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The Esperanto audio is too fast / too slow / not clear

As a follow-up to my post Mi, Ni, and sometimes Vi : Trouble hearing pronouns in Esperanto, another common concern I see is something along the lines of:

  • The audio for the sentence was too fast
  • The speaker is mumbling
  • "Kiel vi fartas" sounds like 'Kied li dadas"

Since these comments are so common, I thought write out some thoughts about this and then link back here as this comes up.

Most often the sound is fine

When I see comments like this, I usually try to track down the audio and give it a listen. There can be big differences to how audio sounds on different devices or with different headphones or speakers, so it can make sense to experiment a bit with that. Plus our expectations can shape what we hear, as in the Brainstorm/Green Needle audio illusion. When there are other Esperanto speakers in my house, I ask them to listen without telling them what the sentence is supposed to be. Occasionally we find problems - or we're split on what a sentence sounds like. Most of the time, though, the sound is fine.

There's no happy medium for "too fast"

For the first few years of the Esperanto course, people complained that the recordings were too fast. Then, when the contributors were able to record audio directly, people started complaining that they were too slow and moronic (spoken as if to children.) Maybe some day Duolingo will make it possible to have multiple recordings from multiple speakers at multiple speeds for all languages - and maybe some day the volunteers will have time to record them all... but for now, all we can do is make do.

Just focus on your own improvement

Remember that Duolingo isn't a test. You're not getting a grade. You just need to learn a little bit with each exercise to get gradually better over time. It's OK to get an exercise wrong if you're learning from it. I've seen several cases where people have complained about problems with the audio and then a few months later they come back to the same sentence and find they can understand it just fine. If you started out being able to understand spoken Esperanto, then you wouldn't be here learning it.

A computer course can only do so much

The recordings in this course are a great resource. They include male and female speakers from a variety of national language backgrounds. Occasionally some national language habits poke through, but in general the quality is excellent from the point of view of the international norms of pronunciation for Esperanto, but the nature of the format only gives the option of one recording per sentence. The computer can't make it any more clear the second time, as would happen in real life. Duolingo doesn't simulate real-life situations where you have to listen to several sentences in a row. It can't ask you which word you didn't understand. If you want a little more personalized attention, you could supplement your Duolingo by working with a tutor, listening to YouTube videos, or going to Esperanto events.

Keep trying. Keep learning. Keep getting better.

October 17, 2019



My opinion is that people complain too much. This is a free learning platform whose contributors (as far as I know) do all the work for free. Everyone is doing their best to help improve the content of the course. It's just impossible to satisfy the need of each learner. Keep on learning guys, it's just a matter of practice.

October 17, 2019


Honestly when you improve your listening enough the audio starts to sound too slow. So its just all personal opinion.

October 17, 2019


Free doesn't mean it has to be low level. But yes, they complain too much, often for bad reasons.

October 17, 2019


And of course, it's not "low level". The vast majority of the audio is amazingly good. Many experienced speakers and expert Esperanto teachers have listened to and evaluated these sound files.

October 18, 2019


Actually I recently came across one recording that was wicked fast. I'm sort of in "maintenance mode" on Duolingo Esperanto and just patching up my tree from time to time after the great "3rd Esperanto Tree" destruction. Most of my skills are now at the first or second level. The vast majority of those recordings are quite slow, and that's fine given the level.

There was one, however, that was just nuts. I actually laughed out loud! But here's the thing, I've heard Esperantistoj speak like that in real life (particularly denaskulo) so I just figured, I'd take it as it came. I know I need to work on my listening skills anyway, but I can't imagine a beginner not being blindsided by it.

If I come across it again, I'll post it here.

October 23, 2019


If I come across it again, I'll post it here.

And/or post a comment in the relevant thread. Thanks.

I recently came across one recording that was wicked fast

I'm not saying it doesn't happen. Yesterday I came upon a comment in thread "Kiel ŝi manĝas?" (IIRC). The original "voice of Duolingo" recording was such so that I could easily forgive someone who thought he was saying "Kie ŝi manĝas?". Was it bad enough to say something about? Was it bad at all? I couldn't decide.

Finally I noticed that I'd commented on the thread some time before (possibly before the course volunteers had the ability to record audio themselves). It looked like I had been working through the course and got that exercise wrong. I commented something along the lines of "if you got this one marked wrong, you're in good company - keep working at it, it takes time."

When I saw that comment from myself, I decided that was good enough, and I moved on.

October 23, 2019


not clear and too fast but somehow im still learning to keep up the good work. I know that it is hard to pronouns words in Spanish. XD

October 17, 2019


The vast majority of the audio in the Duolingo course is clear, and at normal conversational speed.

The issue is that it's a new language for you, and you haven't yet learned to hear and understand it. That's something every language learner of every language has to work through.

For some reason, with the Esperanto course people seem very quick to say "I don't understand, the recording is bad" instead of "I don't understand, I'm new to the language, I need to keep listening and trying."

October 18, 2019


I had this experience, but I figured it was because I was a noob. Also, it took me some time to learn how to use duo. It really helps me to try to get all the meaning in mind before I write the sentence. So I have duo repeat it several times, getting a bit more each time, then finally write what I heard. Of course, sometimes it is nonsense... so I write the nonsense phonetically. Then after it is wrong, I listen several times again, trying to parse it by the received text. When I finally know what it is, I try to understand and speak it. I had a lot of trouble with "je", which sounded (for weeks) to me like an impossible "ie" prefix or suffix. A blurry-fast "impossible word" is often some very useful, very routine stock -phrase- worth memorizing. I hope this helps.

October 19, 2019


In my opinion, very often first three/four words of a long sentence are spoken so fast that they are blurred into one word. Now, dental consonants are pronounced as alveolar or even postalveolar - but I am not sure what is the standard pronunciation of t and d: are they supposed to be dental or alveolar?

October 22, 2019
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