How much time do I need to spend on Skritter?

I’ve allocated 15 minutes a day for my language learning. Sometimes I spend more than that, but that’s the baseline.

The trouble is, I end up needing to spend most of that time processing my Due Cards. I’ll then learn two new words in my Decks, and that’s it. No time to read Hacking Chinese articles, no time for YouTube videos, no calligraphy practice (though sometimes I’ll do that later just for fun).

When I was using Duolingo and then HelloChinese, I felt like I was making progress on ten minutes a day. Now I feel like I’m making less progress in more time.

I tried limiting my Review time to 5 minutes or 30 cards a day, but now my Due Card count is creeping up and I’m getting farther and farther behind, a very unpleasant feeling.

Is the answer just "you can’t learn a language in less than 30 minutes to an hour a day, and Duolingo and HelloChinese were lying to you”? I’ve got a lot going on, and have only a limited amount of time for this.

For me, the character writing is the thing that takes the longest amount of time. Often when doing reviews, I’ll focus on either the writing, or everything else (the tones/definition/reading). I think that if you just took out the writing, it might be doable in 15 minutes a day. But I don’t think that’s realistic if you also want to do the writing. I find that I can do everything but the writing really quickly, but the writing takes significantly longer if you add it in.

You can always permanently turn off writing as something you’re learning. But then if you do that, I don’t see that using Skritter makes sense. Skritter is teaching you a skill that isn’t available through those other resources you mentioned. So if you add a new skillset, I think you have to acknowledge that it’s going to take additional time to master it.

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I don’t mind the additional time, in the sense that it would take a longer time to learn. Chinese is a complex language, with more to learn than other languages. I get that. I’d just prefer to spread that learning over a longer period, rather than have to learn more each day.

I guess what bugs me is that I have no control over how many new cards appear each day (I mean, other than controlling what decks and characters are included). In, say, Duolingo, I can review for five minutes a day and keep up with its version of SRS. Why must Skritter’s be so much more intensive? Is there something about SRS that dictates the fast decay rate that Skritter uses?

Like @Apomixis said, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Leraning to write characters by hand takes time, not just in the sense that you need to do it often and over time to remember, but also in the sense that writing a word takes much longer than reading it, so going through ten reading cards is many times faster than going through ten writing cards. Thus, you can’t really compare Skritter with apps that don’t teach you writing, because of course you’ll get further if you ignore part of the language. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, I’m just pointing out that it’s not really comparable.

When it comes to the SRS, I think I adressed this in the other thread where you asked about the SRS (here in case anyone else wants to check). Like I said there, if you as a user decide (arbitrarily, for the sake of argument) how much to study per day, that means that under the hood, the app ignores the algorithm. This means that you still have a large number of items due, but it’s hidden from you as a user. Like I also said, we prefer not to hide this.

Obviously, I don’t have in-depth understanding of the algorithms and functionality of specific apps and don’t want to comment on any one in particular, but most SRS use roughly comparable algorithms, usually based on or derived from SuperMemo. The point is that they all work more or less the same. The difference here is probably not in the algorithm, but in what the app developers choose to show the users.

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Okay, this (and what you said in the other thread, which I apparently missed before) makes sense, but it really does seem like review items build up much faster in Skritter than in other apps. For instance, I just checked Duolingo. I had completed 20-some modules when I stopped using it more than six months ago. Only a handful have “cracked”; I suspect I could catch back up in an hour at most.

Compare that to Skritter. I cleared my queue yesterday instead of learning new words, and today I have almost 30 new review cards (and I’ve gotten much less far in Skritter than I had in Duolingo, so there’s much less to review). If cards kept building up at that rate for six months, I’d have something like 5,000 cards to review.

Now, maybe they wouldn’t really build up at 30/day if I wasn’t using the app at all, but if it’s anything like that, it would take at minimum a full working day to clear all my cards, if not more than one.

This seems like an enormous discrepancy, which can’t be explained just by the addition of the writing exercises (after all, Duolingo has time-consuming speech exercises which Skritter lacks).

