Translation:While my brother is reading, I am working.
Russian usually uses «мой» (and other possessive pronouns) much less often than English. If «мой» is obvious from the context, it's not used. This is true not only for family members, but also for brushing one’s teeth, for example.
The only reason I sort of argue with this (unless it's specific to parents) is that the lessons all seem to accept "mother" and "father" without possessive pronouns.
"пока мама читает, я работаю" would (based on doing the course so far) be translated as "while mother reads, I work."
While it's pretty uncommon for people to call each other "brother" or "sister" as a replacement for their name, it isn't totally unheard of.
We definitely drop "my" in cases like this. In prim and proper dialects of English more so. For parents definitely: "Mother is at the store right now, I'll let her know you called." But in some places using brother and sister is also common, especially when dropping "your." In terms of American English you'll hear this kind of thing in the south or in the west where southerners migrated, a parent scolding some siblings at the park: "Sister wants to play too, and if you don't let her have the ball I'm going to put you in time out."
The other thing is that when the question is translating from the Russian to the English, in my opinion, a measure of leniency towards translating literally should be allowed so long as the basic meaning is preserved. In a sentence like "Потому что так надо" of course you can't translate that 100% literally without getting English gibberish, but in the cases of sentences like this where it literally comes down to whether to drop a pronoun, I think it's pedantic to care. We're trying to learn to think in Russian.
For those who haven't learned this yet, "потому что так надо" (see cbn620's post above) means "because we have to."
As for the rest @cbn620, I agree with your comment about leniency. When a Duolingo user takes the time to read the notes for the lesson and then is abruptly taught a new twist to the Russian language this way, it can cause frustration.
Nevertheless, I suppose you could see this as a teaching moment in that it mirrors real life. If you've ever studied a language and then gone to live in a country of the language you studied, you well know that you will encounter a myriad of things that weren't taught to you in a textbook, grammar book, or your daily dose of Duolingo. I suppose this lesson here, in its own small way, somewhat prepares you for that (even if that might not have been the intention).
Either way, I learned something I didn't know before. I'm not here to get every answer right (and I'm not suggesting anyone else is either); I'm just here to learn. And when I think about it, this lesson will likely stick with me more for the very reason that getting it wrong surprised me.
Almost certainly yes. It's extremely unlikely to be understood to mean someone else's brother.
It might have been from a phrase like "While we're away, [some general-purpose wish]" or something.
Compare it in english with "In a while" and you can see that there's some common threads there.
You can also think of it as "so long". In English, you might say "So long as brother is reading, I am working" meaning that during the time that brother is reading, I am working - the same meaning as "while".
You also might depart someone's company and say "So long!"
It's because Russian uses possessive pronouns sparingly, unlike English. The classic example is "I brush my teeth" vs. «Я чищу зубы». It would sound strange in English without 'my', and it will sound extremely strange in Russian with «мои». Many other nouns (including names of relatives) also work like this: they are normally used with a possessive pronoun in English, and without one in Russian
I answered as "While brother reads, I work." It was wrong because missing word "the" for "the brother". I would never say that naturally. "While the brother reads, I work". I often call my brother as if his name were brother. I understand this is not "my brother", but in a sentence comparing what I do versus what brother does, it seems THE or MY in front of brother is not needed.
in English the sentence sounds unnatural without a pronoun before the word 'brother'.
No kidding. Yet there are sentences when we talk about 'mother' instead of 'my mother' or 'his mother' and filling out a possessive pronoun there means you'll fail. Which one is it, Duolingo?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but here's my understanding.
In English, singular countable nouns are usually used with some kind of modifier (either 'a', 'or 'the', or 'my'/other possessive pronouns). In Russian, singular nouns don't require modifiers.
When the modifier is omited in English, it means 'brother' is used like a name, to refer to a specific brother and not just 'a brother' is general. This is not what the Russian sentence means, so that's why just 'brother' is not accepted.
Do Russians ever use "brother" similarly? In other words, do Russians ever use "brother" or any other family member as a name? And, if so, how is the distinction made? (More importantly, how are English students of Russian to know the difference?) Would it, perhaps, ever be capitalized as in:
Пока Брат читает, я работаю.
I know I have seen "Big Brother" as in "a person or organization exercising total control over people's lives" is sometimes (but not always) spelled with capital letters as in:
I actually tried to investigate this a bit via digital means. What I found with Google's Ngram didn't help much and an advanced search of Russian pages did seem to indicate that some might capitalize it from time to time, but the practice appears to be rather limited and somewhat arbitrary. I did some further research in this regard and discovered some things that will be added as an answer to this post (which I later decided to post up at the Russian Language StackExchange). You can link to that post below:
- when = когда, it just means ‘at some time’,
- while = пока, it means ‘during some period’.
While you can replace ‘while’ with ‘when’ in this sentence, you often can’t:
- Когда я вернусь домой, я тебе позвоню. = When I come back come, I’ll call you.
- (*Пока я вернусь домой, я тебе позвоню = * While I come back home, I’ll call you — it doesn’t work because ‘coming home’ is not a period, it’s a moment.)
Duolingo insists on more-or-less literal translations (unless a literal translation is impossible due to the language differences) for two reasons:
- To make sure you learn the accurate meanings of the words.
- Because the translations are typed by hand, and it’s simply impossible to add all the conceivable rephrased variants.