Translation:The area code
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Yes, I find German especially abstruse in this regard.
But Wiktionary usually gives a breakdown, and has a pretty good amount of etymological information:
There's also etymological information in German here (which I myself can't really read at this point, but putting it into Google Translate provides some help):
Apparently "wahl" means "choice." And "Waehlen" is used to mean "dial a telephone number" ("choose/select a number", I guess). So one meaning of "vorwahl" is what comes before dialing a (local) number, i.e., an area code or city code. In elections, a US-style primary is a "pre-choice" of candidates for the general election. Both seem reasonable usages, but w/o context we can't tell which meaning is meant. Except that apparently the main use in Germany is to denote a telephone-number prefix.
(Asked two years ago, but maybe someone is interested!)
I just saw the following sentence in a news clip about the debate between Clinton and Sanders before the first (US presidential) caucus:
Bei der letzten Fernsehdebatte vor der ersten Vorwahl haben sich die Präsidentschaftsbewerber der US-Demokraten heftige Wortgefechte geliefert.
So it looks like yes, it can mean primary election or caucus.
And yet the German newspapers and magazines were chock full of articles about the American primary elections in 2016, and the word they used was "Vorwahl." Whether or not it also means a telephone area code, no one should be marked wrong for translating "die Vorwahl" as "the primary election." Until the question is rephrased to furnish telephone-related context, DL should accept EVERY legitimate definition of Vorwahl.
Primary elections are not just a leap-year news item. There continue to be articles mentioning them almost every day.
Sämtliche Auftritte prominenter Demokraten werden dieser Tage nach möglichen Ambitionen abgeklopft. Im Fokus stehen dabei besonders die drei Altstars der Partei: Joe Biden, Ex-Vizepräsident, Bernie Sanders, Clintons Konkurrent im Vorwahlkampf und Elizabeth Warren, die Senatorin vom linken Flügel. Alle drei touren seit Wochen durchs Land und predigen die Wiederbelebung der Partei. Sanders plant für Juli einen großen Auftritt im ersten Vorwahl-Staat Iowa, Warren wirbt eifrig Spendengelder ein.
Quelle: Zukunft der US-Demokraten Operation 2020, Spiegel Online, 4. Mai 2017
Sie haben kürzlich das Buch "Shattered" gelesen, in dem Insider über den Wahlkampf 2016 sprechen. Gab es etwas, das Sie besonders überrascht hat bei der Lektüre und denken Sie heute manchmal: "Das hätte ich anders machen soll in der Vorwahl"?
Quelle: Bernie Sanders: "Mehrheit der Amerikaner weiß, dass Klimawandel real ist", Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1. Juni 2017
I understand the frustration of losing hearts (and reading newspapers certainly gave me the impression that primary election was the primary meaning). But accepting every legitimate definition of all words doesn't seem like a practical approach (even regional variations on "telephone dialing prefix" would be enough to keep them busy!). Also, people might never learn about the definitions they don't know. Better might be to give sufficient context to see that a particular definition is being sought and then only accept that one. Given the all-volunteer approach of DuoLingo, I don't think I'll hold my breath for either! (and I'm not disparaging the volunteers! They've done a very good job IMO).
I think that's what I wrote:
Until the question is rephrased to furnish telephone-related context, DL should accept EVERY legitimate definition of Vorwahl.
In addition, I submit it is important to be able to read the news -- as important as, say, memorizing the parts of a telephone number.
Last, I use the PC version. There are no hearts, just untimed and timed practices. I do the timed practices, and false negatives and the consequent compromise of test results are a real turn-off. This is not a gray area judgment call. EVERY German dictionary including the great Duden defines Vorwahl as a primary election. Fixing this oversight, yes oversight (not judgment call), is overdue.