If you tell me that this discrepancy is due to the fact that Duolingo is doing SRS wrong, and that Skritter’s level of review is simply necessary for recall, I’ll believe you. I know very little about SRS except the basic concept, which I understand and agree with.

But if that review pace is not absolutely necessary, couldn’t there be a way to slow it down and space it out a bit more? I don’t like the choice Skritter gives me of either spending more time then I’d like reviewing every day, or falling behind (or, I suppose, slowing down my already-slow learning pace even further—if I was only getting 30 new cards every day, that would be very manageable)

I manage a queue of 6k+ words and 3k+ characters with 15-30 minutes of daily Skritter and I try to learn 5 new words a day on average. I’ve been keeping this pace up for a little over two years, and I’ve found a nice rhythm that works well for me. Somedays I get a big chunk of due cards, but not often.

The more you learn the material the faster you’ll get, btw. It took me 7 minutes to clear 160 reading cards this morning. Writing is the bigger time investment, but I love it!

I don’t try to add everything I study into Skritter these days. And, like any SRS system, the more you add to the system, the more work you’re going to have to do to keep the queue at 0.

Historically, I would spend about an hour a day on Skritter while studying full-time (5-6 hours of graduate classes a day) and whatever homework I had for each class. It worked for a full-time student, but there is no way I could keep this pace now without going crazy.

These days, if I only had 30 minutes a day to learn Chinese I’d probably spend my time doing something else in my target language. Or, do super-focused test sessions inside decks that I’m actively learning from.

As for Duolingo’s SRS… it sounds messed up if they think you won’t forget anything about six months of not opening up the app or studying and goes against just about everything I’ve read about memory, SRS, and how our brains work.

One thing you can do to smooth out your SRS curve on Skritter is turn on the advanced SRS grading on mobile if you haven’t done so already and start taking advantage of the “EASY” grade. That’ll move the stuff you’re mastering further into the future.

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Thanks for the tips. I’ll give Advanced mode a try.

And I think I may have underestimated how much “progress” I’ve lost in Duolingo, as more-recent Skills may have degraded more than that. Doesn’t obviate my point, but I’m not sure how long it would take to get back to where I was.

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I hope advanced mode helps a bit. We are doing some backend API work right now to help give us more insights into all three study modes on Skritter Mobile and we’ll continue to work on improving the apps to be more efficient and help aid not hinder the language learning journey.

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But fundamentally, I’m asking if the pace can be slower; that cards take longer to regenerate. What’s the science on this? Is a specific decay rate mandated, or is that determined by the app?

The decay rate is based on the app and has its roots in SuperMemo and while we can adjust things it is very hard to account for all confounding variables. SRS systems, no matter how good, are estimates (again confounding variables). We do know that Skritter users in aggregate have a very high retention rate over a 30-day period (~88%) for all cards being reviewed.

Due Cards is already an attempt to slow down the pace of things since we only show items once a day. You could try using Continuous Review mode to space correct items out further, and also get more reps quickly on things you’re still learning.

Some docs for reference:

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You could also try enabling “advanced SRS grading” in the study settings. This will give you two extra buttons you can use to grade your answers as “hard” or “easy”. If you consistently choose “easy” when you recall something correctly, that will result in longer intervals. This is very likely to result in lower retention, though, but as Jake says, that’s hard to predict in individual cases as it depends on what you do outside of Skritter as well.

Engineering hat on: It would be cool to have a “decay rate multiplier” slider that one could change to impact the way cards are presented.

It would be sort of a global multiplier switch, running from 0.1 to 10 or something like that, and would multiply the decay rate by that factor in order to either slow down or speed up the degradation.

I tend to find I’m a fast-forgetter, which means that when Skritter presents me with old stuff, I have already forgotten it.

I’d love to have Skritter present me things a little bit more quickly than its SRS tries to do “normally”.

And it sounds like the OP would want things presented much more slowly.

A “Global decay rate multiplier” might be an easy way to get that affect, without needing to change a lot in the underlying SRS algorithm.


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