"Est-ce qu'il boit ?"
Translation:Does he drink?
Both "boit-il" and "est-ce qu'il boit" mean "does he drink". The first is the short way to say it, and the second means "is it that he drinks" which is synonymous to "does he drink".
There are 3/4 ways to form an interrogative statement (a question):
1) Using Est-ce que (or whatever you need: Quel, Qu'est-ce que, Quand, etc) this is the normal way, and is most easily recognized and understood 2) Inversion (Boit-il, Sait-elle, Manges-tu, etc) this is more for writing and for formal use 3) Inflection (Using your voice to create a question out of a statement) this is used during conversation but rarely written.
There's a fourth way that involves ending the sentence with the interogative word, such as: Tu manges quoi? This and Est-ce que are the most common, the other two are less, with inversion being the least common.
However, I'm only 1 month into my studies. Wtf do I know. Someone may correct me.
I've studied French on and off for several years now, but I am a native English speaker so also take what I say with a grain of salt.
The four ways you mentioned to form a question all look correct to me, however I feel like inversion is more common than either inflection or ending questions with interrogative words, at least in writing. I very frequently see questions of the form "Qu'est-ce que..." and slightly less so with inversion, but still fairly common. Until I started playing Duo (about 5 months ago) I didn't even know that inflection also worked in French, most likely because they should only be used in oral French, not in written French as they are fairly informal.
Chat rooms and phone texting might be changing how frequently inflection-based questions are seen in writing though, but this is just a best guess after watching my English-speaking peers adopt modern technology. I do not consider chat room or texting lingo to be formal.
I'm a bit angry with doulingo right now. How am i'm supose to distinguish in pronunciation "est-ce qu'il boit" from "est-ce qu'il voit"? Both answers should be accepted. Somebody with leverage please talk to Mr. Duolingo :)
You can report it. The talking robot-lady frequently mispronounces French words and phrases and we are constantly reassuring each other of the correct sounds. Google Translate can help somewhat, although the pronunciations there aren't perfect either.
Depending on your comfort level, you could start watching shows in French and/or listening to podcasts. While you can't hear specific words over and over, just hearing words, phrases and sentences together will give a better overall understanding of the sounds of the language (and common phrases, particularly ones like "Qu'est-ce que..." and related). Here are some of the ones I've found:
http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html (French in Action was filmed a while ago, but it's a really good one for those who still want to ease into the language.)
http://parlons-francais.tv5monde.com/Webdocs-to-learn-French/p-1-lg1-Accueil.htm (This is another online game like Duo. I haven't played it much but it seems promising.)
http://www.canalplus.fr/c-divertissement/pid1784-c-les-guignols.html (Comedy-based political satire, frequently references a lot of French pop culture, but I usually laugh even when I don't know what's being said.)
http://fictions.franceculture.fr/ (Tons of podcasts. This one goes to fiction books, but if you click around you can get plays, poems and all sorts of things.)