Does "I need help, I'm asking" not make sense here? petas means 'to ask'.. and please has been taught as bonvolu, so just curious if the please part is a more accurate translation as opposed to a more accurate way to think about the words?
I think (based on the course) that mi petas is also used as a sort of please of emphasis (like adding "I'm begging you!" at the end of a sentence), while bonvolu is used mostly as a please of politeness.
Yep, and even more importantly, when one asks for "helpon", one is asking for "a thing". Grammatically, things are kinds of nouns, and only nouns end in -o or -on. Think of the difference between "Vi volas HELPI min" and "Vi volas doni HELPON al mi".
there are somewhat similar in use, but still different. "bonvolu" comes from bona=good and volo=will so literally means "have good will" (used like "please"). "mi petas" means "I request", "I ask for" (in THIS example also used as "please").
I've read the other answers given so far. I would say that semantically they are essentially 100% synonymous. They mean exactly the same thing. The difference is how they work in a sentence grammatically.
Helpu min, mi petas = Bonvolu helpi min = Help me please.