How much lesson vs practice for optimum learning
I have been thinking about what is the best lesson to practice ratio so I can make progress with the lessons and retain what I have learned. I have 20 minutes a day to learn during the week and sometimes can get an hour in on the weekends.
I'm learning French, and I use the iPhone version of Duolingo. I currently make three attempts at a new lesson followed by one Practice Weak Skills. Some days I complete a lesson, but they are taking longer to master. Also, I see past lessons aging out indicating more practice. When the time comes for my 20 minutes to learn, I question if I should I take a lesson or practice.
I'm curious what approach others use. Especially, if you have limited time like me.
I'm just past the second checkpoint in French and I've spent the last three days at least doing nothing but review. I don't always get through the review lesson ("Strengthen Skills" from the home page); sometimes I lose all my hearts. That's an indicator to me that it's time to step back and review, review, review. If I find I'm having trouble with a particular skill, I'd go back and review it specifically, but right now it seems pretty random what I remember vs. what I forget.
If I had limited time like you I think I'd spend my 20 minutes reviewing and tackle new material (one or two lessons - lessons, not skill sets or units of lessons) on the weekend. You'll make slow progress, but you'll learn the material.
A lot of people prefer to plow ahead and then review. I personally would find it demotivating to finish the tree and still not know anything, but I think I am in the minority here on Duo. You have to find what works for you, though. If you are finding things are getting progressively more difficult, it's probably time to practice. If you're bored silly then it's probably time to tackle something new.
I do a lot more review on new languages, but the truth is I still personally prefer plowing through the tree because a language you have no ability to manipulate is one you will not retain or be able to reinforce. I wish languages would teach you past/future tense much sooner, because then you could seriously reinforce words and verbs the entire tree. If you're stuck with present-tense the whole time, there's not a lot of applicable real-world practice for you.
Like, I can keep a journal in Spanish, but I can't in any other language (nope, not even French. No past tense or future tense. I can say what I'm doing right then. Which is writing. Or I can say "today" and continue to talk in present tense about my day to some extent.)
Granted, I reinforce it by other means too (Practice Makes Perfect/a French textbook I bought and dropped out of the class but kept the book to study/individually bought Pimsleur units) but ultimately it's a lot easier to come back to something familiar with a language and trying to understand more nuanced details than trying to learn a concept you can't really even practice (beyond a very limited set of problems you'll probably remember by heart after the first or second time anyway - which is another benefit to plowing ahead. The more random examples that can come up on "practice weak skills" the less likely you are to have memorized a problem.)
Thank you for the comments and suggestions. My take away is to focus more on the practicing than learning the new.
I think for new languages you should be reviewing more than taking in new material, but as always it depends on the learner.
If you're in a classroom, one college unit is supposed to imply three hours of study outside of one hour per week in class. By that logic, one exercise should be followed by at least three exercises practicing weak skills. I don't think many do that or that it's inherently harmful not to (after all, if you don't do it now and run through the whole tree, you'll be doing it a lot later), but if I weren't so impatient I think I'd spend a lot more time practicing skills between lessons.