"I am beginning."
There is technically no difference between the two. It can be used interchangeably.
Hello Mark. I find it helpful to think of these as "begin" and "start."
In English there is a subtle difference. Eg, "Gentlemen, begin your engines!" (Oops!)
Careful -- these are not the same:
- Ich fange. "I catch."
- Ich fange an. "I start."
Because that construction does not exist in German.
Have another look at the tips and notes for the very first unit: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/de/Basics-1 -- in particular, the section on "No continuous aspect".
The tips and notes are unfortunately not present in the mobile apps yet, but only on the website -- and you may need to use a PC or tablet to read them as the website has been known to act like the mobile app (including hiding tips and notes) when viewed on a small screen, as with a smartphone. Requesting the desktop version and/or using a different browser may or may not work in this case.
I recommend always reading the tips and notes before starting a new lesson.
The hints are not sentence specific. They may contain — or better: they often contain — translations that are not appropriate in the current sentence.
Do not take the presence of a translation in the hints as a “suggestion” or as an indication that that translation can be used in the sentence you are currently being asked to translate.
“Am beginning” translates to beginne.