So am I the only one who listened and didn't look, and accidentally translated this to "the girl IS a tomato?" and didn't think there's anything wrong with it, because Duo are known for odd sentences?
Because its a diminutive form of "die Magd" (the maid), that a long time ago became the official word for "the girl", -chen and -lein are sufixes for diminutive (adding an Umlaut in some of them), and ALL diminutives are neuter: der Hund/das Hündchen, das Buch/das Büchlein, die Frau/das Fräulein...
For whatever reason Madchen (apologies for the lack of umlauts, can't do it with my keyboard) is a neutral noun and not a feminine noun (even though Junge is masculine, which I agree is confusing). It's good to know though that whether a noun is masculine femenine or neutral doesn't always necessarily correlate with if the noun ACTUALLY represents something masculine or feminine or whatever.
So what, exactly, is wrong with "The girl's eating a tomato" as an answer?
Well, in the mobile version, there's a flag that you can use to report the question. Not sure about the web one.
In the web one, right beside where the comments are (this section that I am typing in right now) there is a 'report a problem" button :)
Of all the things that Duolingo doesn't count wrong that are grammatically sins, it takes a heart because I typed "an" instead of "a".
So, how do you differentiate 'isst' and 'ist' in a conversation. Some Germans speaks very quickly. Of course if they mention 'Essen' or some piece of food, then that could help. Example: Das Madchen isst eine Tomate OR Das Madchen ist eine Tomate. Clearly, the girl is not a tomato, but I could see that it could be confusing hypothetically.
Context is basically the only way that I've picked up. Or asking whoever you're talking to :)
Anyone know any good sources for figuring out the articles and how they change based on gender/pluralism/case?
I thought they said "The girl is a tomato", "Das Mädchen ist eine Tomate".