I've been playing around with the Duolingo app and instead of typing my responses I'm using speech recognition in an attempt to improve my pronunciation. It can be frustrating, rewarding, and hilarious.
Have you tried this again recently? I think they did change out the speech recognition software a few months ago.
It's hard to depart from my long-held assumption that Duolingo speech recognition is largely playing people for suckers (generally giving a good deal of false confidence, but sometimes being way to strict), but they might really have put something better in there. I'm not sure.
Just switched the microphone on for the first time in I don't know how many months. I don't remember if it used to display the word-by-word checking. That's kind of nice. It did seem to detect when I was deliberately saying a word that wasn't even close. However, as long as the first syllables were the same, it seemed well nigh uselessly forgiving. I don't think it successfully distinguished "жидкость" from "животное" :) [for the benefit of those not familiar with Russian, that's "liquid" vs. "animal" pronounced something like "zhidkost" and "zhivotnoye"]
I've never had them in Russian, even with the microphone on. Weird.
I've been playing with German today. I've tried 1) drunken slurring 2) mouth full of food and 3) deliberate mispronunciation. So far, it hasn't failed me. I just said ermöglichen as erg merg and it was accepted.
I honestly think the only value of the spoken exercises as they currently stand is to make people speak the language out loud, no matter how badly, so IMO it makes much more sense for people to get into the habit of repeating sentences back as a matter of course, or using much better VR than Duolingo currently has.
Either way, though, the current German speaking exercises still suck, I'm afraid!
Your experience affirms my longstanding confusion at the people with level 20ish+ in some language or other occasionally posting threads lamenting that the speech exercises have suddenly had some technical glitch / been discontinued / etc. Haven't they figured out these things just aren't what they're cracked up to be?
I could see an argument for the utility with not-at-all-phonetic writing systems. However, I'd have no confidence in the system's ability to distinguish Chinese tones and be all the more concerned about instilling false confidence.
There's that, and that the keyboard seems to be set to Canadian French (no doubt to avoid AZERTY). However, were they synched as they presumably should be, the speech recognition software might be seeking Canadian French pronunciation (if only to avoid this sort of problem), which I'm guessing is likely a needlessly tall order.