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Best Way to Make Your Tree Turn Gold and Stay Gold

For the past several months, moomingirl and I have been doing some experiments to find the best way to "regild" trees. Since I thought a lot of people might have New Year's resolutions along those lines, I carefully wrote up our conclusions:


The short, answer, though, is do three skill-specific strengthens per day. Never do a general strengthen unless all skills are already gold. Never do timed practice, and never use hints. Regild from the bottom up if you're still comfortable with the language (e.g. you just finished the tree). Regild from the top down if you're effectively starting over. How long it takes will depend on how decayed the tree is and how well you do the exercises. As little as a month. Maybe as much as three or four if all skills are at one bar.

While I was at it, I went through my older post about the best way to use Duolingo and updated it to reflect the big change that did away with hearts.


As always, I'd welcome any feedback.


December 31, 2014



Ha! Since you posted this (about an hour ago) I followed your advice and my tree is now golden, something it hasn't been in a couple of weeks of strengthening the skills as recommended by Duolingo.


"reguild" trees.

Wouldn't it be "regild" trees?


Dunno. I bet we could work out an interesting pun there...


Thank you, very interesting! Kudos to both you and Moomin for keeping up with that for 90+ days. It's definitely timely, because I've been ignoring some trees and I've been wanting to get back into. I have 22 decaying skills in French, 15 in German, 20 in Italian, and 7 in Russian (to English). (I'm not actively working on Spanish or Portuguese). That's nothing compared to the hundreds of words I'm behind in Memrise. :(

But if I have to do 3 exercises per language per day, that's 12 for the four trees, which is a lot for someone with a full time job, so I don't think I can swing that much. Also, I prefer not to do any new lessons at all whenever I have any decayed skills. I like having the tree gold before moving on, so my progress is quite slow. From time to time I'll do an intensive weekend where I re-gild everything (though I've never had this many), but it seems not to be worth it at all, because after a day or two I always have tons of colorful skills again. It's so de-motivating.

I'll definitely incorporate some of your tips though, like never using the general strengthens while I have ungilded skills, starting from the bottom up (I always practiced the easiest ones first), not using timed practice (I never have, so now I know it's not worth it to start), and never using the hints. I used to use the hints a lot to make sure the word was right so that I wouldn't lose a heart and have to re-do the whole lesson. I thought that would help me pass the lesson and keep the skill gold, but it was probably hurting me.


The problem with binge-reviewing is that you end up so sick of Duolingo that you don't want to touch it for days. I still think you'd get your best result if you just picked one language and let the others go until you finished that one. When that one is done (even six months from now), you could come back to one of the others and start regilding it from the top. That's a bit like starting over, but it's faster and it does take advantage of the work you did before. When it's regilded, you can start doing new lessons. When you're done, you start another one.


I feel the same way about not wanting to proceed unless the tree is gold. If you follow my suggestions, I think you'll find that's not so hard to do.

Have you thought about just focusing on one language and letting the others go for a while? I only have two incomplete trees (French and German) and that's challenge enough. I can't imagine what four would be like.


I completed Spanish in the first few weeks, but since I'd studied it for many years it doesn't really count. I started German on the same day I finished Italian--three days ago.


I added it to the duowikiFAQ as this is an incredibly FAQ (can't imagine why we didn't add it earlier).

Anyway, it is interesting that you advise people to re-gild the skills from bottom to top rather than top to bottom as it would theoretically go against the Spaced repetition principles. The oldest practised ones would generally be last.

In addition, the regular practice should in theory be more effective for the same reasons. My guess is that what is good for the tree is not necessarily what is good for the memory, and the fact that most of the questions will be familiar(since they come from one skill rather than the whole tree) means that a student is generally more likely to be more successful and also cheat because they can see the words before the practice begins. I'd wager that's one of the reasons it is better.

Also, a small mistake in your article. A strong skill or word only requires 80% of "strength", 79% and it has decayed. That's why skills decay often, as most people only strengthen it until it reaches the 80% mark and then leave it alone. So the next day one or two words lose their strength and it effectively loses a bar.

Anyway, great article!


Well I have heard the 80% number quoted, but 50% is what I measured, so I'm sticking to it. :-)

Spaced repetition only applies to independent facts, but the questions Duolingo asks are highly interdependent. The skills at the very top of the tree are heavily exercised in all the skills below. The skills at the very bottom are usually rather neglected. Starting at the bottom causes you to refresh those skills with some delay. As you move up the tree, the ones further down decay and need to be refreshed so you actually do get some spaced repetition.

Therefore, redoing the top third or so of the tree has far less value than redoing the bottom part. If someone redoes the top third and then quits that's worth almost nothing. Redoing the bottom third has enormous value. If someone finishes the whole tree from the bottom up, that person will have redone many of the lower skills--getting a good bit of spaced repetition. If they did it from the top down, they'll end up with lots of practice of the basic skills (which they didn't need) plus another brief glance at the advanced ones.

The only argument for top down is for someone who is thinking of deleting the tree and starting over. It would make far more sense for such a person to just strengthen all the skills from the top down--even skills that are still gold.


Yes, but the claim is that 2-bars on words (out of four max so 50%) equals four bars on the skills (so 80%). More accurately, you need to average 2.5 bars on the words to get 4.5 bars on the skills, which turns them gold.

I'm also curious whether the new skill bar will make a difference. I looked at the thread you linked to, but it's all a year old.


if there are more than 3 weak skills(say 6) do you still only strengthen 3 (for that day)?


That's right. Just be patient. Slow and steady wins this race.


Actually, whenever I do timed practice, my skills gilden REALLY FAST.

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