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I figure if we speak english, or spanish, or whatever language we are speaking, we are all trying to expand our language horizons. However, being custom to different languages, we can't automatically comprehend that "Ich habe Durst" should not be translated into, "I have thirst", but instead, "I am thirsty". Duolingo should at least credit us for understanding that habe translates to have, and Durst translates to thirst, and so on. However, if it is incorrect grammar in Germany, then they should give us a lesson on these sort of translations.
We are currently not accepting "I have a thirst" for "Ich habe Durst/Ich bin durstig" , because it would sound awkward to our English ears. In a different context and as a full expression, "I have a thirst for adventure" = "Ich bin abenteuerlustig" ist acceptable. However, please do share if you have an official source showing that "I have a thirst" is correct English. We would appreciate that.
I have to say that I disagree with their translation of this particular one. I put "I have thirst, I need water", which is what they technically put. They said that I should have translated it as "I am thirsty, I need water". But technically if that what they wanted me to translate it as then shouldn't they have put "I bin durstig, Ich brauche Wasser" instead. I feel this is teaching bad habits...
I don't think the expression "feel thirsty" is used only in America. For example, in the Cambridge dictionary you find this instance: "A2 needing to drink: I felt/was hot and thirsty after my game of squash. "(http://dictionary.cambridge.org/es/diccionario/britanico/thirsty_1) So, I would not get entagled in philosophical discussions over what is a feeling, a perception, some need, etc. If someone who wants a drink might say "I'm feeling thirsty", then, perhaps (only perhaps) it might be worth considering a possible inclusion of the expression as a fair translation of "Ich habe Durst". But then again, I may be wrong, of course.