Dear students who are constantly marking this sentence as "Unnatural or has an error,"
As it is your first day learning Klingon, and you are coming from a language that puts the subject first and requires tense marking on almost all verbs, the word order and lack of tense will seem unnatural. That is not what the "sentence is unnatural" choice is for. There is not an error. The words are supposed to be in that order. Read the tips and notes or ask a question.
If you truly believe a sentence to be unnatural or erroneous, tell us why here in the comments. Maybe we'll agree with you if you can make a case. Otherwise we just delete your complaint as unsubstantiated.
Klingon does not mark verbs for tense, so any sentence with more time context might take place in the past, present, or even future.
tlhInganpu' yaj mara means Mara understood the Klingons, Mara understands the Klingons, and Mara will understand the Klingons.
If you need to make clear when something is happening, use a phrase that explains it. For instance,
wa'Hu' tlhInganpu' yaj mara.
Mara understood the Klingons yesterday.
DaHjaj tlhInganpu' yaj mara.
Mara understands the Klingons today.
wa'leS tlhInganpu' yaj mara.
Mara will understand the KIingons tomorrow.
Also be warned that this course doesn't do such a good job handling what is known as perfective, the Klingon verb suffixes that indicate an action is completed. They are -pu' and -ta', and you'll soon see them. If an action is perfective, that is, if it's in a completed state from the viewpoint of your sentence, then it needs a perfective suffix. In English you don't mark verbs for perfective this way.
The verb qIp hit is a good example. Whenever you use the word hit in English past tense, you are nearly always using it in a perfective way. For example, The captain hit the officer. This is describing an action that is already completed from the viewpoint of the sentence. As such, it needs perfective: yaS qIppu' HoD. If you left off the -pu', you'd be saying that the hit isn't complete yet in your telling of the sentence. But clearly it is, so leaving off the -pu' is wrong.
Unfortunately, the Duolingo course doesn't get this right. It will happily accept yaS qIp HoD as the translation of The captain hit the officer. You'll just have to enter what the course wants to hear, but please be aware that perfective ideas require perfective suffixes in Klingon.
Your example sentence is not so clear. If I was telling a story (which I would likely do in the simple past in English) or answering a question about what the captain did yesterday, "The captain hit the officer," would be correctly stated with generic aspect and would not be correct in the perfective. Unfortunately, Duolingo does not give us good tools to deal with those kinds of contextual problems. So discussion of where the limitations of the course are is welcome and your clarifications are generally welcome, though perhaps a bit overstated in this specific comment.
Your statement is wrong. Let's ignore the question of how Klingons narrate stories for the moment—the custom of which we don't know—and focus on describing something that happened yesterday.
If you want to say The captain hit the officer yesterday, and you're talking about this one time he hit his officer (not, say, that all day yesterday the captain repeatedly hit the officer), the correct way to do that is wa'Hu' yaS qIppu' HoD (from here on out I'll just use -pu' where -ta' might also be possible). It is NOT correct to just say wa'Hu' yaS qIp HoD. Without an aspect suffix, the sentence is explicitly not completed and not continuous. You cannot be expressing a completed action if you lack the perfective suffix, and The captain hit the officer IS a completed action.
There are lots of examples of this in the canon. Some of them even have explicit time stamps on them. An example is loSmaH bej jIboghpu' I was born forty-two years ago. It's not jIbogh, it's jIboghpu', because it's describing a completed action from the viewpoint of the sentence, not an action that is in the middle of unfolding from the viewpoint of the sentence.
We have QI'tomerDaq Heghpu' Hoch in TKW. It's not QI'tomerDaq Hegh Hoch; it's describing the deaths at Khitomer as completed actions, not actions that are in the middle of happening.
In TKD (second edition) itself we have DaHjaj nom Soppu' Today they ate quickly, which isn't DaHjaj nom Sop. It's describing a complete act of eating, not being in the middle of eating, not having a tendency to eat, not occasionally eating.
In Conversational Klingon, someone shouts 'eb Qav last call. The Terran asks her Klingon guide, nuqjatlh huh? The Klingon replies, 'eb Qav jatlhpu' He said, "Last call." The reply was not 'eb Qav jatlh because the saying is being reported as a completed action, not as an action in the middle of being performed.
There are plenty more examples; I'm not going to find them all now. I bring them up a lot and you don't seem to want to notice them.
If an idea being expressed is perfective, it MUST have a perfective suffix (or rIntaH). English does not specially mark its verbs for perfective. To determine if a concept is perfective, try to decide whether you're describing an action as it appears after it's complete, or if you're describing an action from the middle of it.
And note that English "perfect" tenses (have done, had done, will have done) are NOT the meaning of perfective. Perfect tenses mean the action has been done BEFORE the current time (before = tense); perfective aspect is neutral as to time.
Unfortunately, this is an element of the language that Duolingo get just plain WRONG. It will insist that wa'Hu' yaS qIp HoD means that there was this one time that the captain hit an officer, but it doesn't. It will reject Yesterday the captain hit the officer as a valid translation for wa'Hu' yaS qIppu' HoD, even though it is valid.
"Yesterday" consists of more than just the single moment of hitting. There is plenty of time yesterday in which the action had already happened.
But "already happened" is a tense. It means "before now" or "before time X." That's a tense. Tenses tell you WHEN things happen. Aspects tell you how they happen over time. The perfective aspect tells you that an action is performed and completed AT THE TIME SPECIFIED. In Klingon perfective, it doesn't specify whether the action STARTED at the time specified, but it definitely ends then.
