Hearing ест vs. есть
I find it very hard to hear the distinction between "т" and "ть" when it occurs at the end of a word, such as ест vs. есть.
Is there any way you recommend learning or practicing this?
I think it would be super useful if there were an exercise where it would just throw a bunch of spoken words at me that ended in either т or ть but were otherwise the same, and I had to pick / identify which one it was, because I think that would force my brain to start hearing these things differently.
The way it is in the DuoLingo exercises, the words/sounds don't come up frequently enough that I'm like, differentiating these sounds in my head, and because of all the written cues, I'm able to sort of slide through the exercises without really developing the ability to hear or distinguish these sounds.
I think dealing with this early on in learning Russian is important, and I'd love to both know some external resources for getting better at this, and see DuoLingo provide more resources for people like me who struggle with it.
You could use Anki for this. It's a flashcard program which uses spatial repetition. It allows you to construct your own deck, or else download one should you wish (I recommend the former personally). You can then attach a sound file to a given card. You could construct a deck purely focused on the differentiation of pairs such as this. You can find and download such soundfiles from forvo.com - not all words will be available, but for a language like Russian I suspect many will be. Here are the links to your two words:
It might even be worth making use of the multiple pronunciations just so that you can mix it up a little and not immediately simply recognise the voice as you grow used to it.
Note that I have next to no experience of Russian, but I think this advice is general enough to be applicable :)
I completely agree, I just googled the problem and found your post, so this is not a niché problem.
Do you have an ok time pronouncing the difference? I found that reading aloud helped me learn to hear the difference. To be honest, though, those two words sound really close anyway because of the high vowel "e," which makes the "c" just slightly higher. I think this is why брат and брать are easier for me to tell apart than ест and есть.