Can't speak for the contributors, but I think it's similar to them using Welsh names and teaching them in one part. Those who are unfamiliar with particular place names in Wales can learn them. Not everything is necessarily pure translation.
Also, later, if they were to use Aberystwyth within another sentence, one would understand that is a place and not a word to be translated.
It just seems a terribly odd choice for a question, and one that I have not seen in the other Duolingo programs. I have seen questions that ask one to identify a place that has a different name than the one in English (e.g. Baile Atha Cliath for Dublin in the Irish program). It seems terribly odd to have the student simply repeat a place name that is the same in English. It would, for instance, seem odd to me to have Paris or Lyon, or even Vézelay or Biarritz on the French program.
I imagine it's so you can recognise placenames. Otherwise, you might think it was an everyday word. To be fair, I think more people have heard of the French placenames that you've listed than have heard of the Welsh placenames mentioned. Especially outside the United Kingdom.
Sometimes a word for something can be spelt identically in the language your learning through and the language your learning due to a variety of causes including coincidence, does that mean they should be left out altogether?
I see your point Christina Marie, but I think on balance James(TWilson) makes a better one. :-) Since it is a single-word sentence, Aberystwyth has an inital capital anyway, so it doesn't give any clue that it is a place. Perhaps the hint should include '(place name)' then it might work as you suggest.
Would you recommend the English programs teach the students that the proper translations of Birmingham and Chicago are Birmingham and Chicago? The only times I have seen city names on the other Duolingo languages are when the translation into the target language is something different, e.g. Londres for London in French and Warsaw from Warszawa from Polish. I find it quite useful to translate Swansea as Abertawe, but Aberystwyth is a waste.
Yes, I get what you're coming from, it does seem like a waste of time. But my arguement is that culturally Aberystwyth is a very important place. Despite being a small town it's the home of the National Library of Wales, a major university, a Welsh-speaking majority, and it's held the Eisteddfod at least 4 times. Because it doesn't have a translation people might think it's not as important as Swansea or Cardiff, but I think they've included it so it sticks in people's memories anyway.
It is, indeed, a very important place, and it should figure in sentences about universities, libraries, and Eisteddfods. Esztergom is seat of the primate of Hungary and for much of the Middle Ages the capital of Hungary; Székesfehérvár is another of the medieval capitals and the site of the coronation for much of the Middle Ages; Budapest is the largest city, home of the oldest university, and site of all the national libraries, archives, etc. None of those, however, have a name in English that is at all different from that in Hungarian. Therefore, there should be no lesson that requires the student to translate Esztergom into English as Esztergom. There definitely should be sentences that use the names of all those cities, as well as cultural sections about gulyás and Liszt Ferenc and pálinka and whatnot. Hungarian culture is at least as exotic to English-speakers as Welsh culture, but to translate a place name that has no translation is absolutely ludicrous. I believe I was also asked to translate Saunders Lewis as Saunders Lewis. An utter waste of time when there is so much language to learn.
I don't think we disagree about the proposition that cultural knowledge is an important part of learning a language. I think that learning to translate a sentence like "There is a university in Aberystwyth" or "I study Welsh in Aberystwyth" would be very good additions to the program and would actually be something like the Danish cultural units or the Irish ones, both of which are quite useful. Being given simply the word "Aberystwyth," the proper response to which is simply "Aberystwyth," teaches me exactly nothing about Welsh culture. It is an opportunity to teach about Welsh culture that has been squandered.
How would that not be accomplished by a sentence that includes the name of the town? Moreover, why should a student, asked to parrot back a word that is not explained, assume that means that Welsh towns were not translated into English, particularly when the other towns used in the exercises are Cardiff and Swansea?
Yeah, I guess it just depends on for what reason you are taking this Welsh course. Personally, for me I'm learning Welsh so that when I go back to North Wales - a place a visit quite often - I have a better grasp of the language and culture. But I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.
An exercise that "translates" Aberystwyth as Aberystwyth can serve to remind people that many Welsh towns managed to retain their original Welsh language names, something that isn't true for most places in Ireland and Scotland, where most places are known by transliterated names in English.