Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

To Duolingo about the Audio

Note: This post is not directed at the course moderators. Instead, it is directed at Duolingo staff directly.

Within the first week of the course, we were promised an update about the quality of the audio in this course. We were also promised changes. All "soon". Sadly, it's been several months since then, and we have received neither or update, nor any change in the audio. If you doubt the validity of how bad the audio is, check any thread on /r/duolingo about it, or even here. There's also people going through and logging the bad sentences. There's people who don't even speak the language who can tell you it's bad.

But nothing is changing. We still have the same crappy audio, and have received no word of an update. appreciate all you have done for the language, Duolingo staff, but you can't promise an update and then just let it go and hope we forget about it. At least tell us something, and don't be like the rest of Duolingo, and just not facilitate any communication with the userbase. So, please, Duolingo, give us an update and show that you are at least willing to work together on this, as we have plenty of people who are willing to try and help.

Note: This post is not directed at the course moderators. Instead, it is directed at Duolingo staff directly.

3 years ago

46 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/myra
myra
  • 21
  • 12
  • 10
  • 10
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2

Thanks all :) We chose the voice talent with the team of contributors based on an audio sample of several sentences. Now that we are finding several issues (and we do appreciate the feedback!) with the sentence recordings, we hope you'll appreciate that it will take a little time to consider the options and come up with a better solution. Please stay tuned for an update on this front, we will research and share what we've learned. We want you to know that we do care and are listening! <3 <3 <3

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Why not just let us try and convince native speakers to work on it, for free? We are likely going to be able to, and then you can truly see the difference between the speaker and a native. Also, I don't think 10 sentences is enough to judge a speaker, especially if some of them are only single words.

Also, this is going to be harsh, but for the last "care and are listening" part....Please, interact more with the community. Right now, it only seems Duolingo staff say anything after a ruckus has been raised about it, and that really makes it come off as "let's try to wait until they forget"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kristinemc

Over the past months we've worked with the Irish team to select the most accurate TTS. Based on feedback, we've all decided to take a second look and hear another round of voice samples, so that we can get a more accurate TTS for the Irish course. It's in progress!

In regards, to your comment, galaxyrocker about us only responding when there is a ruckus- that's not our approach. We sincerely do take this feedback seriously, and we've all been working hard internally to find the best solution. Really do appreciate the feedback. We are doing what we can with a small team, and I appreciate your patience. Thank you!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Over the past months we've worked with the Irish team to select the most accurate TTS. Based on feedback, we've all decided to take a second look and hear another round of voice samples, so that we can get a more accurate TTS for the Irish course. It's in progress!

But Irish doesn't have a TTS...It has a highly inaccurate live speaker. Trust me, if you had a TTS I would not be complaining at all, because people expect computers to be inaccurate; they don't expect real speakers to be inaccurate.

I'm glad you're looking into it, but I do wish you'd update us. Seriously. All we heard was "There will be an update soon." Then 70+ days of silence. Then "100 sentences are changed", with no information on which ones, or whether a new speaker was found, because this one is not a native speaker by even the most liberal of definitions.

It's in progress!

Inform us then. Make a public announcement about it. I feel you're doing a huge disservice to people by letting them assume this speaker is a native.

In regards, to your comment, galaxyrocker about us only responding when there is a ruckus- that's not our approach.

This is going to sound mean, but I honestly really couldn't tell it wasn't. The only times I've seen any Duolingo staff member post, apart from telling users about features, is when someone has raised a response that has garnered a decent amount of attention. Check the main Duolingo boards; there have been several threads that complain about the lack of communication from the team about, well, anything. And the lack of a follow-up comment here shows the same thing, especially when we ask for which sentences, to see if they are any better (is it too much to ask to get a comparison?)

We sincerely do take this feedback seriously, and we've all been working hard internally to find the best solution

I do believe you take it seriously, and are working hard. But we can't know that. Update us, keep us informed.

Really do appreciate the feedback. We are doing what we can with a small team, and I appreciate your patience. Thank you!

I understand it's a small team as well, but it doesn't take but 20 minutes to do a post like "This is what we're doing, and a projected timeline...". Also, we're volunteering to fix this for you. We are going to find native speakers who will record it, possibly for free and get this audio to you; y'all won't have to do any of the work, except implement it. Also, if you give us this freedom, we can even get sentences you don't have yet. At least give us a short.

