90% of the translations are verbatim
It's embarressing how many times I've come across a message that has been translated...verbatim...into English, making it look like a horribly mangled mess. I'm not sure how something like this can be fixed, but it's certainly not a way to correctly learn the language.
The problem is that there are many people who are translating from, say Spanish to English who are not native speakers of English. They might be German and are doing their best, but it's not a good translation. The only solution for this is to have duolingo cater for language learning that doesn't include English. So that the German can learn Spanish using German and Spanish, not doing it using English.
I did a couple of translations but got disheartened by the very same thing that you mentioned.
For me, until this problem gets fixed, it's all a bit of a joke.
I don't know if verbatim translations are due to foreigners (like me) trying to learn a language through English (an excellent exercise) or rather to "lazy" people pasting in duolingo translations made with Google or other automatic translators. Rating by users is meant to sort out the best translations ...
I think that the issue might be that it is unclear to people how they are expected to translate. They might think that they need to stick to the original as much as possible. It could help if Duolingo provided a basic tutorial on what is expected from translations. Did you know that Duolingo uses algorithms to provide its own translations? Maybe you saw some of those computer generated translations?
blobber’s remark may contain some truth, but I expect that some people will react negatively to it. It seems to suggest that non-native speakers can never learn a language perfectly; “They might be German and are doing their best, but it's not a good translation.” The remark that “it's all a bit of a joke” until all the non-native speakers get their own section is not very nice either. We are all here to learn a language so it would be nice to have some faith in people’s language learning capacities.
Beppe suggests that studying in English can be a good exercise as it allows him to practice his English while learning other languages. I had not considered the option that people could be using different sites for their translations. I trust people to provide their own translations as that is what we want to learn, right?