i've been walking around grenoble all week saying "j'attendre/j'atteindre/j'éteindre" because to me they sound so much alike. i've figured out that for atteindre its all about saying "j'atTEINdre with a "ten" like sound on the "tein" part. the difference is so slight, and once we are over 20 yrs old our brains aren't wired to recognize subtle sound changes like that so i think if you can't hear it (like me) then you have to rely on context more then anything. thank god they think american accents are charming.
Excuse me, but of course it has an accent. I agree with you that it is recognizably modeled after the French most commonly spoken in France, however I think your statement goes against a descriptivist philosophy of language and the democratic nature of Duolingo. To say that it pronounces words like French people is not an accurate statement. The phonological variances found across France and the Francophone world are not deviations of a particular variety, but some accents are less marked than others.
But isn't it like saying that Queen's English or Received Pronunciation or Standard German are accent-less? These are supposed to be "standardised" and "official" but are still accents. Of course you can say "person X is speaking with a distinct accent" as if implying that there is something like no accent... in the end, it all depends on your definition of what an accent is, but descriptively speaking, as sohlt said, you should not privilege any manner of enunciation, regardless of whether it is the most common variety and/or supported by official (political?) institutions. Mostly in order to maintain objective, neutral and scientific quality of linguistic terminology. "Standard" or "official" is a better term to describe the accent recognised as the most /insert your criteria here/ one. Of course it might be the case that the French themselves describe their "standard" variety as "accent-less" but then such a stance should be debated / critiqued as politics or tradition clashing with scientific reasoning. Unless the French have two words for "accent", one of which fits the descriptive role of encompassing any manner of enunciation or unless they decide to go the clunky route of inventing a new word for descriptive purposes.
it doesn't seem to be an issue with "quality of sound" only, the female robot makes a lot of real mistakes the male one doesn't. (I heard the "s" in "est" for example, "t" in et, and I think "haïr" was also weird once and so on). I'm no expert, but compared to how the male one says "atteindre" in other exercises, I do seem to hear an audible difference.
It's as if the robot defaults to other words when it doesn't "know" how to pronounce a certain phrase
Atteindre vs attendre: Quelle est la différence ? Is there one? In a nutshell, yes, but as with so many of you, I just couldn't hear it, and whether or not the Duo bot has it right, I couldn't say. However, I went to http://forvo.com/languages/fr/ where I found versions of both words pronounced by native speakers. After going back and forth between the two, I was at last able to detect a difference (I think).
For attEINdre: the capped letters rhyme with the AWN in awning or tawny. For attENdre: the capped letters rhyme with ON as in the preposition on.
To me there is a difference between AWN and ON, but not much of one, and I have a suspicion that in some regions of the US (the South?), there isn't one at all (in which case this isn't any help). I know that where I used to live in southern Indiana, there is no difference between "pin" and "pen" whereas in the northern US (where I'm originally from) there is.
Well, no wonder the French sounds for "in", "en", "on", "un" and "an" are difficult to grasp for English speakers. These sounds just don't exist is English. As a Frenchman, I have the same trouble with English sounds like "th", voiced and unvoiced. Have you ever tried to listen to French docs like for example on TEDex. Here is a link: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/browse/talks-by-language/french Hope this may be useful to you.