Suggestion for Esperanto transcription exercises
I have a suggestion about the Esperanto exercises that deal with transcription; that is, the ones that have you listen to a sentence or phrase in Esperanto, and then require you to type it out in Esperanto.
My suggestion is to allow "mi" to be written in place of "ni" and vice-versa.
(And by "allow," I mean to point it out as a misspelling if the wrong one was used, but not to actually mark the answer as wrong.)
Why do I suggest this? Because far too often I have trouble hearing the difference between the two words, and it comes down to me just picking one of the words at random. And when I choose wrong, the entire answer is marked as wrong, even if everything else was written correctly.
For example, let's say the speaker says:
"La virinoj volas kanti por ni."
I write out the partial sentence "La virinoj volas kanti por ". Having a hard time distinguishing "M" from "N", I press the "Speak" button several times and pay special attention to the final word. Still unsure of whether "ni" or "mi" is being spoken, I am reduced to guessing and choose "mi." Then I submit my answer and I discover that I not only chose the wrong pronoun, but that my entire answer is marked as incorrect.
Now I know that technically "mi" and "ni" are not interchangeable, but could we make a special exception in the transcription exercises that do, in fact, allow them to interchangeable, without rendering the entire answer as wrong?
It's rather disheartening for me to get a long sentence entirely correct with the exception of "mi/ni", only to have it marked incorrect because of a very similar sounding consonant.
Does anyone else agree with me?
I hear you! That is really frustrating to me, too.
I have to say, though... I think it is more a matter of us learners needing to retrain our ears, than any problem with the exercises. I think that English-speakers do not often have to distinguish between "n" and "m" in spoken English. Our brains hear them as more or less the same, and reason it out by context, because we don't have these common words that make it critical, the way that Esperanto does. (However, we are very good at distinguishing between "w" and "m" -- we have to be, to understand the difference between "we" and "me"!) I think it is important for these to be counted wrong, so that we have to retrain our brains to listen for the sounds that are important to spoken Esperanto.
Do you ever listen to the sentence again, after you know what it is supposed to be? I find that the speaker "gets a lot better" once I know what he's saying, and it's suddenly very clear to me which consonant he's using THEN...
But it could be just me. :-)
If I listen to the sentence again, sometimes I find that I indeed missed the proper pronunciation, but not always. Especially when I was listening to it repeatedly before I submitted my answer, I still find that I can't tell the difference afterwards.
It could go either way, both before and after I submit my response.
Part of the blame may be that the sentences are recorded and played back electronically; because of this certain sounds are degraded, and because it isn't a human speaking them, you can't politely ask them to repeat the sentence.
Well, you can get it to repeat the sentence by clicking the button, but it will repeat it the words exactly as before, including all the ambiguities. Which is unlike real humans who, when asked, will naturally repeat the sentence slightly differently, which will let you hear the word pronounced again from a slightly different "angle."
Definitely a good point with the "angle" of the pronunciation. While I love (love, love) that we have a real speaker for this course, I do sadly feel the lack of the "turtle" button. In my French course, it is helpful to be able to replay the sentence with each word separated and emphasized.
Yes, I also wish there was a "turtle button" in the Esperanto course. While I can (usually) get by without it in Esperanto, it's nice in those cases where you just need a little extra clarity in pronunciation.
Especially when you already know the possibilities (such as "mi" and "ni"), but you just can't distinguish between them, due to the hardware, software, or any other limitations.
I also find myself having trouble at times distinguishing between present and future tense verbs, such as "loĝas" and "loĝos". Since the final syllable is unstressed in Esperanto, it's sometimes unclear which the speaker intends (especially when he speaks rather quickly), and again I have to guess. (Admittedly, this "-as" versus "-os" issue isn't nearly as big a problem as the "mi" versus "ni" issue.)
I just wish there was a way to clarify what the speaker was saying to say beyond just re-clicking the "Play" button. If that's not possible to implement, then at least allow for that common mistake to be accepted as a non-fatal misspelling.