Real world Spanish: Mantenga fuera del alcance de los niños. (Keep out of reach of children.) OK. The word is used in its noun form here, but alcanzar means to physically reach something or someone. This sentence is best translated: The boy does not reach me. In American English we have the idiom "to catch up to/with" meaning to physically become within reach.
The Oxford dictionary lists "catch up with" and "catch you up." Are these expressions not used in British English to mean "to reach somebody who is ahead by going faster"?
According to Word Magic Dictionary ALCANZAR = (1) "to catch up with / reach" (2) "reach up to, / reach, / reach at, / get at" AGARRAR = (1) "to catch, / catch hold of, / get," etc. The boy does not catch me. = El niño no me agarra. This has the same meaning as the sentence below The boy catches the ball. = El niño agarra la pelota. I hope that helps.
I got marked wrong a few exercises ago for using "catch" for "alcanza" in "Él alcanza el sombrero." I got this meaning of just catch (without theup) from the drop-down, which also makes sense for "He catches the hat", so it really isn't fair that learners suddenly get informed that "alcanzar" doesn't REALLY mean "catch", but rather "catch up". Sure I learned my lesson, but this looks like just plain negligence on the part of DL's translating staff. Will report I guess.
on another dictionary (spandict), it is defined as 'to achieve' and in the reflexive 'to manage'. I used achieve which wasn't accepted; however, it must be this kind of 'catching up with' as opposed to the more physical sort of catching. Finalmente las mujeres las pueden alcanzar cosas grandes blah blah blah. (don't know about my spanish, but c'est la vie.
"Achieve" as a translation only works in association with an abstract/idea that is out of reach, not between two objects (as in this sentence: boy, me). "Catch up" is a relation of two bodies moving in the same direction with one velocity overtaking the other. "Catch" can be two objects moving in the same direction, but not required prior to one body effectively being in control of/contact with the other.
From the Duolingo dictionary,
El niño no me alcanza. The boy does not catch up with me.
Él alcanzó al pájaro. He reached the bird.
Al mediodía los habremos alcanzado. At noon we will have reached them.
Nosotras te vamos a alcanzar. We are going to catch up with you. https://www.duolingo.com/dictionary/Spanish/alcanza-alcanzar-verb-present+indicative+tense-third+person-singular/73c696596eb88dc996a46658a4502747
"Is (not) catching" is the progressive present: "(no) está alcanzando" (estar in the present tense plus the present participle (the "gerundio") of the main verb).
The form in Duolingo's example just requires the simple present. The progressive tenses are used when you want to accent or intensify an action. For example, "he eats" ("come") is pretty general, but "he is eating" ("está comiendo") nails it to the here and now or might be a retort to someone who asserts that he isn't eating.
^ What she said. I immediately thought anyone saying 'catch me up' must speak British English. 'Catch up with me' would be used almost always physically, but it could be used context to mean converse with. It seems if alcanzar can be translated "to catch (something) up" it should also translate to the idiom "to bring (someone) up to speed"
As others have said, "catch me up" sounds like British English. US English would tend to say, "catch up to me."
However, we (native US English) might say, "He's going to catch me up" if, for instance, I was late to a movie, and a friend is going to "catch me up" on what happened before I arrived. However, that's a completely different context than the Spanish sentence we're discussing here.
Vicki and all commenters, yes "catch me up" is most often used for someone to inform another of what has been going on, perhaps for a meeting that the speaker was late for, or a school class he or she missed. In the sentence Duo gave us, the sense is like never "reaching the same place" as another already was. For example, if you are at level 20 in Spanish lessons and we both do two lessons a day, I will never "catch up to " your level, unless I do more lessons, assuming you keep studying more advanced levels when the "learning tree" is finished. My sister is older than I am, so I can never reach (catch up to) her age, as long as she lives! Yet I hope I will reach (attain) her age (that she is now) later on in my life.
Vicki: every dictionary/thesaurus will give various definitions of words or phrases that can sometimes be quite unrelated in meaning. That said, I agree with you that 'catch me up' can be used in the way that you mention. But I consider this to be a more common expression on your side of the pond than mine. I would probably say, in that context, "bring me up to speed", or even 'fill me in'. In the same way, 'catch up to me' would be understood in my part of the world, but not so frequently used as 'catch me up', meaning exactly the same, but just a different way of saying it. There's no right or wrong here, just a regional, colloquial difference. That's the beauty of language, to my mind. There are so many ways to express your thoughts and feelings. Words are like colours on an artist's palette. In mixing them, the artist can create so many different hues. Using black and white he could convey an image but using different shades of colour, the image almost comes to life!