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Pronunciation of यह and वह: Inconsistency Between Audio & Notes

I'm reading the course notes and it has the following:

Mostly, यह (yah) is pronounced as ye (like ये) and वह (vah) is pronounced as vo (like वो), however, these spellings are not accepted. Only in extremely formal or poetic situations are these words pronounced the way they are written.

I looked the words up on Forvo and it seems to reinforce what is said in the notes. Google translate's TTS also pronounces these words as described in these notes.

However, the course audio seems to consistently pronounce these words in the way they are written.

Is this a mistake or oversight? If so, can we get this addressed ASAP? I don't want to be continually listening to audio that is pronouncing these words in a way in which they are not pronounced in typical speech, because it's going to get the wrong pronounciation stuck in my head.

This sort of thing is a major barrier to me wanting to invest time in the course because I don't want to be doing damage learning something I'll have to unlearn later.

July 25, 2018



This mispronunciation should be fixed. This is setting new learners up for later failure.


We have made changes to the tips and notes, to reflect that the current pronunciation is correct and better in formal contexts, but the other ones mentioned are often used colloquially. You are right in saying that it is more of a natural contraction like "gonna" for "going to". Using the formal pronunciation instead of the colloquial one is certainly not going to be an issue or a moment of embarrassment. Moreover, even in informal written text, you may see ये and वो instead of यह and वह because of the (mostly) phonetic writing system.


Thanks! This explanation makes sense and I'm starting to feel like I understand this a little bit. It also is making me realize though that I have a long way to go before understanding the language in a more natural way.

Every language I learn, I have to go through the process of learning the particular ways people shorten things...it's different in each language, but I find very important to learn!


So you guys think that this matter of pronouncing short vowels (/a/, /u/) in the environment of /h/ is an issue of formality vs. informality?


You should go ahead with the course.

I agree that these two words need to be fixed but literally these are the only two words that needs fixing out of hundreds that they'll be teaching. Every other word that I have come across till now has been pronounced correctly. So you can remember the correct rule about यह and वह and do the course. Moreover everyone in India who speaks Hindi will understand you perfectly even if you say yah and vah. :)


It's so fundamental to early learning to get these sounds right. It's not good enough to say "Just remember the rules". And these aren't just any two words, these are quite important and appear in a vast majority of sentences.


Replacing audio is apparently quite a tricky task though - some mispronunciations were reported in the French course months if not years ago and haven't been corrected. Hopefully it'll be done in time but it's still worth ploughing on with the course. Incidentally Rocket Hindi pronounces yah and vah as written and it has slightly screwed up my own pronunciation of them, so I do think it's important to correct it.


If replacing audio is difficult or time-consuming, then in my opinion this is a broader or more abstract problem that Duolingo as a whole needs to solve. And I'm talking the paid staff, because it's clear that the course contributors have no ability under the current setup to do it on their own.

There may not be a lot of audio problems in the Hindi course, but I've reported problems with audio in numerous other courses, including Chinese, and Japanese, like mispronounced characters (a bigger issue with Chinese as there is no phonetic writing system and thus no way to check or verify pronunciation without consulting external tools.)

And many of these problems have gone months without going addressed.

I personally think that the paid staff at Duolingo are failing at doing their job competently as long as they fail to address this deficiency.

And by "this deficiency" I don't mean the isolated mispronounciation of two words in the Hindi course. I mean the systematic deficiency of it being hard to correct audio issues.

Audio isn't rocket science. I'm a web programmer and I've worked with audio embedded in webpages before. It's something any intelligent programmer could figure out in a reasonable timeframe. Nearly all TTS systems have ways to tweak them...if they don't have an API that allows you to manually specify pronunciation, there are "hacks" you can do to feed them alternate information and these hacks are easy to implement from a programming standpoint. And as a fallback you can always manually record a human-pronounced audio, or if you want to make it consistent, just record the TTS pronouncing it the way you want and then have that file manually play in the specific cases.

All of these things are very easy to implement from a programming standpoint...a simple field in the database for a manual override, an extra field for the text override for TTS or audio file for override...BAM. It works seamlessly without the user noticing anything.

The fact that this problem has existed for well over a year (years?) without being addressed, I think is testimony to the fact that the Duolingo paid staff is prioritizing stuff that is not important over stuff that is important.

This would not be a hard problem to address on the technical end, and it would have huge positive implications for improving the quality of the Duolingo courses across the board, especially for the newer courses that are more error-prone, and I'm not talking about Hindi because in my experience the Hindi course is pretty good even at launch.

But I think just letting this go and just saying "oh it's a tricky task" is letting people off the hook.

It's not a tricky task. It's someone failing to do their (not so tricky) job to make it an easier task.


यह and वह are usually pronounced the right way in formal settings (parliament, political speeches, etc) so I assume they would stick to the actual pronunciation in a teaching course than teach you the colloquial

People IRL won't mind if you say them like that. It'll just look a lil weird (like using Usted instead of Tú) in spanish


I'm curious, is the shortening of them kind of natural, like how in English we switch from saying "Going to" to "gonna" in casual speech, and further to "gon' " in certain dialects?

Maybe if it's like this it wouldn't be so bad for me to learn the proper / formal forms because it would then be easier to shift over.

The contraction of them was not at all intuitive to me, but I'm not a native speaker and nowhere near fluent yet...maybe if I get more immersed in the language and its soundscape, the shortened forms will feel more natural to me.


No, this is not correct. It is not the "actual pronunciation." You are assuming the Devanagari spelling has some authority to reveal the "real" pronunciation, but that's not true. Just look at the spelling in Arabic script for Urdu. It's "ye." This is a consistent feature of Hindi when short vowel is near medial/final H. One has to interpret the Devanagari spelling for the pronunciation. Just like in the English word "often" you don't pronounce the "t". It is NOT the "right way" to pronounce "t" just because you see it written there!


Are you saying this is part of like a trend or pattern that also plays out with other words?


I don't think the case of Urdu is very different. The spelling in the Urdu script for यह is chhoti ye + chhoti he, and similarly for वह it is wao + chhoti he. Chhoti he by itself is neither the sound of badi ye as in ये or the sound of wao as in वो.


Namaste ! Where do you see the course notes in the new display of Duolingo? When I click on a bubble it automatically opens the exercise but I don't see the notes as in the previous version. Thanks!


When you click the bubble there is a small lightbulb icon in a circle, and clicking this takes you to the notes page. I'm on desktop though; I don't know if it's possible to view this on the mobile apps. If you're on mobile and still don't see it, try using the website in your mobile browser.


Google translate's TTS and transliterations are utter rubbish for Arabic [ignoring even very simple rules, mispronouncing common words] i don't know if they are better for Hindi?

also, duolingo often gets words wrong in english where they depend on context, e.g. "i live in Berlin" and "i saw the band play live" would have "live" said the same way.

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