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Pronunciation of personal pronouns in Esperanto is unacceptable

To a beginner, when the spoken sentence gives absolutely NO context (per regular verbs), it is more critical to clearly speak the personal pronoun that serves as the subject of the sentence. Many times it seems the speaker is intentionally trying to mislead by completely botching the job of saying the relevant personal pronoun correctly. I often listen to the sentence over and over again trying to catch which one, to no avail. I will not consider upgrading to "plus" until several small matters like this are addressed. The sloppiness must end.

January 6, 2020



Quite frankly, the title of this thread ("Pronunciation of personal pronouns in Esperanto is unacceptable") is hysterical. Actually, the whole post is. Who are you talking to? What do you expect anybody to do about it? Please consider:

  • Nobody reading this has the power to change Esperanto pronouns.
  • The pronunciation in the course is generally good.
  • The people who make the recordings receive no money from your "plus" subscription or lack thereof.

I'm sorry you're frustrated. You're not alone. In fact, I've written a post on a similar theme. I would encourage you to have a look.

Mi, Ni, and sometimes Vi : Trouble hearing pronouns in Esperanto

Link here:

Edit: Carbsrule beat me by 4 minutes as I was typing up my comment. Thanks for linking to to the other related post that I wrote, which is:

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



I'd recommend using headphones, and perhaps reading this post

Manĝu terpomojn kaj feliĉiĝu!


Learning to hear and understand a new language is a challenge for any beginner, for any language. It takes time and repeated listening practice to begin to sort out the sounds and distinguish words. You might want to sample some other Duolingo course, like Welsh, or Portuguese, or another language you're unfamiliar with. I suspect you'll experience the same thing.

I agree with the comments by Salivanto and Carbsrule.

I want to note, though, that you've identified a characteristic of Duolingo: presentation of random sentences without context. That's how Duolingo courses are structured (although broadly within categories). If that approach doesn't work for you, there are lots of other ways to learn Esperanto.

None of the recordings in the course are "botched", and there's no intentional "misleading" of anyone. The course presents normal, spoken Esperanto at normal conversational speed, recorded by knowledgeable and competent speakers.

Another point to consider--I don't know your age--is your own hearing acuity. I'm 67, going on 68 this week, and am aware of some decline in my ability to hear things and distinguish sounds. Over the years at NASK (the US summer Esperanto course) I've had several students "of a certain age" who really have struggled both with hearing and understanding, and also with pronouncing. You can't pronounce clearly what you can't hear clearly. The same is true of anyone at any age who has a hearing deficit.

I think it's interesting, since the inception of the Duolingo course, how many people have said something to the effect of "I can't understand this. There's something wrong with the course", instead of thinking through the dynamics of language learning, and considering any of their own limitations.


I am a minor, yet i experience similar issues despite perfect hearing and a modern computer+sound system. The readers somewhat slur the first letter, so Vi, Ni, and Mi sound like a light mumble followed by a strong EEE. for example, mmmEEEE estas altaj. I think the first letter needs more emphasis.


There was an audio snippet that came up in a lesson that I totally was sure, after replaying again and again, said al mi when the correct transcription was al ni. I reported the audio.

Then the same sentence came up a couple days later in either a test-out or practice, I’m not sure which. I distinctly heard al ni and it didn’t even sound borderline.

Then I realized something that had happened in the meantime: I received a gift of some new Bose wireless noise-cancelling headphones, much fancier and more expensive than I’d buy for myself. So I got out the old headphones and played the sentence again: al mi. Reactivated the new Bose ones, al ni. Another case where I’d clearly heard the speaker say drinki instead of trinki also resolved with the new headphones. But disconnecting both headphones, the iPad loudspeaker made it sound ambiguous.

This experience makes me hyperaware of how much listening conditions can change what you hear!


Your comment is very on target, and it's something I emphasize whenever possible.

I've listened to multiple Duolingo recordings on different devices, and have always been surprised about the difference in what I hear.

It's not to say that everyone needs expensive headphones. (Although that was a sweet gift, lucky you!) But it means that people need to understand what they hear may be dependent on lots of factors, including the speaker technology in use.

It's easy to say "I can't understand this; there must be something wrong with the recording." It's much harder to listen to a wide variety of recordings over time, and learn to hear the language correctly in spite of minor variations and sound problems with equipment.

I always hate to do the "Back when I was a kid and had to walk miles through the snow to school" thing, but when I was learning French, we spent hours and hours in the language lab with old fashioned clunky heavy headphones on, listening to spoken French at normal conversational speed. It took hundreds of hours of listening practice before the French phonetics became natural for me.

Today's culture of "instant success" doesn't have much tolerance for that kind of extended practice.


I think it's last letter emphasis and slight mumbling. Which I think would be removed in a native environment.

for "Mi", "Ni", "Vi" the only difference is the first letter, so you should 100% totally without question emphasize that letter MMMe, NNNee, VVVee. The same problem happens with the tenses, "os" and "is" can shorten to just a "s" sound, when they should be "OOOsss" "IIIIsss".. The s is there as a slight glide consonant. For example if you say "Ye are" there is a gap, bit if you say "Yes are" the gap is gone. It should be seen as nothing more than allowing one word to glide into another, not the main pronunciation point of the word.

The problem might be more annoying depending on your native language. In English there are some words that sound exactly the same, but you would never confuse two written differently like "Me" and "Knee", or "very" and "berry", of course you might confuse "They're, Their, There", or "You're, Your", der, der, der, yur, yur.

The problem might also be that my opinion is wrong, and they are pronouncing exactly right, and my thoughts of clearing it up are just me pushing my opinion onto the language, I dunno.


Except I've seen cases on the forum where the speaker very clearly emphasizes the V in Vvvvi estas whatever, and people comment about how the speaker "distinctly" says LLLLi estas...

You're correct about -as and -is at the end of words. When I'm working with a student over Skype, I generally don't interrupt my students, but if I catch them saying "uhs" and "iss" instead of -as and -is, I will stop and let them know that I can't tell WHEN the thing they're saying is happening. It's very important.

But this is generally not a problem for the people recording the sentences for the course.


I also have trouble telling apart similar sounding words. I even have this in English such as “did you say T for Tom or D for dog?”. With pronouns in English, though, sometimes it helps that the verb is conjugated so it’s not so dependent on just one word. In conversation, of course, it helps to have a whole context. Meanwhile, because many of the sentences, practices and questions repeat, I find that I am able to remember the pronouns because I remember what was used the time before.

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