"De schildpadden zien hun eten."
Translation:The turtles see their food.
Yes. "Hun" is the possessive "their", so "hun eten" can only be "their food". To say "The turtles see them eat" would have to be "...ze eten".
Should be pronounced without pause indeed. Both schild (shield) and padden (toads) are words in on their own, but when schild comes directly before pad or padden it can only be turtle or turtles, since everybody knows turtles simply are toads with shields.
I once read that compound words should be pronounce with a small pause between words. Was that wrong?
Within a compound word you CAN add a pause when speaking or a dash "-" in writing (e.g. auto-onderdelen = car parts) if it makes it easier to understand, specifically for really long and uncommon ones. But generally you don't. Especially not if it's a straight forward combination and/or if it's a relatively common word. For instance there's no need for pauses in words like:
- daklozenopvang (homeless shelter)
- ziektekostenverzekering (health insurance)
- wapenstilstandsonderhandelingen (cease fire negotiations)
- barbequesaus (barbeque sauce)
- aardappeloogst (potato harvest)
I asked my friend, who is a native Dutch speaker. He says it would be "De schildpadden zien dat ze eten", literally "The turtles see that they eat".
I'll have to ask my native-Dutch friend, but I think "zijn" is either "ay" (as in "play") or "eye" (as in "fine"), and "zien" is "ee" (as in "clean").
In the Michel Thomas Dutch course, a few tips are given for producing the 'ij' sound, namely that the tip of the tongue should be against the bottom teeth and that the mouth should be more open than it would be in the pronunciation of the 'ay' in 'play'.
Granted, I am not a native Dutch speaker, but I find that those guidelines result in a fairly accurate reproduction of what is presented both within the MT program and also here on Duolingo.