My students have figured out how to beat the pronunciation recording
They found that as long as you talk long enough, whether in French or English, your pronunciation will be marked "correct." They also have tried repeating sounds and speaking gibberish. That has worked. I have hear them mispronounce words like "femme," and that has been marked correct. I think that the algorithm for speech recognition in French needs to be readjusted.
I have a B.A. in Spanish and pronounce it quite accurately. I found that often when Duolingo asked for my pronunciation of some things, it would not recognize it as correct when it really was. I then turned off this feature of the course.
It should also be noted that if you are an adult learner of any of the languages that Duolingo has offered up to now (and I have studied all of them), you cannot really learn to pronounce these languages accurately just by hearing them spoken. You need some materials that specifically address the pronunciation issues of each of these languages.
Duolingo really should be considered just one tool among many for studying these languages. In itself, it is not sufficient to gain more than a rather elementary and passive introduction to each language that it offers.
You will also find that even if you finish everything on Duolingo's skill tree for each of these languages, there will be a great gap between what you have learned and the text from the Web that you will be asked to translate.
You should just turn off the microphone setting because it doesn't really work properly and have your students practice aloud with you when they are done with their lesson. Tell your students to practice saying each word to themselves so they could get the pronunciation correct even if they are not specifically asked to do so. It's a good habit to get into anyways so they can improve their proficiency at the language.
good point Leon64. Also, on iPad and other devices with dictation software, you can practice speaking in Italian and see how it reads your pronunciation. Interesting to practice. I also repeat after the Duolingo voice. It is strange to try to learn a language without the speaking component. You really need it. But I can see why Duolingo doesn't care if their goal is just to translate articles.
I agree! I had a very funny experience with the speech recognition. I repeated a French sentence for at least 10 times and it was still not accepted. Than I recorded a sentence in my native language (Hungarian) very clearly: "Nagyon mérges leszek!". It means: "I'm getting very angry!" The speech recognition accepted it... and I was wandering what happened? Duolingo's speech recorder got affraid of me? :)