I’m a little confused with the vowels. I was under the impression that the vowels did not change, no matter what. I know in English with an open syllable we usually use the long vowel sound and the short vowel sound with a closed syllable. It seems like the speaker is doing this when pronouncing the Esperanto words.
If “Vi” sounds like “vee,” wouldn’t “Vin” sound like “veen and not “vihn”? Or is that slight change allowed?
I’m just curious because I am doing the tree with my son and I know he will blurt out, “I thought you said it only said this sound!” So I need to know how to answer him.
The only difference between "veen" and "vihn" as you say (for all I know 'vihn' is pronounced 'vain' in English, damn this illogical pronunciation) is that there is a single consonant pronunciation vs a double consonant pronunciation. And Esperanto does not differ between that, which makes you able to choose between both pronunciations.
Well, it is indeed the case that the pronunciation of letters doesn't change, no matter what. In theory. Unfortunately, practice is rather stubborn in not quite sticking to theory. ;)
First of all the V is not pronounced as an "English" V, but as a "German/Dutch" W. When pronouncing an English V, you close your nose and force air between your upper front teeth and lower lips. With an Esperanto V (and German/Dutch W), the nose is somewhat opened so the sound is less harsh.
Indeed, vin should sound like veen and that's how I pronounce it. I hadn't noticed that the robot voice pronounces it differently but I'll pay attention to verify the error. :)
In practice, the way people pronounce things is generally heavily influenced by their native language anyway. But even with all sorts of different accents, Esperanto remains perfectly understandable. :)
And not only pronunciation is influenced that way, but word choice as well!
In original Esperanto, there were two words for "you": "ci" and "vi". "Ci" was a colloquial singular "you" (like "tu" in French) while "vi" was polite or plural (like "vous" in French). Influence from English speakers who defaulted to using "vi" all the time has pushed "ci" out of the language altogether.
Damn those English speakers! :-)
But seriously, if I were to use ci anywhere while speaking, would you say most Esperanto speakers would understand it or would I have to explain it most of the time? Since English is the only language I speak which doesn't distinguish between singular and plural, and colloquial and formal yous, it feels like the exception to me, not the rule.
Well... Most Esperanto speakers have an interest in languages, otherwise they wouldn't learn Esperanto. So many will also have looked into the history of the language.
"Ci" is not in any modern Espernato dictionary anymore, though. So your guess is as good as mine. The Esperanto pronouns do indeed show a heavy English influence, mirroring the English setup exactly:
I - mi
you - vi
he/she/it - li/ŝi/ĝi
we - ni
you - vi
they - ili