As to patience... There comes a time where it seems like you appreciating our patience is you waiting for us to forget about it. 70+ days for an update that would follow "shortly" is way too long. Plus, nobody official has admitted that the speaker isn't native and that the audio is inaccurate. Only that "100 sentences" have been changed, which is very vague.

But, really, all we're asking for is a chance to let a native speaker record some stuff, and send it to you. We're volunteering our time and resources so you don't have to. And we're asking for better communication. There seems to be a lack of that around the board on the forums.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pillowpillar
pillowpillar
  • 15
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 4
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2

Thank you, this seems like very good news! :)

When you say TTS are you talking about machine or person? IMO, one of the abair.ie TTSes would be better than the current speaker because even though they sound a bit like robots they actually have reasonable prosody and can pronounce the slender/broad differences.

As for galaxyrocker, I think his reactions have been reasonable. We couldn't really judge your intentions based on such limited feedback. Regardless, I'm very glad that you're looking at it again. However, I'd just like to mention that you could get the community to find a strong native speaker to volunteer and you wouldn't even need to pay them. Even if you had to pay them, I think it's better you share the samples with us first before you choose someone (or something, if this is a machine) lest the same issue arise again. So please be as transparent as possible in the decision-making process! Thanks again!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pillowpillar
pillowpillar
  • 15
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 4
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2

I'm glad we're getting some form of response. However, I don't mean to sound ungrateful but like galaxyrocker suggests, things like "we will research and share what we've learned" and "we do care and are listening" just sound like marketing buzzwords designed to placate us until we forget. You say you need to research, well have a look here at the original thread https://www.duolingo.com/comment/4305589 and you can see many clear examples of the problems with the audio throughout the comments in terms non-speakers can understand (audio comparisons included).

We've offered help and have native speakers willing to record the material. We can get started as soon as we get the go ahead. It's really not much effort on your parts as far as I can see. The only issue is that the original woman who recorded the audio may be offended, but she has her money and the needs of tens of thousands of learners come before her feelings, to be fair. If you appreciate the feedback as you say then please let us do our part (completely gratis). Thanks.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ker
Ker
  • 14
  • 11
  • 6
  • 2

Sorry the update took longer than planned. I am happy to share with you that 100 sentences recently had their audio fixed. We are aware of the remaining problems and we are determined to improve the audio for this course, but we can't do it immediately. In the meantime, we will disable really bad sentences and keep a list of the ones we'd like to improve.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Thank you for the update; it would be nice if they were more frequent. However, I'm going to be critical here and claim that the audio isn't likely to be "fixed" if the same speaker is being used. She is clearly not a native speaker, regardless of what she might have told you. She has mistakes deeper than things that can be fixed just be re-recording, such as a complete lack of broad/slender consonants, and evens lack of understanding of Irish phonology (Irish, for example, doesn't contain /z/, but you can hear it fairly often in her recordings) and stress patterns.

As smrch says, a new, native speaker is really needed. One who was born and raised in the Gaeltacht. If you would give us a chance, I would like to try and convince some to submit audio for your listening, in hopes that we could get actual speakers. In fact, I know some who applied to contribute who even had experience recording...

I don't want to sound ungrateful, as I understand all the hard work that went into developing this course. I just feel the quality of the speaker completely ruins all of it. If it was a TTS, I wouldn't be so angry, but the fact that it's a real speaker makes people more inclined to trust it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smrch
smrch
  • 17
  • 7
  • 3
  • 3

Any claims that she's a 'native speaker' are ludicrous and downright insulting. Constant basic errors and unnatural sentence stress make it clear she isn't even a habitual user of the language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

I completely agree. No native speaker I have talked to has claimed she is anything near a native. It needs to be fixed.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smrch
smrch
  • 17
  • 7
  • 3
  • 3

Could you give us any information on how/why this person was selected to do the audio?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ker
Ker
  • 14
  • 11
  • 6
  • 2

