Translation:John is American.
They need to add a bit of study material before each lesson introducing & briefly explaining the new additions in that lesson, as well as a (hopefully searchable) dictionary and grammar section that grows as you progress through the lessons. Duo already has some precedent with this, for example, the french program has study material before its lessons & the "Words" tab to explore the words you've learned, their usage, and even your "strength" with that particular word.
Contributors please, please, please work on this. I know it's a lot more work to do, but it would add immense value to the program. Rather than trying to learn solely through the tests.
If you want this too upvote so they will see! (>")> どうもありがとうございました。
I second this! :D
By the way, the Duolingo web version has started to show simple Tips and Notes section in every skill page of the language tree! I'm sure we're going in the direction you're talking about! :)
This is still the beta version and I've finished the tree, but am eagerly waiting for a complete rigorous version, it'll be there soon! :D
Using は (pronounced "wa") like this is going be a very regular thing ;)
As Klaus said, it's used to indicate the topic of the sentence, so it will appear a lot, but not in every sentence. When the topic is obvious, whether from social context or previous conversation, it is often omitted, meaning は gets dropped as well.
As a native English user, the problem with Mr. John is that in America and Britain (at least), we do not use the honorific Mr. with a person's first name. We usually do that for the last name to show respect.
As for Japanese, I am relearning it and I allready know that honorifics are very, very important in their culture to show respect. In theory you could just say "John is..." but the Japanese sentence implies respect, so "John is..." shouldn't be correct. It actually makes the most sense for English users and for the Japanese language/culture to have "John-san is..." as the correct answer. English may not use -san, but the sentence implies respect and John-san is much more natural than Mr. John.
This "は" is a "particle" in Japanese, which acts as a "topic marker." Now the topic of the sentence is "ジョン", that is, the speaker is talking about John, so the "topic marker" is added after it. If and only if "は" acts as the topic marker, it is pronounced as "wa." Topic markers may be a new and even hard concept to you, so don't worry if you haven't gotten used to it.
It actually is technically a topic marker in that case. I'm just starting to learn Japanese myself, but I do remember that こんにちは and こんばんは originally meant something like "today (topic)" and "tonight (topic)," and the rest of the sentence is just omitted now. Probably because it was always the same and people got tired of repeating it. I don't remember if I learned what the omitted part typically was, but it was probably something like "how are you doing?" or "I hope it goes well."
If you look up こんにち and こんばん (without the は) on jisho.org, the first definitions it gives you will be "today" and "tonight."
です is at the end because it is behaving as a verb, like "is" or "am" does, and main verbs go at the end of Japanese sentences (although I believe です is technically called a copula).
You probably misunderstood です to mean "I am" from earlier exercises such as 「ジョンです」="I am John". In those cases, and indeed in many cases in Japanese, the subject is left out because it can be assumed from context. The full sentence for "I am John" should be 「私はジョンです」, where は connects the subject "I" to the verb です or "am".
In this exercise, the subject is specified, again by は. So "John" is connected to the verb です or "is", and there's no need to assume that "I" is the subject like in previous exercises.
So, is the sentence with omitted subject ( ジョンです ) would always be understood as "I am John" rather than "He is John"? Also, in the sentence ジョンさんはアメリカ人です , is there any information that indicates that we talk about John in third person? Because I ve translated it as "I am John from america". I understand that in my translation there is two verbs (one for "am" and one for "from") so it is sort of incorrect anyway, but can the John be represented by myself or by my interlocutor?
First, "ジョンです" can theoretically means "(anyone) is John," depending on the context. If you say "ジョンです" when introducing your self, it is undoubtedly you are talking about yourself. But if someone asks you "Who is he?" you can also answer "ジョンです" to mean "He is John." Japanese is a strong context-depending language. For your second question, in the sentence "ジョンさんはアメリカ人です" the word "は" acts as a topic marker, that is, the topic is "ジョン", so it doesn't mean "I am John from America." If you really want to say this, you should say "私は アメリカ出身の ジョンです."
