In the voice, it's hard to hear the difference between о and у.
I keep getting questions wrong because the voice isn't clear enough. Can this be improved?
It's also hard to hear the differences between some case forms, e.g. эти and этой.
russian's gonna be a lot like hockey. you can read a book and learn how to do a slapshot, but you won't be any good at it until you've been really bad at it for a long time. i'm sure you've seen the crosby video with his washing machines. he didn't miss a single shot in the video. that's what practice gives you.
i don't believe you're bad at it. i think your brain is just hardwired to retain only useful knowledge, and if you remembered every random thing people told you, it'd be impossible to keep track of the important stuff. just keep beating the grammar into your brain until your brain accepts it as important. you can do this.
"russian's gonna be a lot like hockey."
You're not wrong but, more succinctly:
If you're not falling, you're not trying.
But seriously, don't just focus on the sounds. I tried that. Then I realized that checking charts and other things for cases might help now, I don't know the right case transition for all words but if I know it for one? They have to match! That gives me guidance on the rest.
If you can start by picking out one sound/case that tells you if it's plural/feminine/dative/genitive/whatever you have a foundation to build on.
It WILL click - provided you don't focus on sounds alone.
It depends on which exact sounds in which words you are mixing up. I think it is rather obvious that in general о and у are pronounced differently by the voice, and этой/эти sound nowhere near each other. If you encounter a glitch in a certain word, it is best you ask about that exacts word in that exact sentence.
With all due respect - these sound obviously different to you. Russian has one of the largest frequency ranges of all languages. You hear more sounds than others do because you use more sounds than others do.
Other languages don't use those sounds so we ignore them much like everyone ignores the fact that their nose is in their line of vision constantly (sorry that you're all going to be seeing your nose for like the next 5 minutes). If it's not important it's not acknowledged.
It takes practice to identify and differentiate foreign sounds. They are often not obvious to a foreign speaker. It doesn't help that non-stressed a/o vowels (and seemingly sometimes y/и) seem to get reduced to schwa.
And given the frequency range of Russian (though this probably applies more to the palatalized sounds) you may never be able to hear the difference based on your age and auditory abilities.
TL;DR: To both of you - it takes (lots of) practice and attentiveness to differentiate sounds that aren't normally used - or not normally used in that way - in your native language. And it may never happen. Do your best to hear it and if you can't, use cheats (markers of other words that will sound clearer to you).
It helps, here are some charts: http://www.russianlessons.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=898
It only seems that way! Seriously!
When you get a question wrong, stop and take a look at the forms. You'll figure out where you went wrong and also see what you should be looking at.
OK, for a little bit (less than you probably think) you're still going to be confused. But the upside is it won't be long before you're kicking yourself 1 second after clicking submit yelling "GAH! Prepositional!" "GDI Genetive!"
It goes both uphill and downhill from there. Such, I'm realizing, is Russian.
You're not alone. Every time I think I have a grasp on things something comes along and beats me up.
To me, Russian is one step forward and four steps back.
But the pay-off when you get those little glimpses of insight. When some little thing comes clear? That's such an awesome feeling.
That said, I don't think the grammar will come naturally. This is just my experience but, you're really going to have to cultivate it. Or have it naturally sprout in about 20 years. Maybe.