https://www.duolingo.com/Suchiththa

Hindi doesn't approximate to English Well - also, trouble with vowels

Hey there,

I'm a Sinhalese Speaker (from Sri Lanka) who has been looking forward to the Hindi course for a very long time. So, first off, thanks for all your work thus far!

I've done a couple of the basics for learning letters so far, and while I'm extremely impressed with the choices of what sounds to teach first, either the recordings aren't great, or the English letters you are using to approximate some sounds just aren't working.

I'm of the sincere belief that to teach South Asian languages, the English phonetic alphabet is a much better tool to use to give the approximate sound in Hindi (or whatever language). It's what I use to teach my English wife my native language and she's has near child-native pronunciation of the sounds now. She didn't study linguistics, but about an hour spent using phonetics to teach the sounds is more effective than 10-15 hours spent using weird English approximations.

Also, it would be helpful to have an explanation on the difference between a and ā and other similiar vowels. Right now I'm not hearing any difference in length, only in pitch. I was expecting it to be a difference in length, since that's what happens in Sinhalese, but either the audio is just inadequate, or I'm missing something.

July 19, 2018

8 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/El_Gusano

As a person who has been studying languages for the last several years, I completely understand what you mean. Let's use Spanish as an example. The letter r in English is, well, what I'm used to pronouncing. But then in Spanish, you roll the r in words like rapido which nearly killed me trying to make my tongue produce this sound. I finally got it but it would not have done me well to complain that it doesn't approximate into English. It doesn't; it's Spanish. Later on, I started Italian and they also roll their r's. It still didn't approximate into English but it was exactly the same as Spanish. What luck! Then French comes along and their r's don't approximate to English, Spanish, Italian, etc.

So what's the point?

It wouldn't make sense to use English letters that approximate the sounds of Hindi when the Hindi alphabet contains them exactly. While picking up the phonetics can be a bit difficult to master, it should be learned. And it's great that you speak Sinhalese, but it's unfair to hold Hindi to any expectations based on any other language. The difference between a and ā is a difference in pitch, I suppose that's how Hindi phonetics work. But it's not any other language so just put your head down and power through the Devanagari script. Once you get into actual words, I'm sure the phonetics will just click.

With that said, translators like Google Translate will provide you with English approximations for words in Hindi and Chinese, and perhaps that's what you're looking for. Maybe you can build a set of flash cards with English on one side and Hindi and its English phonetics on the other? Just a thought. Anyways, I'm gonna get back to learning Hindi, I've been waiting for quite some time.

July 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Suchiththa

This is a fair comment. I don't expect Gujarati, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Hindi and Urdu to work exactly the same. But right now, the sounds aren't making sense to me. It's actually more confusing that constructive and since I need to power through the letters to get to the words (which I'm on board with), it's taking longer than I want it to. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't expect any language to approximate well to English (given English isn't consistent enough for that), but I would love to get a clearer breakdown of the sounds.

I'm really glad to learn the Devangari script, but if the difference between a and ā is actually a difference of pitch and not length, I wish that was stated explicitly. English isn't a pitched/tonal language either, so I imagine it will help English speakers too to have a explicit statement accompany the letters.

July 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Rae.F
  • 1881

I also cannot tell the difference between the long and short vowels.

July 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Semeltin

They aren't using "English letters" but a common transliteration that makes more sense than English letters. I am passionately against the English phonetic alphabet and only respect phonetic alphabets based on the Latin script if they use continental European sound values. It may help people in the short term but it's going to hold you back so much if you don't learn an alphabet that is better suited for a foreign language.

I completely agree with this:
"Also, it would be helpful to have an explanation on the difference between a and ā and other similiar vowels. Right now I'm not hearing any difference in length, only in pitch. I was expecting it to be a difference in length, since that's what happens in Sinhalese, but either the audio is just inadequate, or I'm missing something."

July 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Suchiththa

Yes, to clarify, I'm advocating for the use of IPA. Not English phonetics.

July 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Rae.F
  • 1881

I am passionately against the English phonetic alphabet and only respect phonetic alphabets based on the Latin script if they use continental European sound values.

This is why I really wish they taught the IPA in school.

July 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/daKanga

ahhh - I will differ without doubt to those that have greater skill and knowledge to this subject in particular.

However, sound is also something the we "learn to hear".

Just as we "learn to see".

The mind - and our comprehension of the world is a very interesting subject.

If we do not have the ability, for example, to see, when we are critical stages of our development as children, for the vast majority of us, we are never able to be comfortable with nor capable with seeing.

There are examples of this. I am sorry I have not the time to point them out appropriately.

However, this is an often observed incidence. That if you are not exposed to certain sounds before you are ... approximately between the ages of 8ish to 13ish, you have difficulty differentiating them (i.e hearing them), and also producing them.

July 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Suchiththa

Um, I understand you're trying to help, but almost all South Asian languages use a very similar set of sounds. I have watched Hindi movies for most of my life. I am a fluent speaker of Sinhalese and can mull about in Tamil. Sinhalese is part of the language family that Hindi belongs to and shares some common words.

July 19, 2018
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