Short of having a native speaker at ones disposal, it's pretty much all one has to go by. Duolingo really isn't much better, truth be told. I use 3 translation programs and they will all agree on a translation but duolingo will be off on some other stuff. They are only as good as the scope of translations they have programmed.
Another often-useful site is Linguée, although, again, in this case perhaps a little less so - ha. When I typed in "en côte", all the references but one were about Côte d'Ivoire. However that one was actually to the point - "Pour les épreuves en côte, chaque kilomètre doit être indiqué." "For uphill races, each km shall be indicated"
One word of caution about Linguée, though. I'm not quite sure how that site functions, but I get the impression it collects examples of the word(s) you're looking for off the internet, along with translations that exist for those examples. And I think that "internet French", like "internet English" can be somewhat dubious at times. They do give sources, so it's worth checking if the source is something like a government document or just somebody's blog.
It's not that Google Translate is particularly bad, but any machine translation is notoriousy unreliable. Natural language processing is one of the most complex tasks in computer science, because even just handling one language is an incredibly difficult problem, and translation means you have two languages to deal with, decoding one and recoding it into the other. Word-for-word translation is pretty useless. Even analysing each sentence as a whole can't get the job done because it might rely on previous sentences, or lack sufficient context if you try to translate it in isolation, or remain ambiguous even in context -- you see how many problems that causes here at Duolingo, and we're all humans, and better at figuring it out than any machine.
At this point the best programs refer to a carefuly selected corpus of work that is related to the task at hand, and to a carefully designed linguistic grammar, and after that humans still have to do the most difficult work, disambiguation. That's costly and you won't find any free programs like that. Translation is hard even for humans -- good human translators are worth a lot because they have to know both languages fluently at a native level, and preferably in several registers.
Machine translation is sometimes good enough for a native speaker to get the gist of what the original meant -- I find that Google Translate does a halfway decent job of French <-> English, though it often misses negation. If you use it just for that, you'll do ok. But it is full of errors, and while Google is using crowdsourcing to improve on those, it is a long way from being reliable. I've been plugging a lot of Duolingo's sentences into it, and it's very interesting to look at the results -- most of the time Google gets something wrong, pretty much as soon as you depart from very simple declarative sentences. There are some tricks to get better results, but you will rarely get a sentence you can just plug back into Duolingo at higher levels in the tree, and have it be correct. Prepositions are often wrong. Forget subjunctive altogether, and distinction beween passé composé and imparfait.
More reading if anyone wants to dive into more detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_translation
Information on current machine translation applications: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_machine_translation_applications
Reverso is somewhat better, because it offers examples. I've had it translate a sentence incorrectly, but the examples pointed me to the right translation. It is still often wrong, as it is with our sentence here.
Reverso gives so many examples of ways to use the word, so it is really helpful in getting a feel for a word, but I guess none of them is perfect. I put in en cote into reverso and got numerous examples of how to use cote, but for en cote, the only example was demarrage en cote which was translated as "hill start". (Perhaps starting a manual transmission car by pushing down a hill?)
I agree. I would also contend that "route" is somewhat more correct than "road," and for a rather subtle reason...
Roads are bi-directional. They go there, but they also come BACK here, if you take my meaning. So an uphill road is automatically a downhill road in the other direction.
And routes? Well, not so much. A route takes you from here to there, but coming back is just the return journey, and for that you might use an alternate route.
The road itself is uphill and downhill at the same time, but a route is only one, depending in which direction you are going on the road.
As I say, it is rather a fine shade of meaning, but still a real difference.
That's actually fairly common in languages (including in English). It's called a "homonym" (from greek for "having the same name"), words can have many different meanings even if their spelling and pronunciation stays the same. There are basically two ways to figure it out -- one is from context, which makes it obvious if one's lucky. The other is from the specific construction around the word, which might vary depending on which meaning is used. Prepositions might differ, etc.
Warning: I am not a native French speaker, so this is just how I figure this out myself; it could be that a native speaker would have a much better way.
The word in question here, "côte", has four different meanings I know of: coast, slope, rib, and frame (of a boat). Since there's a road, the context makes it clear it can't be a rib or a boat frame. The "en" looks weird to me, because I'd expect a road that goes along the coast to use "la côte", so my best guess is that it's gotta be the slope meaning. And then I think of the most literal way to translate the sentence while still producing some semblance of correct English.
Duo is teaching me primarily how to deal best with Duo. * wry grin *
After consulting. The best answer is as it shows. My sympathy to all who are struggling with this as I was. Unless living in France and having the opportunity to learn expressions etc. we need to pat ourselves on the back for succeeding with most here that is thrown at us. We can write the correct answer but to remember if not using it constantly we need to concentrate on the rest. Bonne chance mon amis
Um. Not, actually, all such words. Unfortunately, this process of tacking one word's final consonant onto the next word's vowel or mute "h", called "liaison", has some exceptions. Try this for more thorough explanation: https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-proper-french-pronunciation-liaisons-4083657