"They are helping me."
Translation:Они мне помогают.
What's the difference between "мне" and "меня?" I am suspecting that the first is a direct object and the second an indirect one? And the pronunciation difference is probably so subtle and quick that it is hard to tell the difference?
"Мне" is dative case (indirect object), while "меня" is accusative (direct object) or genitive case. Here dative is used simply because "помогать" requires that the recipient of the help be in the dative case.
Thanks so much Peatsickle. I guess I was thinking direct object simply because in English you wouldn't say "they are helping to me." However, I understand that it really is an indirect object. Also, thanks for the help with the terminology about cases. I still don't feel as if I understand cases very well. "Genitive" seems to me that it has to do with possession, but now I understand it is much more.
I'm sure you've moved on to bigger and badder things in a year :) and are not in any way agonizing over this, but I am going to reply to your comment because I think that there are plenty of us who are bemused as to why we should use dative instead of accusative. You are of course very correct that, "They are helping to me," is not great grammar. In English, we are limited by our simple, easy, and fully natural translation of помогать as "to help." Why then should помогать take dative? - In other words, what logic makes it require an indirect object? In grammar, indirect objects receive something (the direct object) from the subject. So instead of thinking about this as, "They (subject) are helping (verb) me (indirect object)" and wondering where in the world that direct object went to, we might think of it with another, tacit, word included: "They (subject) are [giving] (verb) help (direct object) to me (indirect object)."
Now, I do not suggest that we request that the course creators expand the translation of, "They are helping me," into an overly-wordy, "They are giving help to me"; the first sentence says it best and says it most naturally. I simply have benefited from this exercise in digging down to the logic of помогать taking dative.
Thanks for posting this. Translating it to "giving help" makes a lot more sense to me.
Sure. "Мне" is also used for prepositional case, but only with certain prepositions, e.g. "обо мне" ("about me," with "обо" being an unusual form of the preposition "о").
"Of assistance to me" is another way of saying "helping me" in English.