No. Кафе́ never means 'coffee'. Кафе́ is café, a place where you can eat. Ко́фе is coffee, a drink or a plant.
While the Duolingo’s pronunciation of this word is indeed awful, they are not just distinguished by the pronunciation. Ко́фе also has [o], not [a], and the «ф» is a soft sound (фь), unlike кафе́. (кафе́ is pronounced as if written кафэ́)
No, this is an exception. It’s pronounced as if written «кафэ».
Sometimes «е» in foreign words is pronounced as if it’s written «э». Other words like this are сви́тер 'sweater' (pronounced as if written сви́тэр), тест 'test' (pronounced тэст_¹), _интерне́т 'Internet' (pronounced интэрнэ́т), etc. These are always loanwords. Some of these words have variable reading (дезинформа́ция 'disinformation' can be read as if spelled дэзинформа́ция or as written).
In the past, Russian had no letter э, so all those words were written with е. When э was introduced, it became used only after vowels and word-initially, but after consonants we still often write «е». Now many loanwords use «э» (although this is still a matter of personal preference); however, older loanwords are still spelt with «е».
Don’t worry about it too much: if you mispronounce these words, they’ll still be understandable. In fact, many loanwords that used to be exceptions became nativised and are now pronounced as written.
¹ As correctly noted by AndreyBoykov below, there's also a word «те́сто» 'dough' which is pronounced as written. «Те́сто» 'dough' and «те́ст» 'test' are only distinguished in nominative and accusative, but not in other forms (e.g. genitive те́ста, dative те́сту), so you need to rely on the context to choose the correct pronounciation.
So, «без те́ста» is pronounced «без тэ́ста» when it means 'without [a/the] test', and «без те́ста» (as written) when it means 'without dough'. You'd need context to choose the correct pronunciation.
It wanted you to type Café with the accent mark over the e. Even in English it is technically correct to use the accent mark over the E. However, "almost right" still counts the answer as correct so it obviously isn't a big deal in this case if you choose to accent the word or not.
The dictionaries don't have the form «кафэ», so it's not a normative spelling. But it would be understood, of course.
By the way, «кафэ» is the normative spelling in Belarusian, so you might see that in Belarus (we usually speak Russian here in Belarus, but Belarusian can be seen here and there, too):
Е is used:
- to express a combination of Y + E /je/ after vowels and in the beginning of the word: есть,
- to express /e/ sound after soft consonant: лето, л is soft;
- in foreign loanwords, to express the /e/ sound after hard consonants: те́ст 'test'.
Э is used:
- to express /e/ after vowels (поэтому) and in the beginning of the word (это),
- in foreign loanwords, to express /e/ sound after hard consonants: мэр 'city mayor', пэр 'peer (nobleman)', сэр 'sir'.
You can see that /e/ after hard consontants can be written either Е or Э. This only happens in foreign loanwords. In native Russian words, /e/ made all the consonants before it soft (so, конь has the stem конь- with soft нь, слон has the stem слон- with hard n, but in prepositional case, they are на коне́ and на слоне́, both with soft е). So a combination "hard consonant + /e/" is not possible in native Russian words, only in loanwords.
Originally, most words were written with Е. The original rules state that only three words are to be written with Э: мэр, пэр and сэр. However, many people found it important to distinguish soft from hard consonants, so there's an ongoing process of using more Э's after hard consonants. So, Mary used to be written Мери, but now Мэри is more popular.
In general, newer loanwords are more likely to get Э (but this is a matter of preference), but older loanwords like кафе have an established spelling that is not changed.
"Ok, I read the comments and understood"
The past tense of "read" in English is actually "read" itself!
But the phonetic difference is that the present tense is pronounced like "reed", and the past tense is pronounced as "red". Yep, English has it's own funny twists! ;)
How come Duolingo doesnt teach the Russian alphabet like they teach the Greek alphabet?
I can read some of these Russian letters naturally because they seem to use Greek letters.
It seems like it should be a prerequsite to study the Greek alphabet first before coming to this area.
No, they are not the same:
- coffee = ко́фе (a plant, or a drink made from the plant),
- café = кафе́ (a place where you can eat something; in fact, they're not even required to serve coffee in a café, although it's usually available — although not necessarily a high-quality one).
So someone can explain why coffee is not accepted if the picture exercise has an actual coffee on the card?
The Russian word bank exists. In fact I had been using the phone app for more than a year before I found out typing the answers was also possible (with a browser). In my opinion you don't learn much by using the word bank, some passive knowledge (reading) at best. After about 5 lessons with Russian stickers on my keyboard, I already don't need them anymore (typing is still slow though).
All three of those prepositions work when you're talking about Google Translate.
"in" works because Google Translate is interactive. It sounds odd to say "Try it in BBC.com" or "Try it in Dictionary.com" because those things are references, not interactive tools. This can be a difficult distinction to make, and many native speakers probably don't even realize why "in" sounds okay for one thing but sounds strange for another thing; this isn't something we think about.
"on" works because Google Translate is a website (or an app). In English, "on" is often the default preposition used when referring to some piece of technology, whether it's hardware or software. If you're ever not sure what preposition to use, "on" is safe if you're talking about technology, especially if you're talking about something that is not a physical object.
"at" works because Google Translate is a website. It is a destination, and English uses "at" immediately before many places: "at Central Park", "at Long Beach", "at the intersection". This one is different than the first two, because you would ONLY say "at Google Translate" if you're talking about the WEBSITE, not the mobile phone app. Of course, you might not know what device the other person is using, but if you say "Try it at Google Translate", they can understand from context that you were referring to the website (even if they plan on using the mobile app instead).
Prepositions are already tough, and English hasn't evolved an easy (or clear) pattern of how to use prepositions when talking about technology.