I think I might be going a little more in depth than you were expecting with my answer f(^_^;
TL;DR: It all depends on your relationship with the person you want to use さん or くん on.
There are a lot of exceptions, but generally speaking, さん is used for people you aren't very close to, e.g. acquaintances, who have a similar social standing to you. For example, you might use さん when meeting your friend's friend (acquaintance, similar social standing), but not if you bump into their professor (acquaintance, higher social standing).
As you get to you each other better, one of three thing can happen to the さん. 1) Nothing, you keep using さん. This is probably the most common outcome (for Japanese people at least), all the way from acquaintance to close friend. You might switch from calling them by their family name to using their given name, but さん can be used for both.
2) You switch to using くん or ちゃん, usually depending on their gender (くん for males, ちゃん for females). The thing about さん is that it acts as a mark saying you consider the person to be higher than you even if they aren't, which is why it's considered a form of respect. Switching to くん or ちゃん signifies that you consider the person as your equal (which in some situations, is tantamount to calling them inferior).
3) You drop honorifics all together, and just use their name or a nickname. This is pretty uncommon for anyone who isn't your best friend or significant other, though I believe it's becoming increasingly common among the younger generation (people currently in their late teens/early twenties).
When exactly these switches happen is basically impossible to prescribe, since every relationship is extremely subjective. That's the main reason #1 is so common; it's difficult to tell if the other person feels as comfortable about the relationship as you do, so it's better to play it safe and avoid embarrassment.
There is one very clear exceptional usage of くん and さん, and that is to differentiate gender in a school environment. Boys will always be referred to, by teachers and other students, as くん while girls are always さん. You wouldn't believe how hard the boys will laugh when a teacher accidentally uses さん to refer to one of their male friends. (Exceptions to this exception include: close friends dropping honorifics, the use of senpai, older male teachers using くん for girls to avoid sounding creepy, and unanimously accepted nicknames.)
So, you have to realize that です and ます are not simply interchangeable.
です is a stand-alone verb, usually translated as "to be" as in "is/am/are".
You can kind of think of it as an equals sign for the subject and the object. In this question, ジョンさん (John) is the subject and アメリカ人 (American person) is the object. The use of です essentially says "John = American person", so in English, we say "John is American" or "John is an American".
On the other hand, ます by itself isn't a stand-alone word at all. It is always attached to a verb (or rather, the verb stem) and it indicates that the verb is in its polite present/non-past tense.
Well, if you say "my name is John", you are talking about yourself, right? But if you say "Mr. John is American", aren't you talking about someone else?
Just like how it's a little weird to refer to yourself in the third person (like John saying "Mr. John is American"), in Japanese, it's a little weird to use honorifics like さん when referring to yourself. So clearly, the speaker in this sentence is talking about someone else.
But even if you answered "his name is John, he is American", you'd be incorrect. In English, those are actually two separate, though related, sentences, while the Japanese is only a single sentence. In the end, the person you're talking to will figure out that "John is American", but just like in Japanese, it's different from just actually saying it. We're here to learn languages, how to say different things, so that's what Duo is marking you on.
Let's say his full name is John Smith.
I'm imagining acting as a translator between 2 parties. To get a good translation I think we have a few options depending on context.
1) Mr. John - A child might use a first name with Mr. or they have the very rare last name John
2) Mr. Smith - Typical of what we would call someone in english if an honorific like san was used, but we would need to know their last name.
3) John - If we are translating TO english then the speaker should be translated to the english traditions which in most cases is informal. Of course one could just request to be called otherwise "Please, just call me John"
So, I suppose we should stick to either John or Mr. John (#1) for the purposes of this program seeing as we can't know the last name. But, if we are translating a sentence like this in real life and know the surname we should switch it to Mr. Smith (#2), unless context dictates otherwise "Call me Mr. John"