Am I the only one who wishes that the speakers who read sentences for the "Write What You Hear" questions would enunciate more clearly? I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a question wrong because I could have sworn they said, "Tio," when really they said "Tiu!"
This gets discussed semi-regularly. For the most part the voices are extreemely clear to people who have a bit of experience with the language. You may wish to try listening with earphones on a decent computer as the files often seem 'clipped' when just played off the internal speakers and it seems to be the beginning of the sentances that get lost. It is mostly a tech issue not a problem with the voice/enunciation. Loads of people try this and say the difference is amazing.
I would just like to say thank you to everyone who commiserated with me on this. I really wasn't trying to be rude; I'm just very competitive with myself (if that makes sense). I get excited when I'm on a roll, getting all right answers. It's frustrating when I break that streak through my own mistake, but even worse when it happens this way. That said, 99% of the time I think the readers do an excellent job speaking as one would in daily conversation. I hope I haven't come across as rude.
One way to focus your listening skills is simply to close your eyes while trying to understand a pronunciation that's giving you difficulty. We don't realize just how many distractions are around us. When I was starting out in Esperanto, I had to use this eyes-closed listening A LOT.
For my own pronunciation, I focus on the fact that Esperanto has 5 (just 5) clearly-defined vowels. I found that I was sloppy at first, transferring the changes of unstressed vowels from English into Esperanto. (Actually, Russian is one of the best languages to make you aware of changes between stressed and unstressed vowels, because the changes are regular and formalized.) Most of the speakers on the DUO lessons are really good at keeping the vowels clear. (Yes, sometimes there are exceptions, but closing your eyes helps even then!)
I focus on giving each and every vowel the proper Esperanto pronunciation. I also deliberately slow down -- taking the time to give it my best effort. As a native speaker of English, I race along and blur a lot of sounds in English. In English, I think, it's much harder to "catch" the words of an utterance: we run words together, we change unstressed vowels, and we certainly don't enunciate well at all. Many native speakers of English are surprised at just how much they need to move their mouths/faces in order to create the sounds of another language.
Mi havas du senton pri tiu ĉi. Unue, mi kredas ke ĝi estas tre grava por lerni aŭdi la subtilan malsamon en la parolada. Due, jes, fakte ili foje tre malfacile aŭdi. ;)
I have two feelings about this. First of all, I think it's very important to learn to hear the subtle difference in the speech. Secondly, yes, in fact they are sometimes very difficult to hear. ;)
Perhaps I chose a bad example. Today as I was doing my lesson, I came across a preposition I'd never heard before. I listened again and again and thought I was hearing an "o" at the end, so that's what I typed. But when I checked my answer, it turns out the word ended with "aŭ." I must have listened to that phrase at least nine times and when I saw the correct answer I actually listened again and I STILL say the word in the recording ened with an "o!" I agree that one has to listen to subtle differences. It's just maddening to get an answer wrong that way!
I had the same problem in the beginning. But the further down the tree I go, the easier it gets (I often go back and just exercise for a week instead of trying to progress further). Today, I very rarely have that mi/ni problem any more. I think, it's just the ears, which have to get used to hear the language.
Same with the mouth BTW. The more you speak, the easier the pronunciation gets.
I've noticed that some of the audio clips with the fast talking gentleman often have the question discussion section filled with comments specifying the difficulty in understanding what he is actually saying. Some words definitely sound nearly identical in the audio files and with the speed he speaks at half the time I have to guess at what is being said. The German course frequently has the slowed down audio available but so far I don't think I've come across the turtle icon with an actual audio file in the Esperanto course.
I agree here. All my other languages have the option to hear the audio slowed down, but not Esperanto. When it was just the early speakers, who spoke slowly and clearly, this wasn't an issue. With the gentleman who speaks very quickly, it is often difficult to pick out more than a couple words, and then have to try to guess the rest.
Mi malkonsentas; mi pensas, ke la parolantoj parolas bone. La problemo estas, ke multaj gravaj vortoj estas tre similaj, tial estas malfacile kompreni por komencantoj. Ekzemple: mi/vi/li/ŝi/si kaj tiu/tio/tie/tia.
Oni nur bezonas praktiki.
Unfortunately, it seems that people pronounce Esperanto words with their own accent. Final o and u are often pronounced alike, all unaccented vowels might be reduced to the same sound (which makes impossible to discern a tense of a verb), vowels followed by nasal consonants are nasalized, etc.