OK, now that I've thought about it a little bit, I understand more about why this item is the way it is.
Both sentences are talking about the action of getting onto the desk - not the continuous action of just sitting there. In other words, we don't want just "A tanár az íróasztalon ül / The teacher is sitting on the desk."
English normally distinguishes between the continuous action and the perfective one by using "sit" for continuous action, and "sit down" to indicate the change of state. It has to be "sit down" even when "down" seems to contradict the direction of motion (like here), because "sit up" has a different meaning.
In Hungarian (correct me if I'm wrong), either leül or felül will show the perfective action, and you can choose the one that corresponds to the direction of motion.
You got it!
I would say "sits on top" as the closest real English translation. But yes, the Hungarian version implies the action of moving into that position. Which is mostly missing from English, it is only implied by context. There is "into" and "onto" and a few others though that carry this meaning.
All of these le-/be-/ki-/fel-/el-/át-/rá-/ide-/oda-/etc. preverbs, when combined with a stationary verb like "sit", "stand", etc., still do indicate a moving action that results in the stationary position that the verb expresses.
It is hard to accurately express these in English, that's why we have so many of these awkward sentences.
And yes, a desk is usually higher than a normal position of sitting. So, compared to a chair, you would "sit up onto" the desk.
I'd like to vote for "sits down [upon/onto/on] the desk"... as jsiehler explained up above, "sits" for many English speakers, including me, implies continuous passive location, while "sits down" is necessary for a change into a sitting position, even if that sitting position ends up being higher than the previous position.
Will you add a "[down/]" or a "[/down]" after "sits" in the first alternative, please?
In English I would say someone sits AT a desk not upon or up on unless they're actually sitting on the desk, as informally in front of a group or class. Or as in today's news we refer to sexual harassment at work and the boss is doing something inappropriate! After all, when would you actually sit ON a desk?
So is it all changed? I don't think so because I'm doing these lessons a year after this discussion started and I am still being counted wrong on sentences. Not this one but others from the 4 part sublative group. I have to give what I think is the incorrect answer to be able to pass on to the next question without doing it over.
Both 'felül' and 'ráül' are correct. We may use 'felül' in case the secretary is short and the height of the desk is above the usual and the secretary even pulls her legs onto the desk, e.g. beneath herself.
However, if she is a tall lady with long legs and the desk is short, and she just sits down on it, with her legs remaining on the floor, essentially using the desk as a high chair, then I would probably say 'leül az íróasztalra".