에 'e' and 애 'ae' TTS pronunciations sound identical
The same is true for 예 'ye' and 얘 'yae'; I can literally hear no difference between them whatsoever, even playing them consecutively in quick succession.
I presume they are meant to sound different; could a native speaker please comment on these sounds as pronounced in isolation by the TTS voice in the Korean course? Which one is pronounced correctly? Or am I missing some (to me) inaudible subtlety?
They are pronounced the same. Except you pronounce ㅐ with your mouth open slightly wider. They used to be different back in the day but not as much in modern Korean. Just remember the spellings:)
*I think the more you listen to Koreans speak you can hear a little difference :P
In the most common Korean accent (Seoul), the sounds are so similar that native speakers don't notice the difference. When spelling something out to someone people will say "애, 아이" or "에, 어이". When they are pronounced differently, 애 is longer and has more of an "ah" sound and 에 is shorter with more of an "eh" sound. When writing English words in Korean, 애 will often be used for 'a' and 에 for 'e'. 앤 is Anne and 애플 for Apple for instance.
I am aware that for most younger speakers, especially around Seoul, the distinction between these vowels has been lost. I am curious, however, what the distinction originally was, and if it exists in any current dialects, what it is.
In English we have stuff like this. For example in the northeastern US many people have lost the distinction between taught/tot, caught/cot, caulk/cock, etc. In western PA it's easy to find people who pronounce pole/pool/pull the same way. And I (and many Americans) pronounce Mary/merry/marry the same way but others distinguish two or even all three words. I have heard some people in the south who pronounce the initial consonant of witch/which differently.
I know I'd be fine just glossing over this one and it wouldn't affect my ability to be understood by others, but I would still really love to know exactly what the vowels used to sound like (or still sound like in some dialects.)