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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Junesun

AMA with the Esperanto voice, Francis Soghomonian

To start our Esperanto AMA (Ask Me Anything) series, we have Francis Soghomonian with us now, better known as the voice of Duolingo's Esperanto course! Here you can learn more about him:

Biografio en Esperanto

Mi estas armenido, kiu naskiĝis en Parizo en 1962 kaj mi ankoraŭ loĝas tie. Mi eklernis Esperanton okaze de ĝia centjariĝo en 1987. Mi estis dungita de agentejo por la registrado en profesia studio de la sondosieroj de la Esperanto-kurso de Duolingo. Tiun profesian studion mi ankaŭ uzas por registri miajn kantojn, ĉu originalajn verkojn ĉu alilingvajn adaptojn, kiujn mi proponas al profesiaj artistoj. Mi mem emas kanti miajn kreaĵojn, precipe franc-lingvajn kaj internaci-lingvajn. Mi pretas respondi demandojn en Esperanto, la franca aŭ la angla.

Biography in English

I am of Armenian heritage, but was born in Paris in 1962 where I still live. I started learning Esperanto due to its 100-year anniversary in 1987. I was hired by an agency to record the sound files for Duolingo's Esperanto course in a professional studio. I also use that studio to record my songs, both original and adaptations in other languages, which I propose to professional artists. I personally like to sing my own creations, especially in French and Esperanto. I am ready to answer questions in Esperanto, French or English.

Note: All first-level messages must be questions, otherwise they will be deleted. The AMA starts at 21:00 Paris (15:00 New York), but you can go ahead and write your question now. Enjoy!

You can see the last AMA with Duolingo's Esperanto team here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/9121337

July 16, 2015

47 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

AMA has now come to an end : thank you for all your questions ! Feel free to message me in private if you forgot to ask me something. It was an honour for me to become the Duolingo Esperanto voice and I hope it'll always help you in your learning process... Vivu la Internacia Lingvo Esperanto !


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Junesun

Thank you for answering our questions!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

Francis, not only is your pronunciation exceptionally clear and beautiful, your voice is also a pleasure to hear. The Duolingo Esperanto course is tops in no small part because of this.

Mi pensis pro tio. Je la barbo de Zamenhof, mi esperas ke Duolingo uzos vian voĉon en futuraj versioj de la kurso (versio 3, 4, 5, ktp).

Ne nur por kohereco, ne nur por resti la plej bona Esperanta-kurso, sed ankaŭ per daŭri de ĉi tiu alta kvalito nur via voĉo povas provizi vin povas helpi al plej multaj lernantoj.

Eble ne estis facile fari ĉi tiun laboron. Sed ni ĉiuj havas devon: kun granda kapablo, granda respondeco.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you so much, ahblair! I feel honoured to get such compliments! I'll unfortunately disappoint you regarding my collaboration with Duolingo because it seems that they no longer have any budget for human voices for their courses, so it's unlikely that the agency that hired me on behalf of Duolingo will contact me for that purpose again. Sed vi pravas pri la malfacileco de tiu laboro : tio postulas longajn horojn en profesia studio dum kiuj bezonatas senĉese koncentriĝi, ne nur por bone prononci sed ankaŭ por iom aktori kaj igi la tuton pli natureca... Mi esperas ke mia laboro iel helpos la lernintojn, la lernantojn kaj la lernontojn!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EsperantoEthan

francis NI AMAS VIN


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Elkoran dankon, EsperantoEthan <3


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PabloLeon5

Saluton, Francis! Vi sukcesis plenumi tion, kio estas mia revo: profesie labori per Esperanto. Gratulon!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Dankon, PabloLeon5 ! La unua surprizito estis mi :-) Sed tio ne estis mia unua sperto gajni monon per Esperanto ;-) Vi malkovros tion en mia LinkedIn-profilo...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vanege

Saluton! Kion vi faris por havi (preskaŭ) neniun akĉenton kiam vi parolas en Esperanto?

Modifita: Dankon pro la respondo!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Mi ne scias kiun akĉenton mi havas parolante Esperanton, sed oni ofte diras al mi ke mi almenaŭ ne havas la francan. Eble la armenan. Sed pri tio mi dubas, ĉar ĝi estas nur mia geava lingvo ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaPingvino

Est-ce que vous ameriez contribuir pour une version de Duolingo Français-Espéranto?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Je ne sais pas si je suis le plus qualifié pour contribuer à une version francophone de Duolingo Espéranto mais l'idée est séduisante. Malheureusement, je ne pense pas avoir le temps pour ça.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

Ni kreskas! La franca Esperanto-arbo nun estas en la inkubo. Ankaŭ la ĉina versio. Mi esperas, ke Duolingo kontaktis vin pri pli voĉa laboro.