Hi all, you can now have access to the list of sentences that have had their audio recorded again, please see https://www.duolingo.com/comment/5518563 . Some of you volunteered to record incorrect audio found in other sentences. We thank you very much for that and would be extremely happy to do that, but the truth is that it is not viable right now. It would take a long time to develop a tool that would allow us to record the audio trough the incubator and with a decent sound quality. In an effort to respond to the issues you have pointed here, we want to test voice talents and for that we need your help. Please compile a really good list of demo sentences. These sentences need to include all the sounds in the language, and they should be hard enough to actually tell if the speaker is good. If you would like to help us build this new set of sentences, please post your suggestion in this thread. The sooner we have that list, the sooner we will be able to test candidates. Thank you!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Here's some suggested by a native speaker:

  • Luaigh Liam leabhar liomsa.
  • Cén chaighdeán cairdeas atá ag cladhaire?
  • Ar mhaith leat trí bhilliún nó trí mhilliún euro?
  • Lig don leabhar titim ar an leaba.
  • Tá casacht coitianta i ndaoine le slaghdán nó droch shláinte.

I'm also continuing to look for more as well, so will keep posting.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smrch
smrch
  • 17
  • 7
  • 3
  • 3

Here are a few suggestions and the features I'd look out for:

"Cheannaigh sé carr nua inné." (The 2nd conj. verbal ending '-(a)igh' = /ə/ before a pronoun; correct pronunciation of broad 'r(r)'; /ə/ of nua should be elided before following vowel)
"Bhí an fear ag labhairt agus ag éisteacht." ('bhí an' = /v'i:n/; the /g/ of 'ag' is elided before a verbal noun beginning with a consonant, so /ə lauər't'/ & /əg' e:ʃt'əxt/)
"Tá orm an fhuinneog a oscailt." (Again, the unstressed 'a' /ə/ should be elided before following vowel)
"Is iad na hÉireannaigh a bhí ann." ('Is' = /əʃ/ before pronoun beginning with slender vowel; correct pronunciation of slender 'r')

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ker
Ker
  • 14
  • 11
  • 6
  • 2

Thank you smrch!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ker
Ker
  • 14
  • 11
  • 6
  • 2

Thank you galaxyrocker!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Thank you so much for answering us! I will start talking with native speakers and finding out what sentences they think would be good, and i already have a few myself. Just a clarification: would you like them posted in this thread, or the one with the corrected sentences?

Again, thank you very much!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ker
Ker
  • 14
  • 11
  • 6
  • 2

Hi galaxyrocker! You can just post the suggested sentences here and I will collect it. Thank you, let's do it together!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xenolalia
xenolalia
  • 22
  • 11
  • 9
  • 8
  • 4

Also, SO many sentences are completely LACKING audio. It is painstakingly slow to look up the pronunciations for each and every word on places like Forvo.com, some of which are nowhere to even be found. It's impossible to learn words when they look like jumbles of random letters and I've no idea how to pronounce them... I'm putting my learning of Irish on hiatus until this course comes up to the same level as the others.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

However, they have been honest from the start (well, since the failed TTS) that every sentence wouldn't have audio. They weren't honest about the lack of a native speaker, and even now Duolingo fails to acknowledge it or assure us anything is being done. Personally, I just feel that's the mpre pressing issue.

Also, try Michael Ó Siadháil's Learning Irish. It's can be found in certain waters online, teaches an actual dialect (instead of Caighdeán, though this isn't the fault of the moderators; it's what's used in schools), has IPA and dialect native speakers.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
  • 25
  • 1482

If you can read the International Phonetic Alphabet, a pronunciation key to the “jumbles of random letters” can be found here.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fingolfin1346

There seem to be a lot of people taking the course with a really good knowledge of Irish phonology and pronunciation. As a stopgap measure we could invite them to record correct versions of the most egregious Duolingo audio and make it available via rhinospike or soundcloud. What do people think?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Well, we feel we need permission from the moderators, who own the sentences they created, to go ahead with this. And sadly, none of them have given us that. Or even a list of sentences so we could begin to think of doing it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fingolfin1346

That's a fair point. And I hadn't considered the issue of copyright. I also want to make it absolutely clear that I am very grateful to the Irish team at Duolingo for providing this course for free in their own spare time. It has been an invaluable help to me. I made the suggestion as I thought it would provide an outlet for people who were frustrated with the course but hadn't considered putting their own expertise to use. I certainly don't want to take the course out of the hands of the people who put such hard work into creating it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Agreed. It's their course and we don't want to take away their hard work. If they'd give us permission, we'd do it, but otherwise just doesn't feel right.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RustyDee
RustyDee
  • 16
  • 12
  • 11
  • 9
  • 3
  • 32

