My native language is American English. I've tried translating some French articles into English here at Duolingo and the trends in translating these, based from the previous versions, are literal, word-for-word translations... I think we need to arrive at a definition of translation as something beyond that. I'm no professional translator, but I'm interested in what Duolingo users think about this issue.
I am studying translation and you are absolutely right, literal translations are only good for some sentences and maybe some very specific texts. They should understand what the french text says and express that idea in their native language, instead of translating word for word all the time.
I've been wondering about this as well. I was hoping to find a "style sheet" or something to help give me an idea of how to approach the translation - how much rewriting is okay? When does it start to become revision?
Certainly I'm going to try and translate the meanings of phrases rather than just the words, I'm just not sure how far I'm "allowed" to go to make it sound natural in English. And if I make a less literal translation am I going to get into a hustle with someone? But I probably worry too much.
In the end I think it comes down to this; use your best judgment. The goal of translation is to translate the meaning of the words as naturally as possible into the target language. How literal you can be will depend on the situation, and ideally you should end up with something that doesn't "sound translated", yet does not change the meaning of the original.
A style sheet is probably too advanced for a site like Duolingo which aims to teach people a foreign language with a basic set of grammatical rules, words and expressions.
But I agree with the compromise, that we should end up with something that doesn't sound translated, yet does not change the original meaning. The problem is that we're not really learning with the point system whenever it rewards us in translating sentences to whole chunks of paragraphs...