https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JodyHolmes2

Trouble with the French voices

Does anyone else have trouble with the volume and quality of the French voices used by Duolingo in the beginers lessons? At normal volume the woman's voice comes out of my speakers distorted. By turning down the volume, I can improve it a bit, but it is still distorted. The French man's voice is fine at the regular volume, but too quiet to hear at the same setting as the woman's voice! This makes the lesson difficult as I have to switch the volume setting up and down and then play the sentences again.

August 24, 2018

26 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Daniel589120

In the future there will be a large population of foreigners who will speak French fluently with a unique new accent, exemplified by the female Duolingo machine voice! Also, everything you have described is not new and if you search the discussions you will notice that hundreds of people have complained on exactly the issues you have just mentioned.

August 24, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fox2000and

You will be able to pick these people instantly by the way they say "œuf" like a small dog barking

August 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ukaunz

And when they "donc!" you on the head!

August 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JamesTPhillips

You'll have people reply that there's nothing wrong with the female French voice and that it's just inexperience in French, and not bad audio quality, that gives you trouble with her (I've read a few threads like this). But as someone who has experience working with audio, I can tell you that the problem is real and is likely a combination of low sample rate and low bitrate. In other words, the audio has been recorded at low quality and is streamed at low quality too.

When you compress audio past a certain point, you lose considerable definition in the high frequencies. This degrades the intelligibility, because implosives and fricatives like P, T, F and S rely on the high end of the frequency spectrum to be heard correctly. As you reduce the bitrate, sounds like S and F lose their definition and it becomes hard to distinguish them. It doesn't take a PhD to understand how this presents serious problems for the student of a language.

As I understand it, DuoLingo uses a third party text-to-speech library. So they have no control over the audio quality of the female voice. However this does not mean they have no control over which third party library they use. I honestly think the female French voice is detrimental to the course and I would like to hope that DuoLingo is at least considering a change in the future.

August 24, 2018

[deactivated user]

    MERCI :)

    August 24, 2018

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MissClawful

    I put myself through trying to understand and fail to understand her too much that after doing over half of the french lessons I just did not want to endure her anymore... I shut her up. No more listening exercises. That doesn't mean I won't get that earful of necessary learning to hear speech thing because I can get there elsewhere and much clearer, video games and videos. I just need duolingo for the basics and grammar. Well, actually I don't need it for that either since I do study in other ways that have been very beneficial, but what duolingo is doing for me is keeping me on top of things without slacking off too much, the whole goal, experience points and crowns things, and then coming to the forum for that ever so little bit of human interaction I get.

    August 24, 2018

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/geerte13

    i agree with that. I often use Duo without the sound on. This means no listening exercises. I'll then make sure to spend dedicated time listening to French speakers.

    I watch a lot of the news items on France24, they're short and the subject is easy to grasp. You get a variety of speakers as well, to help you improve.

    August 24, 2018

    [deactivated user]

      Missclawful, thanks for the amazing idea! I am going to turn off listening ideas. And may I suggest also trying Lingvist in addition to Duolingo? It's a vocabulary booster up to 5,000 words, 3,000 is free. Great voices and very useful, real life phrases.

      August 24, 2018

      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MissClawful

      Thank you for the suggestion but I have a hard time spreading myself around to too many places. I got duolingo for the lessons, youtube for the occasional video, books for reading and video games. With the games I write/type out a great deal of the game dialogue, a ton of game text and conversation.

      August 24, 2018

      [deactivated user]

        Sure, it's good to pick and choose and set limits:) Sounds like you are doing a lot.

        August 24, 2018

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SarahWeaver1

        As odd as it sounds, I actually prefer the sound of French woman voices. The exception is Je.

        Men's voices, I'd have an easier time hearng a cat's growl at its lowest whisper.

        August 24, 2018

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JodyHolmes2

        I love that image of a man's voice!! I don't know what I prefer in real life yet as I am just starting to really focus on listening and hearing. The particular voice I cannot understand is the woman's voice used by Duolingo in the beginning lessons.

        August 24, 2018

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaryAnne993219

        Most of us have difficulty with the female voice. It is a shame because listening is such an important part of the learning process.

        August 24, 2018

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gatiquo

        You will get used to the difference after a few more lessons.

        August 24, 2018

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaryAnne993219

        The female French voice seemed to get worse for me over time.

        August 24, 2018

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JodyHolmes2

        Thanks - I hope so!

        August 24, 2018

        [deactivated user]

          I am bilingual, I came to Duolingo to brush up, and the woman's voice is TERRIBLE, it trails off. I study other languages and I find the other voices there great.

          August 24, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Matt5320

          Agree. It is appalling.

          August 27, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rebecca_Au

          Mine doesn't trail off. I believe this is how it is supposed to sound, it's the French accent that makes it trail off. I'm not French if you were wondering but i have been to France. The voice is accurate but if you are finding it hard to understand then contacting the 'Duolingo' staff should help. And for the man's voice, the man has a lower tone so it is easier if that's what you want to know. I hoped this helped.

          August 24, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaryAnne993219

          The woman seems lower and muffled. I did not notice it when I was a level 7. The first time I heard someone complain about this problem, I didn't agree.

          August 24, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rebecca_Au

          Thank you for the advice, when i notice a problem I'll come back and edit my reply :)

          August 29, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NathanielDUO

          I don't see anything wrong with mine. It's probably you just have an old computer. It's just my prediction.

          August 24, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JodyHolmes2

          nope

          August 27, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ukaunz

          I am currently experiencing a different problem with the voices. In the listening exercises, most of the words are spoken by the French male or female voice, but occasionally one word in the sentence is spoken in an American English voice. For example the words "a", "robe" and others I can't remember right now, will suddenly appear in the middle of an otherwise French sentence, spoken with the American English pronunciation. But at other times the same word is spoken in the correct voice. It's so weird and distracting!

          August 25, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Susan166883

          Yes, same for me. If the word looks exactly the same in English as in French eg "village", that word in the sentence is suddenly pronounced by an English speaker in the middle of the male/female French Duo voices. Disconcerting, but I figure it will be fixed in the fullness of time.

          August 26, 2018

          https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ukaunz

          Yes, they are always words that can be spelled the same in English: I just had the problem with "roses".

          I understand that Duolingo can't do anything, but it would be good if we could report the problem to the responsible party.

          August 26, 2018
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