"Who is this person?"
I really felt like when you're talking about people this hou should be read kata...
It should be. And considering it's not a jukugo word and doesn't have any other exceptions, it really should be using its kun'yomi reading of かた.
Am I wrong to think the wording of this is unnecessarily long? Would この方は誰ですか or この人は誰ですか be incorrect? Even shorter (omitting this person, but implied) どなたですか? I am really aiming for the most natural phrasing and not the textbook -> JP/EN effect.
Definitely learn from other sources if you're aiming for natural japanese. I'd recommed Imabi, Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese, and some YouTube channels like Yuta and Misa.
it is long, but it's also more formal. You could certainly say この人は誰ですか, or even just だれですか, but those would be for a much more casual situation. If you were in a business meeting, for example, using 人 instead of 方 or 誰 instead of どなた would be considered extremely rude. It all depends on the circumstances. (And as I tell my students, it's a pretty good rule of thumb: the more syllables a phrase has, the more polite it is!)
A lot of questions seem to be missing a certain point to learning a language (though I'm no expert, and Duo certainly has its issues): There are multiple ways to say something. From my understanding, asking「どなたですか」verses this lesson's answer would functionally convey the same idea, but they aren't the same question -- not literally, at least. If I ask you to write down the words "Who is this person?", submitting the answer "Who is this?" would obviously not get a 100%. This is a rudimentary language course, not a choose-your-adventure story.
couldn't you shorten it all the way to just だれ? or at least だれですか? if that's too informal, you can still use こちらの方は? or この人は? without explicitly saying the who, right?
In Japanese, personal questions incouding asking someone's name are somewhat rude by tradition so, by and large, i'd recommend erring on the side of politeness. あの人誰(anohito dare) is something you could say but comes across as speaking both to a friend and about someone you have very little respect for. Hellonative could also be helpful for natural Japanese
It is because of formality level - こちらの is formal speach, and it should be used with 方 and どなた
What is the difference between どなた and だれ? When would you use one over the other?
Donata is more polite. It goes together with "kata" which is more polite than "hito" and "kochira no" which is more polite than "kono".
Donata is sonkeigo. As I understand, it's a manner of speech used by people in the service industry speaking to customers and that sort of thing.
Because you would actually translate it to "the person from over there", こちら is a more formal way to say ここ.
Is it just me, or does 方 sound a bit strange? I can't really tell what the pronunciation is.
My primary reason for using duolingo at this point is to work on verbal recognition because my school focused on reading, so proper pronunciation would be really nice...
I would use forvo / memrise / movies YT for that...I feel that's not one of DL's strong suits.
I recommend trying some audio courses. I personally find Glossika handy. Definitely don't rely on duolingo, It's not accurate enough.
方 should be pronounced かた instead of ほう here - the former refers to people, the latter is used in other contexts.
これ: this (demonstrative pronoun e.g. "this is an apple")
この: this (demonstrative adjective e.g. "this apple is red")
ここの: it's just ここ + the の particle
こちら: this way
こっち: same as こちら, but more informal