Translation:He is a student, what about you?
Traditional characters: 他是學生，你呢？(学 share the same form in simplified Chinese and Japanese.)
"他" means "he/him" and "她" means "she/her". You can use either "他們" or "她們" for they/them.
In contemporary Chinese, 他 usually means “he, him”. Only when it refers generally to a third person or party, 他 is used regardless of genders. Just like in English, the gender of he in “Who is he?” could be unknown.
I disagree, in that case the gender is clearly male. The gender is unknown in the following sentences: "Who is it" and "Who are they" note that pl. here also commonly refers to as a 3rd person with an unknown gender in English.
"They" doesn't indicate unknown gender everywhere, for many people in my state it refers to multiple people.
I'm still very confused when to use 是. Can someone explain why sometimes you don't use it even when there is a 'to be' in the sentence
Generally speaking, 是 is used before nouns (我是学生）while 很 is used before adjectives (我很高兴）. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is the basic rule that our teacher taught us in Chinese 1
In Chinese, the analogous character/word to the English verb "to be" is "是", pronounced "shì".
I put 'he is a student, and you?' and it was accepted as correct. However in a previous similar question I answered 'I am a student, and you?' but was marked as incorrect. No consistency.
Keep in mind, this may help others as I have written it down on my sheets, that 他 can mean He/His or like used in this sentence, "He is a student, what about you?", It just helps me to remember that.
why do I need the article "a"? if it were the phrase "他是一名学生。。。" the phrase would be "He is a student..." but the phrase is "他是学生。。。" that in english is "He is student..."
The likely reason for the article "a" is that it wouldn't be grammatically correct in English to say "He is student...". Keep in mind that Chinese grammar rules aren't always the same as English grammar rules; it's impossible to always directly translate from Chinese and still get a grammatically correct sentence in English.