Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Mycroft » Tue Aug 23, 2016 8:01 am

OK I know I'm coming to this conversation a bit late ... but I did buy the French version.

What I liked:
1. Interesting to hear similar sounds, pronounced by the same person, side by side - e.g dessous/dessus and rue/roue - and have to distinguish between them. I could probably have found that on Youtube but not the repeated having to choose the right one.
2. I learned a LOT about Anki! which helped me produce some really useful Welsh cards.

What I didn't like:
1. Lots of cards have two audio files - the sound of an individual phoneme and then a word containing that phoneme. Firstly the phonemes are pronounced in an exaggerated way so /z/ is pronounced zzzzzzz and /p/ sounds more like puh!!! (My knowledge of the phonics approach to teaching children to read suggests this is not at all what you should be doing.) More importantly I'm not at all convinced the sound as pronounced in the phoneme recording always matches the sound in the word recording.
2. I'm also not convinced the IPA given under the words always quite matches what is said.
3. Some cards contrast English and French pronunciations - e.g. bank/banc - but as the English is with a US accent it's less helpful to a Brit.
4. There's at least one mistake in that 'orbit' is given the English spelling rather than 'orbite' as per my dictionary.

Overall I'm happy to have purchased it - not least because it proved to be a quick and easy lesson in Anki. Also my French is good enough for the issues listed not to matter much to me. However, the Fluent Forever website suggests that when learning a new language you should start with the sounds before worrying about any meaning and whilst in theory I like that idea a lot, I don't think I'd buy it for a language I didn't know until issues I found with French had been sorted out.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Aug 23, 2016 9:12 am

Mycroft wrote:OK I know I'm coming to this conversation a bit late ... but I did buy the French version.

What I liked:
1. Interesting to hear similar sounds, pronounced by the same person, side by side - e.g dessous/dessus and rue/roue - and have to distinguish between them. I could probably have found that on Youtube but not the repeated having to choose the right one.
2. I learned a LOT about Anki! which helped me produce some really useful Welsh cards.

What I didn't like:
1. Lots of cards have two audio files - the sound of an individual phoneme and then a word containing that phoneme. Firstly the phonemes are pronounced in an exaggerated way so /z/ is pronounced zzzzzzz and /p/ sounds more like puh!!! (My knowledge of the phonics approach to teaching children to read suggests this is not at all what you should be doing.) More importantly I'm not at all convinced the sound as pronounced in the phoneme recording always matches the sound in the word recording.
2. I'm also not convinced the IPA given under the words always quite matches what is said.
3. Some cards contrast English and French pronunciations - e.g. bank/banc - but as the English is with a US accent it's less helpful to a Brit.
4. There's at least one mistake in that 'orbit' is given the English spelling rather than 'orbite' as per my dictionary.

Overall I'm happy to have purchased it - not least because it proved to be a quick and easy lesson in Anki. Also my French is good enough for the issues listed not to matter much to me. However, the Fluent Forever website suggests that when learning a new language you should start with the sounds before worrying about any meaning and whilst in theory I like that idea a lot, I don't think I'd buy it for a language I didn't know until issues I found with French had been sorted out.

Mycroft, thanks for your input. It's not too late because I still haven't bought them! I've got plenty of other materials to be going on with and my main effort is with Indonesian until that gets a bit better. I will buy them, though, based on the appraisal you and others have given. Maybe they're not perfect but they seem to be generally well received. I, too, have a non-American accent, so that's not entirely optimal but I guess I know how Americans speak!

Thanks again.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby jsega » Tue Aug 23, 2016 10:32 am

This will actually be my first time posting on these forums. I've been lurking for longer than I'd like to admit (on HTLAL). At some point when I muster up the energy and humility I think I will begin a language log for Spanish. Anyways, I'm no expert but it's been over a week since I've finished all the new cards in the Spanish pronunciation trainer so I figured I'd add my 2 cents as well.

Someone asked about why you would use spaced repetition for this particular issue. My answer in a nutshell would be, maybe not fully but mostly for similar reasons you would use it for anything else. It makes the process of learning slightly less painful and requires less work from you to organize daily practice. How MUCH does spaced repetition help this particular issue over simple repetition? I'm not sure, but I don't think it matters in this particular case. The key phrase here is "Anki trainer". You will practice everything again and again and again and you use Anki to replace a person (including yourself) reminding you to give targeted practice to that skill. Whether you overlearn one particular sound at a time or you space it out I would assume wouldn't matter (basically I don't know) but I'm sure it's less painful to space it out haha. Also, having everything I need to practice in my hand (cell phone) definitely made it very convenient. The "efficiency" of SRS wasn't really the KEY factor here for me is what I'm saying.

