https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

Why no IPA?!

Pronouncing foreign languages would be massively easier if we were given IPA transcriptions of words, as in "vous êtes homme" - /vuz ɛt om/ or the like. For those of us who know the International Phonetic Alphabet, it would make it MUCH easier to pronounce words properly. For those who don't... an IPA learning course on Duolingo might be in order! I would be willing to help make that.

2 years ago

24 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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While waiting for that feature to be implemented, you could check Wiktionary for IPA pronunciations.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

That's my main go-to when I have an issue. I would just like to see it be part of Duolingo itself.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jorgeartware
jorgeartware
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Appending the IPA spelling to every word and phrase inside the app would be nice. It could be grayed out or in a lighter shade, it could be a toggle option and they could take the spelling easily found on https://www.wiktionary.org/ to just copy paste. I think it wouldn't hurt the design, there's plenty of white space around and this would be the best use for it.

Considering IPA is not a language but an alphabet supra-set of sorts, it can be easily learned with a tiny cards deck; a more complete one is needed, but in the mean time I found this one useful: https://tinycards.duolingo.com/decks/2JtL7Viq/ipa

Then having the IPA spelling inside duolingo courses we could always be practicing the correct pronunciation of words. Because the loquendo/vocaloid or whatever speech synthesis duolingo uses helps but it can sometimes pronounce things in a weird cadence or way. And it would be greatly appreciated for courses that have little to no audio too, like Irish Gaelic, Ukranian and others.

So yeah, thumbs up for IPA.

6 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knoxienne
Knoxienne
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Excellent point. This is something that should be implemented ASAP.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Osnakezz
Osnakezz
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It's also helpful to look at the IPA page of Wikipedia . Clicking on sounds there will give you a page with information about the sound and its occurence in several languages and sample words, so you can know and learn, how sounds from other languages are like the sounds in your language. It makes learning a lot easier. You can also search on Wikipedia on 'phonology/orthography of [language]', and sometimes there's a whole pagina about that language's pronunciation and such, with sample sounds.

An excellent example is the page on Latin spelling and pronunciation, for example. On the desktop version of that page, you can view many, many more phonologies/orthographies, even including Old English, Yiddish, Upper Sorbian, and Vietnamese. Have fun!

If you don't see the sounds itself on that page, you might have to switch to desktop mode or go on a computer in order to view it.

Another useful page is the IPA chart with sounds, it even comes with an keyboard from where you can copy and paste!). If you're learning English and want to know which sounds are (usually) represent in English, then this is great as well.

One important thing of IPA is, that there are two ways to describe sounds: a 'broad' transcription, or a 'narrow' one. The broad transcription is the one which the OP of this discussion used: /sound/ . The narrow one is usually written as [sound], however.

So, what are the differences between those? In a narrow transcription, the writer includes as much detail as he or she feels that is necessary to make it sound like in real (think about stress, length, cadance, rising and falling tones, nasality, andsoforth). In a broad transcription, the 'predictable' or precise information is not used. Instead, an approximation is used - just using the characters (maybe one thing like length too and such, but that's it).

• A while ago, I also encountered a sound change applier. It is just a fun feature, but with that you can learn yourself a bit and have fun at the same time, about how languages develop.

Link to sound change applier (I'd advise to especially focus on 'report which rules apply', and 'input — output', since these show the changes themselves.)

Link to the guide

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

I know a lot about the IPA, I'm a conlanger and probably will be a linguist in future, so I've actually studied a lot of what you're saying. This is information what will be VERY helpful to others if an IPA feature is implemented.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/placeholder173

I mean, it's a nice idea and it would be incredibly useful - lookin' at you, Welsh and Vietnamese - but I can't see how it would be practically implemented. Would the course creators have to enter the IPA for each word individually? And in languages like French, where one word (or one spelling) can be said in different ways, would each sentence with those words then have to be checked over and edited? And then there'd have to be some sort of consistency as to whether or not stress and... attributes? (nasalisation, aspiration, etc.) were shown, and you'd have to make sure that all the people working on the words were 'fluent' enough in IPA to do it accurately. I really would like something like this to be a feature, I just can't think of an easy/reliable way to get it done. (And even if I'm looking over something obvious - and let's face it, I probably am - and there is a quick way of entering the IPA for a course, sadly I also don't see it being a priority or something that'll be worked on any time soon.)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

All anyone has to do is look up the pronunciation on Wiktionary or some similar place, and copy and paste it. It probably should go in the little box that comes up when you hover over a word.

As for whether it's likely to be worked on, I would be more than happy to be part of a team of people dedicated to reworking every course to add all that in, if it was desired.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EricaLee87

Displaying the IPA translation is an excellent idea!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jimnicholson
jimnicholson
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Sort of related...

I have made a suggestion that they add an IPA fact type to Tinycards.

Here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/16875822 (do a find within page of IPA to locate comment)

This fact type, would allow audio to be added to decks for learning pronunciation of alphabets etc. Perhaps even single syllable words. This would avoid the limitation of only having audio for decks that teach a language with a licensed TTS.

