Hindi - Letters 1 - Anyone else had/having trouble?
I just started Hindi on Duolingo today in an attempt to begin to understand some of my extended family (from Haryana, so what I'm hearing is Hindi with a Punjabi accent) a little bit better. I knew a lot of the letters but ended up forgetting them in the three years I stopped learning. Some of the transliterations seem off to me (what is now "ca" should be "cha" and what is "cha" should be "chha" in my opinion. Same with a lot of other consonants - "ta" should be "tha" and "tha" should be "thha") It's quite difficult for me to get correct answers on a lot of the vowel sounds too (the i and long ī sound similar if I don't have both for reference). Could this issue just be me, or are other people experiencing this too?
That is the reason I think it is better to learn to write in the script the language uses as soon as possible. There are many sounds in Hindi that are hard to represent accurately, let alone represent accurately to all speakers of various different languages. We all have sound-associations that come from our own native language. Your brain automatically thinks that 'da' f.i. sounds a certain way, based on your own native language. Hindi has 'd'-sounds that do not exist in Dutch. The best way to learn to hear them is to learn the way they are represented in Hindi, which is to learn their characters in Devanagari. As soon as I started to use Devanagari I started to hear the various sounds much better. F.i. there is no 'm' as Dutch speakers know it in हूँ. Nor is there an 'n' as Dutch speakers know it in मैं . As my old French teacher said: do not translate. Learn French the French way, as the only way to say something, not as a translation of something else.
I'm not very familiar with Hindi yet (or Duolingo), but I wonder if this is potentially an unavoidable feature of teaching any widely spoken language. As in, if Duolingo teaches pronunciations based on region/dialect "A," then everyone who has experienced that language from region/dialect "B" will say it is incorrect. But If Duolingo changes their courses to reflect region/dialect "B's" pronunciation, then the reverse issue will be true. So it may be a lose-lose situation for Duolingo, and they may simply choose the most common pronunciations. A more real example of this: last year I visited Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Haryana. Even though all those states are very close to each other, I noticed that the way people said "ठीक है" was very different. In some areas people pronounced "ठीक" with a very hard "T," and in other areas is was a much softer "th," an again elsewhere it was closer to a "dh." Now my ears aren't very well trained for hearing Hindi, so there may be other nuances that I missed.
I think it's the way they spell the pronunciation as what they write "ca" ( च) is clearly said "cha". I, and most people I think, would be interpreting "ca" as the beginning sound in "cat" rather than "chat". The woman who is doing the sound samples is saying च like the beginning sound in "chunk" and she has a fairly standard accent (most of the Hindi I hear is spoken with a Punjabi accent and there's really no difference in consonant sounds. Consonant sounds are where the difference is in in the course.)
It's common to write the transliteration of that च symbol as 'c', etc. But transliterations are usually bad - I had one book that used upper and lower case to distinguish the different t sounds, for example. There's some similarity to English sounds, which can help get you started, but there are also important differences.
I prefer to think of transliteration as a training hint until I know what the sound is for each symbol, and try not to take them too seriously as pronunciation guides.
Transliterations aren't usually bad, they're just more practical than trying to use English spelling to write a language.
Hmm that is a good point. I have noticed that different learning resources will represent Hindi characters with different English letters. I have a book that represents "च" with "ch-uh" (which to your point does sound more accurate), but other websites will represent it with "ca" (same as Duo) or "cha."
The letter च does make the English Ch sound, but using a digraph like ch, where c by itself doesn't mean anything is stupid. Therefore, they use c for च and ch for छ. This is a very standardised romanisation technique.
As for your ta-tha, confusion, you fail to realise that there are ट ठ त थ, ट and त are not aspirated (without an h sound), while ठ and थ are.
As bhasachatro says, the thing to remember is that the letters like 'ca' or 'ta' that Duolingo shows are not pronunciation guides. They are from the ISO 15919 transliteration scheme for representing Indian languages using the Roman script. The scheme is designed such that any Indic script can be written in the Roman script without scope for any ambiguity.
Of course, as someone who is learning Hindi, you are not expected to be familiar with the scheme. It is provided as a way for you learn what Hindi vowels and consonants sound like (from the voice) before you see them in the Devanagari script. So, it's best not to associate the letters with what they might sound like in English. Treat them as if you were learning another language (say Spanish) which uses the same script but with the vowels and consonants being pronounced somewhat differently from English.
If you still find it difficult to get accustomed to the transliterations, the good news is that Duolingo only uses them in the 'Letters' lessons. The rest of the course is entirely in the Devanagari script.
That said, I completely understand that the Duolingo model is not particularly well suited to learn new scripts. I usually suggest the Hindi script tutor but any similar resource, where you can see and hear all the letters in one place to practice, can be of help as a supplement to Duolingo until you master the script.
Same here. I know the entire script of Hindi and quite a few words and phrases too. I just don't know the pure language (sentence formation and structure). So, as I started, I felt the letters section at the beginning is quite faulty and off. No, it's not just faulty, it's even wrong. In some exercises vowels, such as इ ( i ) and ई ( ī ) were given the exact same pronunciation. I wish i could entirely skip the first checkpoint (with 5 crowns in all exercises), but that option is not available. The consonant sounds are off too but it's understandable. Best option is to use phonetic symbols for teaching.
P.S.: Duolingo is the worst for learning scripts. Hiragana of Japanese gave me hell.