My anecdote: I've started and given up, or not even started, so many courses over the years, and for some reason this is the first one I really continued with. This may be more of a testament to Anki but I think Gabriel Wyner did a fantastic job creating the trainer and I've tried using Anki many times in that past. For the past few weeks this is the one thing I've stuck with no matter what, and I've definitely seen progress for the first time. It's motivating to be able to finally hear recordings of myself with pretty decent pronunciation and able to get through reading sentences that I struggled so much with before (because I was always thinking about how it should sound, and well, it sounded bad haha). I'm a person that overthinks everything and I think this approach of working on pronunciation seems to actually be working well for me (finally found something thank god).

Some may say, well pronunciation is not just memorization, and well, I'd say memory is a fickle beast isn't it. It is connected to everything in immeasurable ways. Obviously with this you want it to become muscle memory (fluent) but you have to start somewhere. I've definitely really noticed this process while focusing on pronunciation and listening (though listening is improving in a different, I don't know maybe more "natural" way? I don't want to say easier but just different....) with this trainer. Initially I really work to remember the correct way, and fix my errors, then I still hesitate when trying to produce the right sound, then eventually they become much more fluid and I no longer need to think about the sound anymore. It's a process like every other skill. I will say you it's up to you to be brutally honest when using this tool though for it to be most effective. If you think there was any fault in how you said it then hit again (after you've practiced it a bit).

Keep in mind that depending on what background you're coming from, producing certain sounds will be much harder for you than others, so it will still require work on your part for a long time. I basically always choose "Hard" in Anki for these sounds if I did pronounce the word alright but maybe that specific sound wasn't great (but not horrible) or just mark it "Again" if I really butcher it (my reviews are still hovering around 50-70 a day). The trainer is obviously not a cure, it's just a tool to aid you and give a head start in the process, which will be a long one.

As to the talk about it helping listening and not really pronunciation. They are really two sides of the same coin. Of course my listening seems better because it's more passive. All I have to do though is listen to some recordings of myself before starting on this targeted practice to realize that my pronunciation has come a long way and I honestly am a lot more confident with it now (which is part of it). Like I mentioned there are a few sounds that I still struggle with and they will take time but that's to be expected. One of note for me is the combination "nr" as in "sonrisa".

Obviously this trainer is by no means a must but I definitely would use it again if and when I learn another language that Mr. Wyner sells it for.

This is all coming from someone who has read a lot "about" language learning but is just now starting to make some progress in a language (Spanish). I also over analyze pretty much everything, and worry too much about being "perfect" which tends to lead to quitting if it's not. I didn't think about it before but looking back, really honing in on pronunciation first makes sense for someone like me. So take my opinion and experience with this trainer for whatever it's worth while keeping all that in mind.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Aug 23, 2016 10:45 am

Jsega, thanks for weighing in with your opinions. They are very encouraging. I like the way Anki organises my study, too. Cheers.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Aug 23, 2016 11:02 am

Oh, jsega, could you tell me how many cards are in the trainer?
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby jsega » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:26 pm

Adrianslont wrote:Oh, jsega, could you tell me how many cards are in the trainer?


I have the Spanish Latin American Pronunciation deck specifically. Two sub-decks: Spanish Spelling Rules and Examples at 490 cards, Spanish Minimal Pairs at 164 cards, make up the total Pronunciation deck of 654 cards.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Cainntear » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:18 pm

Mycroft wrote:1. Interesting to hear similar sounds, pronounced by the same person, side by side - e.g dessous/dessus and rue/roue - and have to distinguish between them. I could probably have found that on Youtube but not the repeated having to choose the right one.

There's a lot of doubt about the effectiveness of minimal pair practice. I've seen research showing that leaners got better at distinguishing between minimal pairs in the task, with no improvement in distinguishing them outside of minimal pair tasks.


jsega wrote:This will actually be my first time posting on these forums. I've been lurking for longer than I'd like to admit (on HTLAL).

Welcome to the fold!

Someone asked about why you would use spaced repetition for this particular issue. My answer in a nutshell would be, maybe not fully but mostly for similar reasons you would use it for anything else. It makes the process of learning slightly less painful and requires less work from you to organize daily practice. How MUCH does spaced repetition help this particular issue over simple repetition? I'm not sure, but I don't think it matters in this particular case.

The main limitation with SRS is that it doesn't understand the concept of interdependent items.

Imagine you have two cards with the question "Ship or sheep?" and one plays the word "ship" and the other "sheep". If one is shown directly after the other, the second one will be trivially easy. Even if they simply turn up in the same session, the second one to appear is likely to be made easier. Statistics then sets in, and you get tested on the first lots, and make your mistakes on it, and as a result, the second one keeps occurring after the first, so is made artificially easy and gets thrown back up the queue.

