Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby jsega » Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:35 am

arthaey wrote: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.


Interesting, I wonder what it bases it on. I ended up reviewing the opposite of the previous minimal pair directly afterwards fairly frequently. Maybe because usually the ''opposite'' in the case of this deck had actually been given a technically different audio recording of a different speaker but in all other ways was the same. Also, in this deck it has you review different facets of the same word (listen and transcribe, read the spelling and guess how it will sound, and standard picture/english to spanish) so it probably sees them as different but obviously going through one of these flashcards will still make the next one of a different format easier.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Cainntear » Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:52 pm

jeff_lindqvist wrote: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.

Ah, good old "list intonation" -- I couldn't tell you how many courses/resources I've come across like that. Not just for minimal pairs, also for things like greetings, where they've clearly recorded "good morning", "good afternoon", "good evening", "good night" in that order.

The other common problem is "contrast intonation", which happens really often as he vs she; almost invariably they record the he version first and the she version directly after, so you either get "he is" and "she is" or (worse) "he is" and "she is". I'm sure I've had materials that have no unstressed "she" in the whole thing, effectively teaching it as though it's a heavily stressed word.

Free tip for anyone recording vocabulary items for courses or flashcard sets: write your list of words/phrases in an Excel spreadsheet, then jumble them up into a random order so that you're not reading them out in sets. Intonation problems will be eliminated and everyone will be happier.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby mercutio » Thu Aug 25, 2016 3:16 pm

i have the anki minimal pairs deck and like it but I'm someone who utterly detests making anki decks so I'm happy to pay for someone to do it!

i also have the word list pdf which I really like but haven't worked out a way to effectively use it
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Mycroft » Sun Aug 28, 2016 2:25 pm

Cainntear wrote: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.


I'm sure you're absolutely right and I suspect that's true of a lot of flashcard learning if it's not re-inforced with 'real' practice (whatever that is). The Pronunciation Trainer seems more useful in giving me a model of what I should be aiming for myself when speaking rather than an aid to listening - though I haven't practised on anyone French to test its worth - and I guess from his website and the title that's mainly what it aims to do.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby emk » Sun Aug 28, 2016 3:47 pm

Cainntear wrote: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.

I'd love to see what the study design looked like. Do you still have a reference?

My guess is that if minimal pairs help at all, they work as part of a much larger, longer-term effort. My experience is that making phonemic changes can be difficult and may require a sustained effort. For example, I used to tap my French R ([ɾ] instead of [ʁ]). I knew it was wrong, I could hear the difference in isolation, and I could make the correct sound if I tried. But as soon as I started speaking rapidly, I immediately reverted to a tap.

I fixed this because my tutor kept getting on my case about it. But the process of fixing it took something like 3 months. I practiced it daily in the shower, I sang along with songs that lovely, sustained [ʁ] sounds, I corrected myself when speaking, and I paid a lot of attention. And after several months, it did get better, and [ʁ] now feels entirely natural.

Now, the French R doesn't have a minimal pair. But for sounds which do have a minimal pair, I would expect that any attempt to "fix" a learner's speaking and listening could easily take months of work using a variety of techniques. Explaining the minimal pair and learning to produce and distinguish it is just a first step.

Still, I find it useful to remember that there are some very embarrassing minimal pairs in most languages. For example:

  • The English "sheet" and "shit", which occasionally causes ESL students to say things like, "I need to put a shit on the bed."
  • The French cou /ku/ "neck", cul /ky/ "ass" and queue /kø/ "tail, dick".
I find that most people don't mix up these minimal pairs more than once or twice. I admit these minimal pairs are not suitable for the typical classroom, but public embarrassment is notoriously memorable.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Random Review » Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:42 am

Well it looks like I might be going to China rather than Spain for the next year, so I just bought the Mandarin one.
I'll definitely review it.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Adrianslont » Sun Sep 04, 2016 10:33 am

Random Review wrote:Well it looks like I might be going to China rather than Spain for the next year, so I just bought the Mandarin one.
I'll definitely review it.


I look forward to your review. I'll definitely review the French deck when I actually get around to buying it! I'm going to Indonesia this week so I have been concentrating my language learning efforts on Indonesian.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Adrianslont » Sun Sep 04, 2016 10:40 am

emk wrote:
Cainntear wrote: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.

I'd love to see what the study design looked like. Do you still have a reference?

My guess is that if minimal pairs help at all, they work as part of a much larger, longer-term effort. My experience is that making phonemic changes can be difficult and may require a sustained effort. For example, I used to tap my French R ([ɾ] instead of [ʁ]). I knew it was wrong, I could hear the difference in isolation, and I could make the correct sound if I tried. But as soon as I started speaking rapidly, I immediately reverted to a tap.

