"The preparations are about to begin."
Translation:Die Vorbereitungen beginnen gleich.
The dictionary hints are wrong. The hint needed is "are about to" means "gleich". Instead we have "are about" means "handeln" (correct, but completely irrelevant to this sentence), and "to" means "auf die" (again, completely irrelevant). Other options are given which are similarly completely unhelpful; nowhere is "gleich" given as a hint on hover.
The "hints" are not wrong. They are like real dictionary enries and show the meaning of single words. That does not mean that they are of any relevance to a given sentence, because in context words may mean different things or one would say things quite differently in another language.
"gleich" does not mean "are about". This is total nonsense and no dictionary would show this. "gleich" means "soon" or "immediately". The same for "to", which of course does not mean "auf die", but "zu".
The reason, why "gleich" can't show up anywhere is, that in English a completely different sentence structure is used, that does not work in German. "I am about to do X" literally would translate to something like "Ich bin dabei zu machen X", but no German would ever say such a sentence. In correct German the translation of the phrase is "Ich X gleich" ("I do X soon"), which again nobody would say like that in English.
You always have to translate complete phrases, not words. The "hints" can only be some hints, but don't and can't show the solution by just composing them one after the other.
I did not suggest that "gleich" should be used for "are about", but "are about to", which has a completely different meaning in English. My English - German dictionary gives as the fourth and fifth translation for "gleich" "straight away"; "in a minute". These aren't exactly the same as "are about to", but are absolutely the same sense.
Of course the dictionary hints can't give you everything (they can't give the word order, for example), but they should never actively mislead you. Someone reading these hints and using them would be less likely to give the correct answer than if there were no hints present at all. Even with the example you give of "ich bin dabei zu machen X", I suggest that a German would have more of an idea what someone who said that meant than they would if someone said "ich handle auf die X". The hints given for this sentence actively mislead the reader. There are plenty of other examples, throughout the German course and others, where such a word for word translation is not possible - and in these cases the dictionary hints translate part of the phrase together, or even the whole sentence, where this is the only way that helpful hints can be given.
but "gleich" doesn't mean "are about to" either. Only the complete phrase "are about to X" means "Xen gleich" (X must be a verb".
"they should never actively mislead you". They even must do that in many situations, there is no other way. If you are supposed to translate "It's raining cats and dogs" from English to German then of course "cats" should display "Katzen" and "dogs" "Hunde", but none of these words would be present in the correct answer "Es regnet in Strömen", because the idiomatic phrase is different in German.
That's an interesting example you give, because the dictionary help text for "Es schuttet wie aus Eimern" in the idioms lesson is "It's raining cats and dogs" - while individual words are translated as you hover over them below the translation of the main phrase, the main phrase is given as the primary translation because it would be misleading to only translate individual words. Similarly in this phrase, if we were to give hints for individual words, then "are" "about" "to" could be translated "sind" "etwa" "zu" (or some other similarly useless set of words). While "gleich" does not exactly mean "are about to", it is much closer in sense to any of the hints given.
Ok, so who believes that starting soon is too far in the future in comparison to about to begin? If I asked someone, when is it going to begin? And one person said, "soon" and another said "its about to begin" and a third said "in a second," I wouldn't think they are talking about three different times. Just three ways to say soon. Gleich, to me, is "right away." Could be colloquial, but in the Midwest, soon is not far in the future and not after, "about to begin."
"Soon" is definitely not as soon as "about to." "The performance is about to begin" is what you say with your finger in front of your lips to tell your friend that we can't continue talking. "The performance begins soon" means you still have time to buy a snack or drink before the show starts.
I tried "Die Vorbereitungen in Kürze beginnen" but was rejected.
Of course. The verb is not in the second position, where it belongs in a statement. You cannot put both die Vorbereitungen and in Kürze before beginnen.
Also, in Kürze is "soon"; gleich is a lot more immediate.
The correct translation for the German sentence is: "The preparation begin immediately". I think the given German translation of the English sentence would be: "Die Vorbereitungen stehen vor dem Beginn".
I do not know, if the sample English sentence is the more natural way than the "The preparations begin immediately", but it seems a litte complicated in the kind of expression.
I can't understand your criticism. "gleich" means "soon" or even "immediately", and that makes perfect sense in the given sentence. "Die Vorbereitungen beginnen gleich" is an ordinary German sentence, that literally translates "the preparations are beginning immediately", which is very similar to "the preparations are about to begin" which doesn't have a direct German correspondence.
It seems the takeaway here is that "gleich" is between "sofort" and "bald," just as "about to" is between "immediately" and "soon."
What about "Die Vorbereitungen sind nahe zu beginnen?" Google translate this as "The preparations are about to begin." But that doesn't mean that it's good German.
No, you can't say "sind nahe zu beginnen". This would probably be understood, but is not a true German phrase.
I would translate "are about to begin" to "beginnen gerade" (or: "beginnen gleich"!) or maybe "sind (gerade) dabei zu beginnen". The latter version is a little closer, but sounds clumsy.