ils vs. il
I can't hear the difference, between: Est-ce qu'ils mangent avec les filles ?
Est-ce qu'il mange avec les filles ?
How am I to know on these tests which one I'm dealing with? I'm sure context will work in real life, but it seems that it should be ambiguous at least here.
Yes, it's very difficult for english speakers to hear the subtle differences in the endings, but it is there. It's extra difficult with the text-to-speech. Unfortunately part of the language.
For some more pronounciation fun, try to tell the difference between j'ai and j'aie or parlé and parlais.
I have always been taught that they sound exactly the same so unless there is context or liaison with a following word then both should be considered correct on duolingo. It seems, from reading comments elsewhere on this site that the Quebecois do make a slight sound distinction in contrast to (no offence intended) proper French.
I asked a native French speaker about the difference between "mange" and "mangent", and they said there is none. What may have happened is that the pronunciation of "mange" and "mangent" were different some time ago but nowadays, in metropolitan French (this is the kind of French used by Duolingo, I guess), they are the same. I may be wrong. What do you think?
I don't think they sound different at all. There are at least three discussions on this in the questions. The last time I got this wrong in a question, I provided the feedback that both answers should be accepted. I got a response that "we are working on it."
I assumed this would be like the "translate to english" questions and they would just add an additional acceptable answer. They may be trying to do something more complicated to deal with when these do sound different, and when they don't.
To summarize, many french words contain "disappearing sounds" which are only pronounced if the next sound is a vowel. This is called French Liaison:
So, if you are lucky and either the word following "ils" starts with a vowel, or the word following "mangent" starts with a vowel, you will hear either a "z" or a "t" and there is your clue. Check out this example of (click the little speaker button at the bottom right of the french):
They stop the car. He stops the car:
Woot! You can hear a "z" at the end of "Ils".
So, I wanted to answer your question "you should hear a 't' sound at the end of mangent if it is followed by 'avec.'" Unfortunately not:
Sounds the same to me. So either this is a bug in the text-to-speach or it isn't pronounced in this environment for some reason. I am assured by native speakers that the liaison rules aren't always followed. Honestly I don't think native speakers are the best authorities on this though: I don't think they have any idea when their brains automatically follow these rules.
In any case, there are sentence you can construct that sound identical and duolingo needs to accept both.
I listened to this one again and again and there was no perceptible difference. Since many French can barely work out what people from other French regions are saying, it's entirely up to how clearly the speaker enunciates.
It would be interesting to see how people went being blind-tested against the recorded pronunciations without knowing what they were "supposed" to be hearing.
@aybarasan and @gurple I agree. The difference is there, but is fiendishly subtle. Between "mange" and "mangent": The length of time that it takes to say "mangent" is ever so slightly longer than the time it takes to say "mange", and the "g" in "mangent" is slightly more audible. There is a slight pause on the "g" in "mangent" (more like "mange-uh" with the "uh" being very subtle).