Sendepende, nun komenciĝas fana-projekto por traduki rakontojn por Esperanto. Ĉu vi interesus rakonti iujn el ili?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Dankon pro via fido sed mi timas ke mi ne estas la taŭga persono por tio. Ankaŭ mi esperas ke oni kontaktos min por plia voĉa laboro sed mi pridubas tion.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ReVelArmy

Finally I get to know that voice! Seems interesting..


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you. Feel free to ask a question ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ReVelArmy

What is your motivation and what other languages are interesting to you? I know, this sounds so generic!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

My motivation to learn Esperanto was purely linguistic at the beginning but I progressively appreciated the philosophical essence of this outstanding language. I'm interested by many languages (of different families) but I sometimes feel ashamed not to speak fluently Armenian, the language of my 4 grandparents, so I'd be happy to have it on Duolingo someday :-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaPingvino

Kiom longe vi lernis Esperanton ĝis via nuna nivelo?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Verdire, mi neniam kalkulis, ĉar mi lernis la lingvon sen ies helpo, je mia propra ritmo, sed mi memoras ke kiam mi partoprenis mian unuan Esperanto-aranĝon (IJK Krakovo 1987), mi jam sufiĉe bone parolis post kiam mi eklernis ĝin printempe.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/airelibre

Since Esperanto is an international language, there cannot be a native accent. One can pronounce all the phonemes correctly, but there will still be differences in rhythm and intonation depending on the origin of the speaker. I'd like to hear your thoughts about this. Do you believe the voice will have a "Parisian twang", and is there any possible solution to this issue?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you for this very interesting question. I'm not sure I can answer it though. I suppose that as a native of Paris, I'll never be able to avoid some "Parisian twang" but I've always tried to diminish it when speaking Esperanto, because I think that the French accent isn't adapted to the stress on the penultimate syllable in Esperanto.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vortarulo

I read this conversation only now. Oops. As a linguist I'm very interested in different accents, also in Esperanto, and I have a fine ear for phonetic differences. Before we knew who the voice of Duolingo Esperanto was, I tried to make some guesses as to where the voice might be from. My guess was Polish or perhaps Croatian. I could hear absolutely no hint of an accent whatsoever. So I don't think I hear any "Parisian twang". :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/airelibre

That's good. I haven't looked at the course and I have too much on my plate to start it. Could you tell me whether the "r"s are alveolar taps or uvular fricatives/trills? Is there an official guide for the phonetics of Esperanto which might say, "r"s should be alveolar taps, for example?

Other than this I would assume that sentence intonation would be fairly variable across native languages and very difficult to legislate for.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zaragorti

In my (admittedly limited) experience of Esperanto, I have never heard the letter 'r' rolled or as an uvular fricative/trill. It's always an alveolar tap. Then again, an important axiom of Esperanto is that 'neniu estas fremdulo' ('no one is a foreigner') so my understanding is that alternative pronunciations are tolerated.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vortarulo

You will hear the uvular fricative/trill variant a lot by German and French speakers. Also by some Danes. I also know a native speaker of Esperanto (from Britain) who surprisingly uses that variant.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rdee1000

Esperanto should be pronounced with an alveolar trill [r] although a tapped r is understood. This is detailed in all the grammar books I've read, however it is often referred to as simply a trilled 'r' or a rolled 'r'. (For example, Helen Fryer, an Esperantist who wrote a grammar book published in the early 20th century, advised that the 'r' "...must be well rolled".

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8177/8177-h/8177-h.htm

Incidentally, it is often said that L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of the language, suggested Italian as a model for Esperanto's pronunciation but I haven't found the source for that yet and it's not listed on Wiki either. Nonetheless, the Wikipedia page below has an overview of Esperanto pronunciation which may help you.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto_phonology#Orthography_and_pronunciation


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/airelibre

Hmm, seems a bit prohibitive for a "universal" language to have a trilled 'r' as default. A tapped 'r' is fairly easy for anybody, but for someone that speaks a language without trilled 'r', it is very difficult to learn to pronounce effortlessly.