If you do manage to get their permission, I have all the sentences that I have come across as I have been learning. My method of learning is to write it down and then type is out in Word. Then when I have to strengthen I try to do it without referring to my notes first and look it up to check. Yes it is slow, but it is helping me learn the spelling (not the audio).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smrch
smrch
  • 17
  • 7
  • 3
  • 3

The audio is irredeemably bad. I cannot understand how the speaker was chosen in the first place, does anyone know?
The only real solution would be to re-record it with another (native) speaker.
Presumably, though, this would be too much bother so simply wont be done.
So this course will never be what it could have been and I'm saddened and angered by this.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rewjeo
Rewjeo
  • 19
  • 12
  • 11
  • 10
  • 7
  • 6
  • 6
  • 4
  • 1225

From what I've read, the Duolingo staff (not the team who made the course) found the speaker. So she was chosen by people who didn't really know what to look for, and then they recorded everything without checking with the team. That's my understanding, at least.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Endosymbiosis

I believe the Duolingo staff sent some audio samples to the Irish team to check the voice, and they said she was good.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

They heard 10 total samples, an they believed they were good. My guess is that they were simple things, like fear and bean. They got the full set of recordings shortly before release, but didn't have time to go over all of them because of the pressure to release it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smrch
smrch
  • 17
  • 7
  • 3
  • 3

Hmm, even her pronunciation of 'fear' is clearly non-native.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

I don't know for sure the words they received; those were merely my guesses.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smrch
smrch
  • 17
  • 7
  • 3
  • 3

Thanks for that.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Natalie44

While it is incredibly frustrating (to put it mildly) to be using language software with incorrect pronunciation files, none of us are volunteering our time, offering our help for free, for a program that is free to use. Would anyone like to?

Let's appreciate what we have. There is literally nothing else like Duo currently available to us. Do I want Irish preserved so badly that no one can speak it? Of course not. But it's a shame that even after someone from the team told us that they're working on it, that eventually things will be fixed, no gratitude is shown to the people who have given us something as powerful as language for the very expensive price of 'free'.

On the subject of non-native speakers: are they appropriate people from which to learn proper pronunciation? Not if they are inexperienced, no. But the idea that only someone from the Gaeltacht can speak Irish correctly is not only ridiculous but demeaning to everyone else in the world learning Irish. Douglas Hyde didn't learn Irish as his mother tongue--he learned it as a second language and grew up to help found the Gaelic League, be a key player in the Gaelic Revival, and managed to become Ireland's first president.

So, please don't discourage people from learning and participating in Duo's Irish language program: it very much means the survival of one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

I have nothing but complete respect for the course moderators who volunteered their time, especially Lancet, who has been very open and helpful. Also, several of us have volunteered to work for free on this issue since the very beginning. We just want to see this fixed.

And how are we discouraging people? We just want correct audio, not everyone to boycott the course until we get that. Is it 'discouraging' to promote actual spoken Irish instead of a 'learner's dialect'? And, as to the update, '100 sentences' with more on the way isn't much information at all. At least tell us which ones so we can verify. Also, why not get a native speaker, when there's several who have recording experience? We've even volunteered to see if they'd do it for free, or try and crowd-fund the necessary money. Sure, they can be non-native, but they must have pronunciation, which the current speaker clearly (I mean, listen to her, then to Comhrá or RnaG) doesn't have. And, besides, would you rather learn pronunciation of any language from a native speaker, or a non-native one? At least to me the answer is obvious.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Endosymbiosis

I think it is unfair to say that no gratitude has been shown to the people who gave us this free resource. A great deal of gratitude and praise has been expressed by this community to both the Duo staff and the Irish contributors. Being persistent in requesting better audio doesn't negate that. Furthermore, it seems even more unfair to imply that galaxyrocker is trying to discourage people from participating in the course, especially considering that galaxyrocker him/herself is an active and helpful participant in course discussions.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pillowpillar
pillowpillar
  • 15
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 4
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2

"none of us are volunteering our time, offering our help for free, for a program that is free to use. "

It's wrong to say none of us are volunteering our time... plenty of us are happily volunteering, but being consistently and completely ignored. Here is the original thread https://www.duolingo.com/comment/4305589 and you can see plenty of examples throughout of people offering their help. In fact, bringing this issue up in the first place is help in itself, as far as I'm concerned, since it's an attempt to improve the course (the point of the beta).