Anyone who indicated they know IPA (in their user settings) would also be shown and tested on the IPA fact. It would be hidden from most users, who would only experience (and be tested on) the audio.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gerardd88
Gerardd88
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Totally agree. But phonetics in general has been that part of language learning completely ignored and neglected for a long time by so many people. Sadly.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

To my mind, correct pronunciation is more important than correct speech. People can often figure out what you mean if you leave words out or use the wrong grammar, but if you pronounce language badly it can be hard to figure out what you're saying at all.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gerardd88
Gerardd88
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Exactly. Glad to hear you think like that :) Generally I'm very much against focusing on grammar in language learning and your point is one of the main reasons why. Though I often neglect phonetics myself, certainly more than I should, because I usually focus very much on learning vocabulary.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

I have always prided myself on my ability to pronounce correctly any foreign language after studying it a little while, even if I don't actually know the language. It's a running joke in my family that I can read and pronounce Spanish perfectly, as if I am a native of Mexico, but often have no idea what any of it means!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gerardd88
Gerardd88
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Looks like you just have a gift for, like some people are great at grammar, remembering vocabulary etc. I think I'm also quite good at phonetics but not to such an extent so it doesn't come to me so easily.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gerardd88
Gerardd88
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Cool :) How (and how much) do you work on phonetics? Are there any methods or resources you can recommend? I usually only rely on basic phonetic introductions (for the beginning), IPA for... or phonology articles on Wikipedia and then usually on checking the pronunciation of words in the IPA. As you may guess, it's not the best way to pronounce anything well. Of course if I worked on each sound separately and put more time into it, I would be able to speak well, but as I said, I spend very little time on phonetics, mostly working on vocabulary (and now starting more on listening).

For my main target languages (French and German, those I learn regularly, outside Duolingo) and also for English (to develop something more similar to the RP; I'm not a great fan of American English :D) I've recently took a week to work on phonetics exclusively. I'm doing well in speaking those languages but it's still far from sounding like a native speaker. And then there are the languages I learn on Duolingo. I'm quite good at reading languages like Spanish (though still very far from sounding well) but as for languages like Swedish, Dutch or Russian it's very bad. I don't have much time to work on my pronunciation in those languages.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

Honestly I have no idea. I've never studied pronunciation on purpose. I literally just listen to people speaking in that language, ideally while reading what they're saying (subtitled movies, and songs for which you have lyrics, are very helpful here), and I try to mimic their speech, and over time I learn how to pronounce their language, just by absorbing it that way. I was able to do this long before I learned anything about the IPA.

However having the IPA makes it much easier with more difficult languages like Irish where I want to be sure that I'm getting little nuances of sound. I don't think I've ever found an IPA sound yet that I can't pronounce with a little practice, and once I've had that practice, I never forget how to pronounce it correctly. (Note: I have never tried ejectives, implosives, or clicks!)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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Trying to wrap my head around suggestions along these lines (there's another one focusing on Korean out there todayish, as well)

Is the issue that the audio quality is bad, so you can't just hear the pronunciation sufficiently well? Are you wanting to focus on being alerted when a similar sort of sound to one in your native language actually is different (for instance I can see having benefited from knowing that Russian has ʂ and ʐ and not ʃ and ʒ at a much earlier date)? Or is it that you want to be told what those strange sounds are even supposed to be so you can go find out how they're produced (something I really would have benefited from with that rascally Russian ɨ)?

As a side note that might well make your point for you in a certain sense, the IPA transcription for your example phrase ought to end with /zom/ because of the liason.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SethSc0

All of the above are wonderful reasons for having IPA. The audio here tends to be great but with the French "le" versus "les" I would not have realized that the former is pronounced "lə" and the latter "le" just by listening to the audio - I had to look it up and learn that and THEN I could perceive the difference because I knew to look for it. If the IPA had been present from the beginning it would have been very clear.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elvper
elvperPlus
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A problem with that: different dialecs and "historic" pronounciation versus modern pronounciation. For many languages there isn't just one correct / fully understandable way of saying something.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/81cheney
81cheney
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I have an idea for now. The phonetics of each individual language can be used. Jij (you in Dutch) can say yay above it, because that's the English pronunciation. IPA can be implanted as well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Osnakezz
Osnakezz
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Not really. 'Jij' is said in a slightly different way than 'yay'. Using spelling of different languages gives only an approximation; IPA is more precise - even the broad transcription itself would be better, since then everyone knows how to say it.

If I were to give an example: say, 'Tausend' in German is 'tausent' in Dutch spelling, an Englishman would still not know how to say it properly. And so it is too, for Dutch people trying to learn German through English. Sure, Dutch people can speak English well. But they are not native speakers, and they are more accustomed to Dutch spelling.

IPA solves that question by giving just one standard that is focused upon the actual sounds itself, and not the spelling, which, in English and French, differs extremely from the real pronunciation and sounds, in fact.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/81cheney
81cheney
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You are right about that. IPA is sure much easier than saying long o or short a. I do think a short course on IPA or simply reading a few articles would work. It might take awhile, but it's manageable. You are right about crazy phonetics in English.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kyukiou
Kyukiou
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Would be great but like always. It's best to use other resources paired with Duolingo. Every time I go to dabble in a new language I always learn the IPA / Alphabet in that language first. Makes it thousands of times easier. Memrise is a good source for most Languages' IPA's.

2 years ago
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