Weeks by Roibeard O' Maolalaigh. I glance over some of the theory as it helps for DL course. I am looking forward to doing the whole book once I finished the Gaelic lessons here. I believe it also come with a CD .. I didnt get one but it also costs more. No good for a deafy ... ;).

If my 'smarty pants' comment caused offence it wasn't meant to. Nothing but tongue in cheek. I certainly agree that the course (all courses) are laid out like a game; I purposefully hold myself back until I can grasp the content more effectively. However, I am still amazed at your capacity to complete it all within 11 days. You must eat a lot of fish over there ... sgadan perhaps? (Or my favourite guga blasta!).

Stay well ...



Of course I didn't take offence! I was genuinely worried when I posted the topic that people would think I was showing off when actually I was doubting that racing through the topics was at all a good thing, and somewhat concerned at my inability to stop myself doing it.

I did 26 topics (I think they're "skills") today although I wasn't trying very hard. The revision lessons don't seem as hard as the actual learning lessons, and indeed I wonder if they're shorter. I really need them to be up at the fifth crown level to stretch me I think.

I'm also hampered by what seems to be an unfixable bug in the system that horrendous howlers are passed as typos if they're only one letter out. So I type tha or bha or cha when I mean one of the other ones and invariably I get a free pass. I can see the error but it doesn't force me to go back and do it again which means the learning is not reinforced. I just managed to forget to lenite just about every noun in the lesson where they're going on about mo this and do that, and remembering the h is obviously most of the freaking point, but because of the way the software works it passed them all with a comment about a "typo".

At the moment I'm just seeing how much of it I can do without thinking too hard, hence all the "typos", but the revision lessons aren't stretching me. I think I need to go back and redo the tree to get the level-five crown difficulty in the questions.

I really like this way of learning, it's just a pity about the whole "typo" thing and that as yet the tree doesn't go beyond very simple sentence structures.


I am also totally impressed that you're doing Russian. I wouldn't go near it, and I can hear! I'm also doubtful about my ability to take in more than one new language simultaneously. However I should do something to brush up my German before the summer so perhaps I should at least register for the language.


To give you an idea of the complexity of the Russian language ... it took me 8 months to learn 600 words in Russian. It took just under two months for me to achieve 650 Gaelic words. It one way it was a blessing because after doing Scots gaelic I realised I wasn't a total bampott just a bit ... ;) ).

My goal is to be able to read a Russian newspaper in five years time ... I turn 60 then ... so I reckon time is on my side (just!). The Scots Gaelic is a bonus ... TWO THUMBS UP!!!

Keep revising your Gaelic while you study German. I keep revising my Russian so I don't lose what I have learnt.

Aon math!!!



11 days for a completely golden tree? Did you have prior experience with Gaelic? Doing 2 to 3 crowns worth a day is my max before it becomes information overload.


That's an interesting question, to which the answer is "minimal". I did the wee test at the beginning, got most of the questions embarrassingly wrong, and was gently told by the software to start as a complete beginner.

As a child, my father (who was from a Gaelic-speaking family but didn't have the Gaelic himself) taught me to say "Ciamar a tha?" and "Tha gu math, ciamar a tha thu fhèin?" When I was about 13 or 14 I got hold of a book called "Gaelic Without Groans" and started to try to learn it the same way as I was learning French at school. The book was pretty good but I was a kid and my industry didn't last more than the first few chapters. I did remember "tha mi, tha thu, tha e, tha i, tha sinn, tha sibh, tha iad" though. Also the basic sentence structure of "Tha an taigh agam - the house is at me - my house" which probably helped. And a handful of words (fuar, fliuch, math, beag, mòr), including "fhathast" for some bizarro-land reason. That was all more than 50 years ago but I think it did help in the early stages.

Beyond that, just some words picked up from the landscape around. Garbh, abhainn, sròn, beinn, dubh, gorm, buidhe, liath, eilean, things like that.

Perhaps there was more of a foundation there than I realised, but I was starting almost from scratch.


Jings, crivvens and help m'boab.

I thought I would register for the German course because I'm going on holiday to Austria in August. I've been to Germany often, and I know a little bit of German, but not enough to hold a serious conversation and I have to look up a lot of words. My grammar is also quite shaky.

Anyway, I decided to take the wee test on that one to see whether I was right on beginner or maybe a bit further up. The questions seemed ridiculously easy. I only got one wrong. A couple of times when words appeared that I didn't know (the word for "toothbrush" for example) it was easy to see which was the only tile that made any sense in the sentence presented.

They've just skipped me over THIRTY-SEVEN topic levels. There are eight castle levels in the German course. I'm past the third castle already and half way to the fourth. (Bear in mind that I got sweet nowhere with the preliminary Gaelic test and was gently told to start on the bottom rung.)

I don't know how I feel about this. I honestly don't think my German is up to much, but the software thinks I'm already almost half-way through. It has left me the option of doing the earlier skills starting at the second crown level though, so maybe I should try a few of these and see how it goes. I mean the preliminary test didn't even require any free-text input.


Jings, crivvens and help m'boab again.