I fixed this because my tutor kept getting on my case about it. But the process of fixing it took something like 3 months. I practiced it daily in the shower, I sang along with songs that lovely, sustained [ʁ] sounds, I corrected myself when speaking, and I paid a lot of attention. And after several months, it did get better, and [ʁ] now feels entirely natural.

Now, the French R doesn't have a minimal pair. But for sounds which do have a minimal pair, I would expect that any attempt to "fix" a learner's speaking and listening could easily take months of work using a variety of techniques. Explaining the minimal pair and learning to produce and distinguish it is just a first step.

Still, I find it useful to remember that there are some very embarrassing minimal pairs in most languages. For example:

  • The English "sheet" and "shit", which occasionally causes ESL students to say things like, "I need to put a shit on the bed."
  • The French cou /ku/ "neck", cul /ky/ "ass" and queue /kø/ "tail, dick".
I find that most people don't mix up these minimal pairs more than once or twice. I admit these minimal pairs are not suitable for the typical classroom, but public embarrassment is notoriously memorable.


I respect Cainntear's inputs in this forum so much but I think minimal pairs do play a role in improving pronunciation. Not the whole story, of course. And I too always want to see the study design - especially when a study disagrees with my beliefs!

And, emk, you have identified one of my main concerns - I don't want to be running around telling people I suffer from chronic arse problems when I actually have chronic neck problems.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby Mareile » Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:00 pm

I used the Russian FF Pronunciation Trainer.
To be honest I found it very helpful for learning the Russian Alphabet, you get to hear a word and then can write it out before turning the card and seeing the spelling solution. All that with increasing difficulty and a few new letters each day. Like the Spanish one, the Russian also has about 500 cards, maybe a bit more. Nonetheless, I abandoned it after about 200 cards, I was running out of time for the trip and all letters had been introduced.

I don't think I would use it if you are an advanced learner and/or believe to be able to pick up pronunciation and spelling rules for sounds on the go. Like now, I would definitely not do it for Spanish.
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Re: Fluent Forever Pronunciation Trainers - opinions?

Postby maschingon » Mon Sep 12, 2016 5:44 pm

Hi all,

Sorry for coming into this a bit late - this is a great and very interesting thread. I'm not quite sure how to quote multiple people, so I'll just reference the best I can. Also - I saw a post referencing a study that showed that minimal pairs are ineffective - would someone mind linking to that study?

Also - just looked up FSI and it seems interesting. Does anyone know how long the course takes to complete?

Let me preface with my experience with Gabe's trainers: I have not yet used one as a complete beginner (although I begin to do so this week with French or another language), but I did however buy the Chinese version a few months ago to 1) fix any errors in my pronunciation / listening ability, and 2) analyze their design and potential effectiveness.

Fortunately and/or unfortunately, I concluded that my ability to hear phonemes was actually very good (which seems accurate, given that I can pick apart the phonemes and transcribe them with relative ease, just don't know what they mean due to lack of knowing enough words).

Without having used it as a complete beginner I can't say for certain (I'll give an update later this week), but I concluded that for the complete beginner, the idea is golden for getting a **leg up** on easing your ear into the language, and **decent** for pronunciation training - you don't have someone telling you if you're doing it right, but you can more or less tell if you're close by replaying the sound clips (again, keep in mind that I haven't yet used one as a complete beginner).

SRS has many problems, and is not the "golden method" of perfecting pronunciation or listening, but as a complete beginner, as long as you get some controlled repetition with identifying the sounds of the language, that's all you need. The rest will take care of itself, assuming that you structure your personal learning curriculum around a lot of listening and mimicking practice.

To my knowledge, the point is not at all to completely perfect your listening skills and pronunciation, but rather to help a beginner get a week or two's worth of repetition in identifying the new and foreign sounds of the language. And that's fine --> that's also why he instructs that the decks only be used for a few weeks

Speaking of Mimicking --> I also bought Idahoosa Ness's MimicMethod for Portuguese for the same reasons, which is a whole different conversation. I can go into more detail if anyone cares to know, but in a nutshell, I unfortunately cannot recommend it: while informative and somewhat entertaining in the beginning, the structure of the course is annoying and the price tag of 90 dollars is unfathomable for what it offers. Not at all a scam, but not what I expected to receive. What's more, his method of focusing purely on sounds and completely ignoring the phonemes to me seems to be very flawed. You need to train your eye/ear/brain combo to embrace the new sound/writing from the very beginning, not completely ignore it.
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