Is DuoLingo trying to grow too fast?
I see a lot of threads now with technical problems with the site. I've had quite a few myself. Even more troubling are new sentences added that are almost incomprehensible. Not even in English, my native language, can I understand some of these sentences, spoken fast or word by word.
I have to wonder how they choose the people to read the model sentences. I've begun to be suspicious of the "spoken" Spanish I was learning. Those who are learning spoken English are getting some pretty bizarre pronunciations: "I live in Mexico," for example, where "live" is pronounced as in "he is a live wire."
These aren't speakers with English as a native language although their accents are often excellent in other sentences.
I honestly don't try to learn how to speak from the TTS. It was a great way to get me to start trying to speak and listen. But, I turned off my mic and practice saying everything out loud without being prompted, and I just headed over to Youtube for pronunciation tutorials. I get my listening comprehension practice from tv shows and conversations with my friend who is a native Spanish/English speaker. The voice/mic features serve a documented purpose in that people progress further with the course then when they are not available. So, even though they aren't perfect, they really do help people stick to it. When people outgrow them or wander off to supplement their Duolingo studies with other materials they still had something that inspired them to stay the course more than a day, two days, a week, etc. They are still on a language journey with an entire internet to guide them and a Duolingo community to help them stay the course. Everyone works with what is available and Duolingo is still largely an experimental project that so far seems to be working very well. So, don't give up and don't let something surmountable stand in your way. :)
I'm too old to give up! :)) And you're absolutely right that one has to have practice dialoguing with live native speakers to become truly comfortable in a language. I think DL is a great resource, but it has pitfalls like everything else on earth. I see, by the way, that you're an Ashland, Oregonian. I grew up in Vancouver, WA---I love the rain! Truly! :)))
Duolingo is using computerized text-to-speech rather than native speakers. this is a key decision for anyone making computer-based language training. no doubt native speakers represent the gold standard for quality. but there is a large cost to native speakers, and the cost just goes up as duo adds languages.
unfortunately TTS can be quite poor. spanish has very regular pronunciation rules as languages go, and duo's spanish TTS is probably not very bad. but i've heard the english for chinese speakers and it sounds terrible. not ready for primetime.
duo is gambling that TTS will rapidly improve. let's hope so. apparently the italian TTS was just updated and i see people commenting on how much better it is. so there is hope.
As for the technical issues, I can't say too much about them. But the courses generally use text-to-speech software as opposed to voice actors (with the exception of Irish for English speakers, I believe), so there's bound to be a lot of mistakes, especially with words that are spelt the same, but pronounced differently. I haven't really heard the English voice, but the Danish voice definitely isn't perfect, but unfortunately it's out of ours and Duolingo's control, as most of the text-to-speech is from other places, rather than made by Duolingo itself
Thanks for both your comments. At least I understand a bit more how his site works. The idea is wonderful and I suppose bad pronunciations will get corrected in conversations with living people. On the other hand, I do think it's important to know that you may not be hearing a spoken text that a native speaker will understand. First impressions are often hard to erase......
I think you're over-thinking this. L1 speakers mispronounce words on a daily basis, it is just that people are so used to hearing bad and incorrect pronunciations that they ignore them in real life. They can also get away with it by calling it their "dialect" or Idiolect.
Personally I prefer hearing an L2 speaker butchering a language rather than an L1 speaker claiming their pronunciation is perfect. In fact, if all L1 speakers pronounced things the same, then speech recognition applications would never get things wrong for a specific group of people. Which is not the case.
More importantly your examples are dependent on context, here's another example that even L1 speakers get wrong:
"I produce produce with produce, and find nice nice. "
P.S. Some people claim Duolingo is trying to grow too slow. There are always people commenting about this on both sides.