I think this is because "she looks" is referring to the way the initial subject - in this case the girl- looks herself. It is to distinguish that the girl and not the mother is the subject being discussed in this sentence.
An imperfect way of explaining this would be to say that without "se" in this sentence it would be talking about the girl looking at the mother. The other words don't match that but if you don't push it too much you can see why the sentence is reflexive rather than not.
You look is also (part of) you.
Actually the verb ´paracer´means to look like. ¨Mi perro parece un zorro¨ my dog looks like a fox and the verb we are using ¨paracerse¨ Means to look alike (with someone) just as we have been using. It has more of a reciprocal use (eg we look at each other) than a reflexive (we look at ourselves in the mirrior)
I find it weird to use the reflexive "se" in this situation. Even in French we'd say "Elle ressemble beaucoup à sa mère" i.e. almost exactly just "She looks a lot like her mom". French has the same reflexive system usually as Spanish. Not in this case, apparently. "Se parece" to "look like" just sounds off. I don't doubt that it's the right way in Spanish though. Still, all I can see when I read that spanish sentence is "She seems like herself a lot to her mom" or something similar to that.
It may help when deciding if 'se' should be used is to asked can you insert in this case 'herself'. She 'herself' looks a lot like her mother. Looks reflects back on 'she'. As oppose to She looks at her son. If you don't have an object other than 'she' use 'se' for reflexive purposes. I'm still figuring out all the uses for 'se'.
The 'se' in this case is not reflexive at all, the point here is that 'parecerse a' means 'to look like' while 'parecer' means 'to seem'. Similarly 'admirar' means 'to admire' while 'admirarse' means 'to be suprised'. Sometimes the 'se' form merely changes the meaning of the verb altogether without having any reflexive function..
I disagree Erik. When "like" is used as a synonym for "similar to" it is very common and correct, to use "very like" (or "very much like") meaning "almost identical to". E.G from the link "one sparrow is very like another" When "like" is used as verb as in your example "I very like you" , then it is wrong but you may hear children learning to speak use it or people whose first language is not English. http://www.wordreference.com/es/translation.asp?tranword=very%20like Were you kidding when when you said "It's very like saying.." a perfectly good example and correct construction.
As an American, I have never heard (except in foreign movies, etc.) "very" used in such a way - which I think is probably the issue. It seems Duo tends to favor American English. If anyone has the same issue, I would report it: it's just a dialectical difference, and both should be acceptable.
This sentence can be translated many ways including 'closely resembles'
You can seem a lot like your mother without looking like your mother. I think appear implies more specifically a physical similarity whereas seems could be alike in other ways besides (and including) physical appearance.
EDIT: I've seen this verb a few times now. Sometimes it's translated as 'looks,' and 'seems' is wrong. Hmmm... further research required.
You would be understood but it is considered bad grammar. It's the preposition known to English as "the personal a" and is required before all persons, pets, and some personified objects when a direct object. You'll run into this a lot. We must include it in our spanish but never translate it to english. It isn't 'to' or 'at' etc. It just indicates the person etc. Is grammatically an object in the sentence and not a subject. It gets easier as you get use to the concept. I still make many mistakes regarding the personal a. Hope this helps.
It's not the personal a, you cannot replace su madre with a direct object pronoun, you would not say "Ella se la parece mucho", but "Ella se parece mucho a ella" or you could replace a ella (in this case because it sounds repetitive) with an indirect object "Ella se le parece". This type of structure does not allow you to duplicate the object. Here's an example taken from DRAE, in which the complement is not human, yet the preposition is still required "La casa se parecía a las que había visto en las ilustraciones de los cuentos", further proof that it is not the personal a.
Learntac032 - are you looking over my shoulder? I just brought up a link tonight regarding "parecer". I haven't even read it yet. Here it is and I hope it proves helpful...
Parecer only becomes a reflexive verb when the "a" is added. Without that preposition, it cannot be reflexive. Its reflexive meaning is "to resemble". It is usually not a reflexive verb. It often, but not always, behaves like gustar in the IO + V + S (indirect object + verb + subject) format. But, of course, sometimes the subject can appear before the verb, too. La ropa te parece fea. The clothes seem ugly to you. La casa nos parece cara. The house seems expensive to us.
Although I have memorised this translation, I still can't quite get my head around what it means & why 'se' is needed. Am I right in thinking that without the 'se' this sentence would mean something along the lines of she looks (at something) a lot (many times) like her mother?
You could get to know it from an earlier comment of rmcgwn : "the personal a" and is required before all persons, pets, and some personified objects when a direct object". Usage of "a" before a person is always a must. It is taught in shccol the most commonly with exact names, for example "Lo doy a Ana" = I give it to Ana. It is just the same with "madre" etc.