Thanks for the info!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LimeGreenTeknii

As long as the phonemes are easily recognizable, there's no problem.

If you think people with wildly different accents can't communicate in the same language, look at the English language! You've got Australian accents, British accents, Northern US accents, Southern US accents, Canadian accents, even Scottish accents!

I think if you're at the point where the thing you are worried about at all isn't your pronunciation, your grammar, or your vocabulary, but actually your accent, then you're worrying over something very small. You're probably only adding 10 or 20 ms to the processing time of the other listener. Just speak clearly, loudly, and slowly enough if you're still unsure.

I like hearing all the different accents. It reminds you how big the world is. It gives people identities. There's no need to 100% completely abandon your national pride/identity just because you're speaking an international language. In fact, I think the cool thing about international things in general is that you get to learn about all the different countries of the world.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

I agree but as far as I'm concerned, my attempt of diminishing my French (or at least Parisian) accent in Esperanto is mainly due to esthetic reasons. It's just a personal taste ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

I’ve said it before, but you did an amazing job. When I talk to people about Esperanto, for example staffing the Esperanto table at local language festivals or literary fairs, the public often asks “What does Esperanto sound like?” I can say something with my mediocre accent - I can’t yet do an alveolar trill, for example - or refer them to the hodge-podge of Esperanto videos on YouTube, but I’ve often wanted to be able to showcase you speaking in Esperanto. Frankly, your pronunciation is beautiful and it puts the language in the best light.

Mi kredas ke uloj aŭdos la estetikan belecon de la lingvo kiam ili aŭdos vin, kaj iomete pli instigos lerni Esperanton.

I was living in Paris last year (kvankam, antaŭ ol mi komencis lerni Esperanton) and I am disappointed that I didn’t meet you. However, let me know if you will be at the Univesala Kongreso in Montreal 2020, and perhaps you might be interested in taking 10 minutes to be interviewed for YouTube? Or reading a poem to inspire others.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you very much for your compliment, ahblair! I all the more appreciate it that Duolingo no longer hires services of voice talents recording in studios... Mi intencas partopreni la venontjaran UKon do mi plezure renkontos vin en Montrealo por intervjuo ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

Dankon! Mi kontaktos vin pri Telegramo.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Good evening to everyone ! First of all, let me remind you that English isn't my mother tongue, so please don't be surprised if any of my sentences turns out to be weird ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaPingvino

Kiel vi tiom bone lernis kanti kaj traduki kantojn?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Mi ĉiam ŝatis kanti kaj skribi kanzontekstojn, eĉ antaŭ ol malkovri Esperanton. Mi ne vere lernis kaj plu konsideras min kiel amatora ;-) Mi tamen dankas pro la komplimento :-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaPingvino

Estas ankaŭ unu el miaj hobioj, do mi komprenas pli-malpli ;) sed tamen ĉiam estas interese aŭdi kiel tio iris :).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Adapti kantojn alilingven multe pli malfacilas ol simple traduki ilin sed mi trovas tiun defion tre interesa!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaPingvino

Kiujn frazojn vi plej ŝatis voĉigi por Duolingo? Kaj kiuj plej komplikis por vi?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Mi ne memoras precize kiujn sed por respondi ambaŭ demandojn samtempe : ĝenerale la plej longajn, kvankam mi ofte devis registri ilin plurfoje :-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HolomorphicShawn

Hi! I have a grammar question:

The word order in Esperanto is flexible and free, which is cool! But when it comes to indirect objects used in a sentence, how flexible is that?

Let me give an example (in English, Spanish, and Esperanto). The direct object is italicized, and the indirect object in --:

English: He gave it -to me- / Spanish: Él -me- lo dio / Esperanto: Li donis -al mi- ĝin

Where the Esperanto sentence is in the style of which I see a lot. But is it possible to match the Esperanto object order like the Spanish word order, as in:

Esperanto: Li al mi ĝin donis

? I ask because I would like to flavor my Esperanto to closer resemble the Spanish order. Thank you for reading!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you for your question. I'm not a grammarian but I can at least answer it. You definitely can say "Li al mi ĝin donis" in Esperanto, although it'd be more usual to have "Li donis ĝin al mi" according to me.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HolomorphicShawn

Thank you for your response!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brian_Batch

You did a great job. Thank you.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you very much, Brian_Batch !


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sultansmh

Excellent pronunciation and voice modulation.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fsoghomonian

Thank you so much, Sultansmh !

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