"pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué ?" (why make it simple when we can make it complicated?)
conference/conférence come from Latin conferre = lit. bring together
the French "conférence" therefore translates to "conference" or "lecture".
A meeting is about bringing people together, but "conference" or "lecture" are more specific because it implies that one or several speakers will deliver a formal speech, which is not the case with a simple "meeting".
I can see how one might say that, but no. Larousse indicates that ils sont en conférence = They are in a meeting. The key word here is en. Using "en conférence", allows a different connotation to be applied. Otherwise, either "conference" or "lecture" is appropriate. http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionaries/french-english/conf%C3%A9rence/17953
As to using identical words, this approach makes it easier for Duo to manage its database. However, there are times when the "identical word" approach can lead to misunderstanding. Large, traffic, napkin, assist, chair, coin, demand, etc., etc. http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/fauxamis.htm So perhaps we might say, use identical words when the meaning warrants doing so.
meeting = une réunion, une rencontre
how was the meeting? = comment s'est passée la réunion/rencontre ?
please take a look at this: http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/anglais-francais/conference/571755
That's why it's important to know the difference of these words in English. In English, a conference is more synonymous with a lecture than a meeting. So you are right that it doesn't mean meeting, but it does mean conference.
Perhaps it's an example of an Anglicism. What I learned in France was that it's a faux ami. But these days it's probably used since many conferences are very international, and in the academic world, which is mostly in English
I thought you had to use "va" when you say "how is..." - is this the case with past tense?
It is true if you are inquiring about someone's health. Not about how a conference was.
Why is Comment été la conférence wrong? The very previous sentence was this exact French sentence and Duo accepted my translation as How was the conference!
A past participle is used with an auxiliary, always.
"été" is the past participle of verb "être", so if I back translate: how been the conference? is also wrong in English.
What's wrong with, "How did the conference go?" DL didn't accept it. This is the second time IN THIS SAME LESSON that DL has not recognized what appears to be a correct translation (I acknowledge that this is not a verbatim translation, which DL seems to prefer - but it is an appropriate use of the [American] English form of expression).
Yeah, they don't seem to be big fans of idiomatic translations, so some of the accepted translations would be stilted in spoken English
A debate is not a conference, it is a formal conversation between several speakers.
In a conference or lecture, there are one or more speakers each delivering their own speech.
Thanks for the reply. All three DL hints "conference/lecture/debate" could easily be used here. DL has used the first hint "conference" in this case. I can't see this short sentence being more applicable to "conference" without more context. Eg: A friend could easily ask a debater "how was the debate?" to see if the debater's team had won or lost. Anyway off to learn some more french!
je peux dire "comment s'est passé la conférence?" et c'est exactement la même chose n'est-ce pas?
Strictly speaking, it is not exactly the same thing, since "comment s'est passée la conférence ?" is the translation for "how did the conference go?". In conversations, the answer to either "comment était" or "comment s'est passée" would probably not be significantly different, so you can use it.
Yet, "passée" must be in feminine (auxiliary "être", past participle agreeing with the subject).
It is very common for "was" to be translated to the imperfect "était" as a past state. You could also say "comment a été la conférence ?" ("was" or "has been") and the answer would probably be the same.
Thanks. So, leaving aside translation, in French both the imparfait and the passé composé can fill in for the 'rarely used' passé simple?