I think Duolingo just gave me all the XP points for the levels I was gifted in the German course. I'm suddenly almost at the top of the Gold league. So that's how it's done!

I tried the very start of the basics of the German tree just to see, and yes it's easy. Astoundingly easy. The same few words are repeated again and again with a frequency the Gaelic tree doesn't approach (or not till you get to that last skill, "Sayings", where you go round the slow as a snail and full as an egg until you're tired of life). There are only seven questions per lesson as opposed to 20 in the later stages of the Gaelic tree (there might have been fewer in the earlier parts but I think there were at least 14), and only three lessons (as opposed to five) puts you up a crown level.

If XP was my life, I could just sit here and churn them out like a factory. I really ought to find out where I need to start with the German tree, read the hints and tips or something. Hopefully the later stages of the tree will do what I want and bring my standard up to something approaching passable.


Obh obh, tha Mòrag sgionell. ;)

You have now brcome addicted to XP points ... lolol.

I REALLY like the streaks ... they let me know how many days I have been doing Russian/ Scottish. I was doing German a while ago but stopped as I didnt feel I was serioys with it and deleted it along with 7000 points but that did not worry me ... sometimes you have to step out of the 'game'. My wife is German so will start again ... don't ask me when!

You always learn something new on here ... last week I learnt about levellibg up ... ohhhhhh that was fun!!! :D Could never happen (for me) in Russian. So it was a nice surprise for me when it happened.

You can also do stories in German. Mega XP there Morag! ;)

Enjoy ...



I don't care about the XP points but it's fun to watch what they're doing. I just thought it was interesting to note that you can rack them up a lot faster on the German tree because (so far) there are only seven questions in a lesson and they are extremely repetitive. I get that this is the beginning but the beginning of the Gaelic tree wasn't like that.

From the sound of it the Russian course is not a walk in the park either.

Looking back, I don't think I did get XP for the levels I was gifted after aceing the preliminary German test. That would have been about a thousand at a conservative estimate. I must just have racked up a couple of hundred in about ten minutes exploring the start of the tree.


Oh and by the way Baldr, don't call Gaelic "Scottish". The language is called Gaelic, and Duolingo only puts the "Scottish" in front of it to distinguish it from Irish, the related language which is sometimes referred to as Irish Gaelic. But while it's perfectly correct to refer to that language as "Irish", the equivalent is not true for Scottish Gaelic. (More correctly you'd actually say "Scots Gaelic" if anything, but that would only worsen the problem I note below.) It's just "Gaelic".

(There's also a Manx Gaelic, spoken in the Isle of Man, which I think again would be referred to as "Manx", but you never say "Scottish".)

It's important because there is a third language in Scotland which is called "Scots", which is a lot more cognate to English than Gaelic is. (Think Danish and Norwegian, possibly.) If someone refers to a language as "Scottish", 99% of the time that's going to be taken as meaning the Scots language (Scottis leid).


This is the first explanation I've seen for why it's called Scottish Gaelic and not just Scottish. I'd been wondering, but didn't find any explanation anywhere. Thank you!


It's actually just called "Gaelic". Duolingo titles the course "Scottish Gaelic" to avoid confusion with the course in Irish, but nobody at all calls it "Scottish Gaelic" out in the wild unless there is a similar risk of confusion with Irish, which usually there isn't.


Congratulations, that's impressive!

I did the Latin tree at a similar speed but that was with (rusty) prior knowledge and I wasn't at all firm in the last couple of skills. Revision was definitely necessary for me. XD So I've decided to take more time with Scottish Gaelic. I'm about halfway between checkpoints 2 and 3 at the moment and am really enjoying the course.

Good luck with your continued learning!


My problem was that given the structure of the course I couldn't stop. Revision was boring compared to getting my mitts on new material. And that golden owl was beckoning. It's just as well there's no more content up yet, because I think I would just have charged on. Hopefully I'll have done a lot of revision and be more secure when the new material is added.


Haha, I know the temptation only too well! It probably can work on the shorter courses, but I'm used to longer courses and know that I will regret rushing on. XD


"I can pick out more words from BBC Alba than I could have done a fortnight ago, but no way can I understand it!"

Watch the BBC Alba's children's programmes to start with. They are easier to understand and quite enjoyable. (Its almost like going through a second childhood - TV wise I mean).


Hah! It was a kiddies' cartoon show that I turned on! It looked really good and I wished I could understand it. We didn't have a TV when I was a kid so I never had the Blue Peter / Jackanory experience my friends had. Maybe I can have that now!


Does the current Scottish Gaelic course stop at the Golden Owl even if you upgrade to Plus?


Yes. Plus doesn't give you any extra material. It gives you extra facilities but the whole of the learning content is free. I only went Plus because they had a special New Year offer going and I thought that so much work had gone into the course that people ought to be rewarded. Now, though, it seems that the Mods are working as volunteers so the money isn't quite going where I hoped it would be going!

But apparently the Gaelic team (three people I believe) is working on additional material that will be added when it is ready.


Taing mhòr a Mhòrag, Iain. Bidh mi a' feitheamh ris an dàrna ceum.

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