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Is the Russian voice very accurate?

It is very hard to distinguish certain letters/parts of words. O vs и vs e is tough. Sometimes the в is impossible to here, sometimes р and с and з sound similar. Vowels in general can be a lot of guesswork or basically trying to remember how it was spelled. Is this just how Russian is or is the voice making it even harder than a real person would sounding these words out to beginners?

Love the course

November 23, 2015



It is pretty accurate. There are, of course, some glitches (which were reported by me, at least, and I guess other Russian speakers as well), but overall it is not bad. Nevertheless, there were some sentences which were not trivial even for a native speaker's ear. For instance, I think the name Anna was chosen poorly, due to its similarity to "Она" (she).


As a native Russian speaker i can say that this voice isn't accirate in some cases. Once or twice I couldn't recongize a few endings of words and had to listen slowly to them.


I'm glad you said that - some words sound quite different to what I've been taught in the past.


Мне тоже порою приходилось прослушивать замедленную запись )


I too find the vowel endings difficult to tell apart, but I think that's just how Russian is (Russian-speakers will just automatically listen for things like that, along with little words like в and с wedged between other words). I never thought the TTS's р is unclear (in the Turkish course, it's always sounding like 'sh'; in Russian, it actually sounds like an 'r'), but its л, at the beginning of a sentence, often sounds strange to me.
I'm sure the TTS isn't perfect, but without being qualified to criticise it, I just read the comments pages and assume it's a reasonable approximation unless I see otherwise (or unless there is really obvious mangling going on).


If that may be of some consolation, I am a Russian speaker, and even I failed here and there on these subtleties. I cannot recall the exact sentence now, but I do remember hearing a singular word, which appeared to be plural, etc.


I actually really like the Russian voice in the recordings. It sounds exactly like Russian people sound when I speak to them. It is hard to tell some of those sounds when you listen to native Russian speakers. I find they don't always pronounce the endings that clearly. The 'o' sounds like a weak 'a' if it isn't stressed. And the words that end in 'e' with prepositions often sound like и to me. The в and K run into the next word when they mean 'in', 'towards', etc. I think English does a lot of linking of words too.


The 'o' is supposed to sound like a weak 'a' when unstressed. But even I, a Russian speaker, failed a few times catching that extra "и" between words, when the first ends with "и" (пироги и конфеты - cakes and candies). While my example is somewhat artificial, and a native speaker would sense there must be an "and" between the words, I did meet some real sentences where it was unclear.


I'll keep you in mind when I do struggle to understand something. It'll be good to know that a native speaker struggles too. To me it just sounds like it did when I was in Russia and when my Russian friends speak to me. The hardest part of Duolingo, for me, is that you don't have a context for the sentences you're learning. So I guess they need to be clear for that reason really.


The voice is Ok but I think some of the Vowels are shortened for some unknown reason, Also I think the vowel to schwa double distance from stress is not implemented. I would think the cold war would make this language a must have in TTS technology, oh well.


The voice has a lot of glitches, and I do not like the intonation (sounds off not only in questions, but in some declarative sentences, too). However, if you mix up some sounds, the most likely reason is that you are not used to the language yet.

Telling different sounds apart is only half of it: neither Russian, nor English are spelt phonetically, so you cannot guess the spelling of a word solely by how it sounds. In Russian, however, you might produce a good guess.


Do you have any control over the TTS quality? I mean, if there is a clear mistake, can you fix it yourself, or it has to be delegated to Duo staff?


No mistakes can ever be fixed and will not be. I can just try replacing the sentence with a similar one that sounds better. For example, the word «чашки» in «тарелки и чашки» sounds wrong but in «чашки и тарелки» it is OK. The stress was on a wrong syllable in «Канада — бОльшая страна ....» but rewriting the last part of the sentence fixed it.

It is important to understand that a typical Text-to-Speech has many recordings of each sound for use in different enviroments (just not every possible environment). The exact placement of a word and the intonation might affect whether the selection of a particular piece sounds plausible or glitchy. And I think they might be using some HMM method for guessing the correct stress for a particular sentence (e.g., «до́ма» vs. «дома́»).


I have noticed that the ш and щ sound like c (s). (e.g., ваша sounds like vasa). It is also not possible to hear the difference between ш and щ sometimes (and, yes, I know the difference when spoken by native Russians)


If there is some very bad glitch, you are welcome to report it. Apparently, the synth uses some clever context-dependent algorithm to put sounds together, so sometimes a creative rewrite of a sentence is enough to fix the pronunciation. «рис» is, probably, my least favourite in this regard.

Even better would be starting a discussion.

Counter-intuitive, eh? But rest assured, half of our sentences will have a report "Audio does not sound correct", even sentences like «Это Том», «Я Анна, а это Том» and «Анна, это Тим», which we KNOW sound perfect or about as perfect as a TTS will get you. It is hard to pay attention to reports like these.


There are some clear mistakes in certain sentences, so if you think the sound is bad - you're welcome to report.


I have never noticed that, but I'll listen out.


It does get better for us non-Russian learners, so keep going! The TTS has definite flaws, as already mentioned, but it is good enough to "take dictation" from w/ only a couple of mistakes per day (earning 100+ XPs per day). Soon you will recognize where you have to be extra careful. And some of its deficiencies seem to sort of "force" you to improve spelling or knowledge of word endings. When you're unsure of what you've just heard, try the "slow speed" voice if it's available for comparison, although that has its problems too. Have fun!


Yeah, I think with the possible exception of Esperanto, Russian is the one I've had most success on with the audio exercises. I'm pretty sure a lot of the reactions to the TTS are due to familiarity or lack thereof. To my relatively practised ear, the audio exercises, first time down the tree, were among the easiest. The TTS isn't perfect, but it's not bad; certainly, in most cases, possible to get along with. I find the voice less unpleasant to listen to than several others, too.

I think I've only reported 2-3 sentences where the audio sounded downright wrong. I believe one was for все being said всё or vice versa. I don't remember the others clearly. I tend to assume it is me unless something sounds clearly wrong in a fairly spot-able manner (like все/всё), in a misleading way, or I think there was one sentence where the word sounded correct slow, but at regular speed some of the word was overly swallowed no matter how many times I listened to it.

In general, I assume it's my problem, not the TTS! But I think it isn't bad, on the whole. And there are loads of resources to listen to real people speaking Russian, so I appreciate that all the sentences and words have audio, and the possibility to slow something down.

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