I have hit a wall in my study of Japanese: I am unable to hear differences in pitch accent. None of the other languages I am familiar with use it (those being Hungarian(native), English and French), and I didn't even have any idea it existed until it was explicitly pointed out to me. Obviously, this also means that I am unable to use the correct accent when pronouncing phrases, or sometimes any pitch accent at all, as I default to ways of speaking I am used to.
I have tried an online course that dealt with the subject specifically, and while in some example sentences I thought I could hear it, my choices in the practice exercises might have been better off random.
I have brought up the problem with native speakers I know (one of whom has experience tutoring people), and they are just baffled, as they have always been able to clearly hear it. Even when they list different variations of homophones one right after the other, so that I have the best chance at picking up the difference, I simply hear the same sounds in all instances.
I was wondering if anyone else has faced the same problem and has overcome it. If so, was there a particular activity or exercise that created a breakthrough?
To me it seems that pitch accent is relatively subtle in Japanese. Maybe exposure to another language with a more pronounced use of pitch accent would help?
Clarification in response to comment: When a word is pronounced separately, with care, for presentation purposes, I sometimes can hear that there is a difference, but nothing beyond this fact. Could not tell which one is rising or falling. If later one of two words is replayed, I have great trouble telling which one it was. My brain simply refuses to register it properly. Even this is mostly lost when the word is part of a phrase, and I have absolutely no clue when hearing normal speech.