The Irish Course: Audio Files and Pronunciation
I recently completed the Irish course here on Duolingo, and am overall fairly satisfied. However, it is a language so infamously difficult to learn, and on top of that, so difficult to read and pronounce for beginners. Despite this, more words have no audio file than words that do. I´ve found that in a few choice words, I will mispronounce a word unwittingly, and weeks later, will find it out to be a word I had been completely butchering. In the French course, one of the better courses on site, has an audio file for almost every single sentence, phrase and word, with slowed down versions to boot. These were tremendously helpful, and if implemented more widely in the Irish Course, would make learning the language far more engaging and fathoms more approachable. A male speaker would also be nice, especially in instances where a female voice would say, ¨Is buachaill mé, ní cailín mé!¨ -As a sidenote, I understand the tremendous difficulty and time needed to construct a language course, and completely respect the process and those who make the course, but I am merely making suggestions and adding constructive criticism. Thank you! -Your Loyal Consumer/Gaeilge Enthusiast
Memrise has a Duolingo Irish course that has been more than helpful to me. It has all the words and expressions from the Duolingo Irish course, plus a few more.
I'm going to be in Ireland next month to see my family. My Uncle is a native speaker and a couple of his grandkids are in a Gaelscoil now, so I should have a good chance of correcting some pronunciations myself.
1) Irish may be perceived as difficult but compared to other languages, it's not really that bad. Its phonology is indeed one of the most difficult aspects (although compared to other Celtic languages, like Scottish Gaelic or Welsh, it has a slightly easier phonology), So I am sympathetic to beginners here as I believe this course does a poor job with presenting learners with a clear guide on phonology. The speaker they got to do the audio files doesn't pronounce phonemes consistently and in too many cases she doesn't enunciate very well, and while that may be how she speaks naturally, it's not helpful for learners who just starting to learn Irish phonology.
2) The only way this course will obtain full audio is if the Irish team opts for TTS software as other course here have, but they so far have not made any hint that they will. They in fact made a fairly lengthy argument as to why they didn't want to do that when they released the course and people complained about the quality of audio and lack of audio for much of the course. But as long as they stick with recorded audio, this is probably the best we can hope for because recording the current amount of files was a pretty big undertaking for a team of volunteers and for the volunteer speaker who made the course.
3) As for a male voice, it would be nice for the course to have another voice for people to hear a different speaker. But if you want language learning tools like Duolingo to conform to your expectations of gender roles, than LOL. Sorry but that's a petty and irrelevant complaint. Every course here that uses the TTS software pretty much has both male and female voices saying all the phrases regardless of how those phrases are gendered. If you were in a class with a female teacher, that teacher would be saying these phrases too. You're learning the language, not learning how to conform to social constructs of gender.
You can't "opt for TTS software" that doesn't exist. Duolingo doesn't do its own TTS, it licenses commercial TTS systems, and there is no market for a commercial TTS system for Irish, so Duolingo can't use TTS for Irish.
Useful and all as abair.ie can be, it is not good enough, and it would not be an improvement.
It would still be nice to have a function that would slow things down. The university courses I've taken let you play naturally spoken dialogue at half speed, and everyone sounds drunk but it's possible to make out individual words and sounds. Every time I come back to Irish after focusing on some other language, I'm struck all over again by how badly it needs the option to slow it down, and how frustrating it is without that.
It's possible to play the clips on Irish exercises Duolingo at half speed, it's just not entirely straightforward.
For example, the audio for Nach dúirt mé leat teacht anoir? can be accessed directly here:
If you open that link in your browser, you can right-click on it and set the Play Speed to 0.5.
The result is much smoother in Microsoft Edge than in Firefox. I imagine that someone with the right skills could create an extension to allow you to do this very easily, but the poor quality of the Firefox output compared to the Edge output points to one problem with that approach.
Regarding the pronunciation of Irish, I find it hard to tell which vowel is pronounced and which one modifies the consonant.
Is there a general rule regarding that?
In general, a vowel that is adjacent to a consonant determines whether the consonant is pronounced broad or slender. The most common exceptions are the digraph ae, which is treated as a single broad vowel (so e.g. Gael is pronounced with a broad l ), and vowels that are at the end of the first part of a compound word (e.g. uiscedhath [“watercolor”], where the e doesn’t affect the pronunciation of the dh).
Like English, Irish has vowel digraphs and trigraphs, so the vowel sound that is pronounced can depend upon the particular combination of vowel letters. I believe that a vowel with a síneadh fada will always be pronounced.
The French from English course is among those that are able to use speech synthesis software to provide audio (as well as slowed-down audio) for every exercise. The speech synthesis system that Duolingo uses doesn’t support every language; Irish is among the languages that isn’t supported by it, so recordings were made for the Irish from English course instead. A few thousand recordings were made at no small expense, and even then, recordings only exist for roughly 25% of the Irish language exercises; it is highly unlikely that recordings will be made for the remaining exercises without audio.
Is the 2.0 tree still in progress?
Thanks, I hope it is still in progress. It is hard to tell since the last update was a year ago.
That was exactly my point. None of us can tell if it’s still in progress, since updates to the Incubator page seem to have been abandoned — and that despite the most recent update’s assurance that
we will be making more of [an] effort to keep you up to date on the tree’s development.