But the big problem is that you're going to be hearing the exact same recording for word 1 every time, and the exact same recording for word 2 every time. This means that you don't get trained to generalise. You don't necessarily have to pick out the important phonemic differences -- quite often there are slight differences in intonation or timing that are enough to associate one recording with a card. It's very difficult to know if you've got the answer right for the right reason or for the wrong one.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby jsega » Tue Aug 23, 2016 7:33 pm

Cainntear wrote:
Mycroft wrote:1. Interesting to hear similar sounds, pronounced by the same person, side by side - e.g dessous/dessus and rue/roue - and have to distinguish between them. I could probably have found that on Youtube but not the repeated having to choose the right one.

There's a lot of doubt about the effectiveness of minimal pair practice. I've seen research showing that leaners got better at distinguishing between minimal pairs in the task, with no improvement in distinguishing them outside of minimal pair tasks.


jsega wrote:This will actually be my first time posting on these forums. I've been lurking for longer than I'd like to admit (on HTLAL).

Welcome to the fold!

Someone asked about why you would use spaced repetition for this particular issue. My answer in a nutshell would be, maybe not fully but mostly for similar reasons you would use it for anything else. It makes the process of learning slightly less painful and requires less work from you to organize daily practice. How MUCH does spaced repetition help this particular issue over simple repetition? I'm not sure, but I don't think it matters in this particular case.

The main limitation with SRS is that it doesn't understand the concept of interdependent items.

Imagine you have two cards with the question "Ship or sheep?" and one plays the word "ship" and the other "sheep". If one is shown directly after the other, the second one will be trivially easy. Even if they simply turn up in the same session, the second one to appear is likely to be made easier. Statistics then sets in, and you get tested on the first lots, and make your mistakes on it, and as a result, the second one keeps occurring after the first, so is made artificially easy and gets thrown back up the queue.

But the big problem is that you're going to be hearing the exact same recording for word 1 every time, and the exact same recording for word 2 every time. This means that you don't get trained to generalise. You don't necessarily have to pick out the important phonemic differences -- quite often there are slight differences in intonation or timing that are enough to associate one recording with a card. It's very difficult to know if you've got the answer right for the right reason or for the wrong one.


Firstly thanks for the welcome.

As far as the science behind minimal pairs, I agree it's definitely not a completely proven training methodology from what I've read. It seems to be more accepted across the board as a useful form of initial testing rather than a repeated training but obviously some have thought (and do think) it's useful.

I have no idea on the science or how statistically useful it is, I can only comment on my experience. It definitely helped me to notice, more and more each time, the relationship between the written IPA and the audio and comparing it with the English audio/IPA. Things like how the vowels are much shorter in Spanish at this point is ingrained in me rather than just something I read.

I did not rush through any cards in this deck, I almost obsessively thought about and practiced/mimiced the pronunciation of everything. I completely admit that how useful this deck will be will depend on the person.

So as has been pointed out, Anki and any/all decks used in it are just tools. As with everything else, results depend mostly on the user of said tools. It's like how some people rush to finish their tree on Duolingo, never review, and then call the site useless because they barely learned anything.

You're right about some follow about cards being too easy. It's more of a limitation on efficiency than a true problem overall though. The thing is, due to the nature of reviews and scoring, time fixes this problem. Eventually my weakness shows and and I keep having to review a card. It won't get put away for a REALLY long time until I've proven to know it.

So for the recordings, he did use multiple copies of cards in most minimal pair cases with different voices BUT (this is definitely the biggest problem with the supposed scientific goal of minimal pairing) you're exactly right in terms of needing that generality if you're staying true to the scientific theory. From what I understand you're not supposed to use just a few variations of voices but more like hundreds (I'm not really sure but I remember it being way more than a few) in order for this to theoretically be effective.

You'll definitely be disappointed in this deck if you were hyped up from the article Gabriel Wyner wrote when marketing these decks initially, alluding to the fact that he would basically replicate this "science" in his decks.

I'm glad you brought this point up Cainntear, so anyone expecting this can avoid it.

I personally found the deck did produce good results (as I've attested to) for me as a beginner regardless of any false scientific claims.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Tue Aug 23, 2016 10:12 pm

I haven't used Gabriel Wyner's decks, but often when people bring up minimal pairs and either read examples themselves or have someone else read them, there's this weird intonation on the first word (1, 2 or 3 for you Mandarin speakers out there - anything that creates tension) and then an obvious statement tone (4, release) for the second word. So, there's a lot more that differs than just the phoneme. There was a live demo of minimal pairs at the first Polyglot Gathering, in Mongolian, I believe. I could have spotted the differences from a mile away, only thanks to the (unnecessary) change in pitch.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby arthaey » Wed Aug 24, 2016 1:05 am

Just a quick drive-by comment that Anki does actually have a concept of "sibling" cards, such that if you've recently studied one card, any other cards derived from the same source "note" (in Anki terminology) will not be shown for a while.
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