Hi there! No, praten and praatten sound exactly the same when spoken. You have to hear it in context to understand if the person is speaking in the present or past tense.
It's a little like the english words "bet" or "quit".
For example: I bet you (didn't hear me just now) vs. I bet you (yesterday you wouldn't do it); or I quit smoking (starting today) vs. I quit smoking (yesterday).
The advantage in Dutch is that in the written form there is no misunderstanding of when the "talking/speaking" takes place, since the conjugated forms of praten have different spellings. For example:
"Wij praten met de ouders" -- We are talking with the parents "Wij praatten met de ouders" -- We talked with the parents
Though they both sound exactly the same when spoken.
Hope this helps.
I put "We talked about the wood", and Duolingo told me I should have put "woods". If the singular "forest" is correct, why does "wood" (in the sense of a collection of trees) have to be plural?
In English "woods" is plural word despite it referring to 1 thing. Kind of like the words "glasses" or "pants." We use a plural word to refer to both the singular and plural forms. The non-plural "wood" does not have the same meaning as "bos."
In Dutch there are separate words for the singular and plural forms. e.g. singular glasses: "bril"; plural glasses: "brillen"
Hope this makes sense!
I think you have missed my point - I probably was unclear! What I meant was that the singular English word "Wood" is sometimes used, at least hear in the UK, for an area covered by trees. This is reflected in the names some woods in this country have. There were woods near my home town of Colchester called "Friday Woods", but the place where A. A, Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" lived was "The Hundred Acre Wood". That is what I meant when I wrote that "wood" should be accepted. It is perfectly correct in English to say "a wood".