"The woman sees the skirts."
Translation:Die Frau sieht die Röcke.
No, because "sieht" is unambiguously 3rd person singular and the skirts are plural. The word order in the given translation stresses "the skirts". Your word order is "normal".
How is a distinction made if the woman is looking at a single skirt then? Or what about if it were "women" instead of "woman"? In that case do you avoid the object-first sentence structure?
a single skirt -> "Die Frau sieht den Rock."; women -> "Die Frauen sehen den Rock/die Röcke." The case with both plural forms "Die Frauen sehen die Röcke." might be considered ambiguous but since skirts are not capable of seeing, the subject of the sentence can only be "Die Frauen". Accusative object in first position is possible but I'd say that subject in first position is more common.
So can this sentence be translated as Die Frau sieht Die Rocke just as well then? It makes more sense in English to declare the woman first.
The thing is that in English the word order is far more fixed (because of the major loss of case endings). In German SPO is standard. OPS is grammatical too but the object is more stressed.
"The woman sees the man." "The man sees the woman." Subject and object look alike. You need a fixed word order to distinguish between them. "Die Frau sieht den Mann." "Die Frau sieht der Mann." "Die Frau" can be subject or object (as in the second sentence) but "der Mann" is clearly nominative and "den Mann" is clearly accusative. So you needn't rely on the word order too much to distinguish subject and object. That is why the word order is not as fixed as in English.
So "Die Frau sieht das Kind" and "Das Kind sieht die Frau" would be ambiguous sentences were you could distinguish between subject and object without context? And "Thank you!" by the way, Nina for providing your detailed explanations on this. I found them really helpful :)
You're welcome! I'm happy to hear that. Yes, these sentences are ambiguous. The standard word order is subject - predicate - object. Without context this word order is likely but it could also be object - predicate - subject.