I cannot speak to Spanish, French, or German. I’m not 100% certain of how or if they would be different in Russian. However, the sentences as the OP phrased them are not different in English. They are simply reordered, but there is no grammatical difference in the two.
In both sentences, the subject of the sentence is “glass.” If I were to diagram these sentences (something I fondly remember doing as a child in grammar class - nerd alert!! :) ), the structure of the diagram would be essentially the same. “There” functions as an expletive, kind of a dummy-noun if you like; but grammatically that glass of water is still the subject.
Removing the expletive would force the sentence into its regular subject-verb order, and you would have, “A glass of water is on the table.” Retaining the inversion, you could have, “On the table is a glass of water.”
Some authorities advise against using expletives, because sentences can be rephrased more emphatically without them and because they have no grammatical function; they do pop up unnoticed all the time in spoken English, though.
I think there's a bit of a difference, actually. In the sentence "there on the table is a glass of water", "there" goes together with the prepositional phrase "on the table", i.e. it's equivalent to "a glass of water is there on the table". Which would require the Russian sentence to be "там на столе".
Not true, they are grammatically different.<h1>"There is a glass of water on the table."</h1>
a glass of water exists, resting somewhere on the table<h1>"There, on the table, is glass of water."</h1>
a glass of water exists, resting right there in the relatively specific location where I'm directing your attention on the table
It seems a somewhat minor distinction, but there is a distinction. For example, the first sentence is what one would say if referring to a glass of water on a table in another room, perhaps.
It's the difference between "the thing is here" when describing a location of an object, and "here you go/here's your thing" when handing an object to someone. (In Russian the difference between здесь and вот.)
Yes, in fact, who needs gerunds, direct or indirect articles, plural markers, or prepositions? ;-)
Seriously, though, that's exactly what noun declensions do: they make the language more efficient - at least in terms of word count - because prepositions are no longer needed to show the case. On the other hand, for people whose native languages do not decline nouns, this often makes learning the concepts more challenging.
Not necessarily. You should keep in mind that in Russian the new information, or the most relevant piece of information, comes in the end of the sentence. I'm just a learner like most people here, but I guess I understood this lesson this way:
На столе стакан воды = (There's something on the table. What is on the table?) There is a glass of water on the table
Стакан воды на столе = (the glass of water is somewhere. Where is the glass of water?) The glass of water is on the table
You are correct, the sentence could be word for word either way. I think though word order matters here for nuance. To me, your translation would make best sense as a response to a question (where is the glass of water?). The Duolingo translation makes best sense as a single sentence describing a scene. Not wrong or right, just nuance.