Native speakers are willing to re-record the material, but nothing can be done until the staff actually come forward, admit the problem and give us the go ahead. There has been such a lack of transparency in this whole process and I've become very disillusioned.

"no gratitude is shown to the people who have given us something as powerful as language for the very expensive price of 'free'."

Gratitude has been shown throughout, but this is a beta and we're supposed to report the issues. I'm glad for the resource that Duolingo has put forward, but at the same time it's incredibly disappointing that they've shown no tangible action on this issue. It's obviously not unfounded to be upset and disappointed at the lack of a response to our queries which are intended to benefit the course and the learner.

"the idea that only someone from the Gaeltacht can speak Irish correctly is not only ridiculous but demeaning to everyone else in the world learning Irish. "

This is not being claimed. Non-native speakers can, of course, with difficulty, achieve native level fluency and pronunciation, however the problem is that the speaker in the audio clearly hasn't.

"So, please don't discourage people from learning and participating in Duo's Irish language program: it very much means the survival of one of the most beautiful languages in the world."

Yes, trying to improve the course by offering our time and energy so that people can learn from a superior resource is really an attempt to discourage people from learning Irish. Who do you think we are? How can you suggest that we're trying to discourage people from learning the language? It's ridiculous.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TanagerMoonmist

I'm very annoyed with this attitude of "it's free, so don't complain". It's Duolingo that has set the standards for itself - they're the ones claiming their aim is to provide free, quality language education, better than the expensive Rosetta Stone, so I think it's perfectly justified to point out when a part of their course is subpar. If their tagline was "Eh, it's free, have a go at it, like, whatever!" then I wouldn't have any complaints.

I wonder how people would feel if audio for English was recorded by Branko from Sarajevo with a clear Bosnian accent, rather than a native speaker. Would people still say it's fine, or would they wonder why on Earth they didn't hire a native speaker? Of course foreign learners can achieve a high level of fluency - but how does it make any sense to use them as the basis for teaching a language instead of actual native speakers, when native speakers are still alive and well, and available for recording?! The whole attitude with Irish seems to be "Eh, f* it, that's close enough."

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Exactly! At the moment, my preference is with Rosetta Stone. Especially since it has native speaker on the course, and you also get tutoring time with another native speaker (who I actually know).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Spiritfire
Spiritfire
  • 17
  • 15
  • 12
  • 10
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 2
  • 2

I haven't read every post in this thread yet, but reading down to this point and frequenting other threads over the past year or so pretty much tell me the same story I already know.

They have a great product, it's a great idea, kudos for taking on Irish in particular, and what they do with a small group is much appreciated, etc. They just need to do a better job at public relations. Consistent communication with the user base would shore up one of their only weaknesses.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Oh, it'd certainly help a ton! But here, we really need a new speaker. The current one is absolutely awful, and clearly uses a learner's dialect. But, really, more communication would be a huge plus.

You also has to realize that this thread is just the most recent thread in a long series of them dealing with the pronunciation.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Spiritfire
Spiritfire
  • 17
  • 15
  • 12
  • 10
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 2
  • 2

I understand, galaxyrocker. I'm certainly not trying to take away from your point about this specific need. I have a lot of Irish ancestry, and I am very excited about the opportunity to learn the language. And I'm discouraged to find out that some of the things I've already learned might not be accurate from a pronunciation perspective.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

I'm sorry if I came across as thinking you were taking away! I was trying to explain the thread and what had led up to it. That's my fault for not thinking!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DionesLinstruth
DionesLinstruth
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 20
  • 11
  • 10
  • 2

got it!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN
tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN
  • 25
  • 25
  • 22
  • 18
  • 16
  • 16
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 10
  • 10
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 8
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 3
  • 3
  • 3
  • 3

Shouldn't you send a copy of this to the support tab to your left and to the Troubleshooting section?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

I thought of that, but it isn't an issue with all the languages. It's solely with Irish, which is why I posted it here. It's also where I felt it would get the most attention, which is the only thing that seems to draw Duolingo staff to comment on something. Furthermore, it's not a one-off thing, and can't be fixed with just returning lingots, or changing a little bit of code.

I did submit it through the support tab, however.

3 years ago