But I did not say "in the time frame." I said "from the viewpoint of your sentence." I'm not concerned with WHEN the action happened—that's tense—but whether it is completed or not from the viewpoint of the action. Viewpoint is not the same as time stamp. Yesterday the captain hit the officer means that SOMETIME during yesterday the captain hit the officer; it doesn't mean that all of yesterday was occupied with a single act of hitting. Viewpoint is different than time context.
In The captain hit the officer, you are looking back on the action that has already completed, and describing it in its entirety. The fact that you are looking back is only relevant in that most actions you'll describe as completed are actions that have already happened, unless you specify some other time context. As Marc Okrand wrote to me, "Most of the time when you refer to an action that has been completed (an action marked by -pu' or -ta'), it has happened already (that is, it is in the past), so the suffixes 'feel like' (and maybe even have been used like) past tense markers. But they're not really."
You have again ignored the MANY canonical examples of using a perfective aspect along with a definite time context where that perfective action occurs during that time context, not before it. Instead of just declaring me wrong, please explain how those examples work. For example, please explain to me how DaHjaj nom Soppu' from TKD can mean Today they ate quickly (this is a canonical example with its canonical translation) if the -pu' supposedly means the action is finished BEFORE today?
Please address how your stance isn't completely obliterated by canon.
And what of the counter-examples and the description of the suffixes in TKD. I'm not saying that those Klingon sentences can't be translated with those English sentences or that those English sentences can't be translated with those Klingon sentences - I didn't mean to say that your translations were wrong. What I'm saying is that you are wrong to claim that these are clear and perfect examples. It is possible to translate those sentences in different ways depending on context (which is missing from Duolingo). By your interpretation it would never be appropriate to leave off -pu' when talking about yesterday - that makes it sound like you are the one trying to say it is a tense. I find value in your explanations, but I think you overstate your case when you put things in absolute terms.
And what of the counter-examples
Name them! Please!
and the description of the suffixes in TKD
What about the descriptions disagrees with me? They are called perfective. This linguistic term means that an action is described as being completed. That is what TKD describes.
TKD says it will translate -pu' using English perfect tense, but about half the examples in the book are translated in simple past, instead. Of course, since English does not mark verbs specifically for perfective, no particular translation will be effectively locked into being perfective based just on its verb form.
What I'm saying is that you are wrong to claim that these are clear and perfect examples.
I said nothing about these examples being perfect. I mentioned English "perfect" tenses, but that's a linguistic term, not an evaluation of my examples.
But the qIp example is very clear. When you're talking about the occurrence of a specific act of hitting, If you're not describing the act as it is experienced in the act of hitting but as being a complete action, that's perfective, and it needs -pu'.
The nob example is also very clear, and it is a canonical example in TKD itself. Please explain it as anything other than an action that occurs, and is completed on, today.
It is possible to translate those sentences in different ways depending on context
It sure is! And Duolingo marks these as being wrong. It will tell me that a sentence like yaS qIppu' HoD cannot be translated as The captain hit the officer,* when it most certainly can.
By your interpretation it would never be appropriate to leave off -pu' when talking about yesterday - that makes it sound like you are the one trying to say it is a tense.
That's not correct at all. Things that happened yesterday only need perfective if, IN THE VIEWPOINT OF THE SENTENCE, they are being described as complete. There are plenty of sentences that obviously don't need perfective when used in the past. wa'Hu' Ha'qujwIj vItuQ I wore my sash yesterday. Not perfective, because I'm not describing a completed action; I'm describing being in the middle of the wearing. wa'Hu' tlhoy jISop I ate too much yesterday. Not perfective, because I'm describing the general act of eating throughout yesterday, not a single instance of eating too much.
I fully acknowledge that there are plenty of sentences where, in isolation, you can't tell whether they're perfective or not. I spoke to the captain is one: did I have a single conversation with him at some point, or was I hanging around with him all day talking to him? One is perfective; the other is not. In English, either interpretation is possible. In Klingon only one interpretation is possible, depending on whether you used -pu' or not.
I fully acknowledge that there are plenty of sentences where, in isolation, you can't tell whether they're perfective or not. I spoke to the captain is one: did I have a single conversation with him at some point, or was I hanging around with him all day talking to him? One is perfective; the other is not. In English, either interpretation is possible.
The same is true of The captain hit the officer and that really is the only thing I've been trying to argue here.
Duolingo has hidden the Tips & Notes that we have written to explain these things and I want to make sure you know about them and know where to find them. If you have not been reading the Tips & Notes, I would like to ask that you review those so we don’t have to continuously repeat the information that we have explained there.
If you are doing the course on iOS or Android, you cannot currently access the Tips & Notes through the app. To access the Tips & Notes, you will have to access the course using a web browser at https://www.duolingo.com/. You can still do it on your mobile device, but you will have to use the web browser instead of the app (or you can do it from a computer). When you click on a Skill, it will expand to reveal a Start button and a light bulb (and a key, which is not pictured below, but is how you can test out of a Skill).
If you click on the light bulb it will reveal the Tips & Notes and give you a detailed explanation of the grammar that is introduced in that Skill. If you have questions after reading the Tips & Notes for the previous and current Skills, then please return to the forum to ask your question, explaining what you didn’t understand or what seems contradictory to you.
Okay so I see in other comments that this phrase can be translated either in past tense or in present or event in future. So why when I give a correct answer ("Mara understand the klingons") the app consider it wrong ? Is it possible to set multiple possible correct answer ? I think so, already saw it on other questions, but maybe there are some technical limitations ?
a correct answer ("Mara understand the klingons")
That is not correct English.
"Mara" is just one person. We say "she understands", and not "she understand".
If you had written "Mara understands the Klingons", it should have been accepted.
Is it possible to set multiple possible correct answer ?
Yes. Nearly all sentences have more than one possible correct answer -- some just two, some hundreds.