"El actor habla con el rey."
Translation:The actor talks with the king.
Why can this not be "the actor is talking with the king"? Sometimes the present tense in Spanish can be translated as the present progressive tense in English (as well as the simple present in English). Is there an easy way to tell when Spanish tense can or cannot be interpreted as present progressive in English?
You are absolutely correct señor pingüino. For example HABLO can be interpreted in English as I talk or I am talking or indeed I do talk (last form very important for negation, I don't (do not) talk and questions - do you talk?) And you would translate all of these in general from English to Spanish with 'hablo'. Only when you mean I am talking right now do you use estar (to be) and the present participle so in this case: estoy hablando. However Duo has not yet learned this so if you want to keep your hearts translate as the simple present eg I talk, and rejoice silently that you now know more,vthan Duolingo!!
I'm confused about the personal a! I've read the article mentioned on about.com (http://spanish.about.com/cs/grammar/a/personal_a.htm). I would think that if "the prince listens to the king" needs a personal "a," that "the actor talks with the king" would also need that personal "a."
As somebody else pointed out, the personal a is for direct objects.
In case you don't understand, the direct object is the object directly receiving the action. The noun being 'verbed'. To have a direct object you need a verb (kick, throw, volley, etc) and an object being 'verbed' (kicked, thrown, tossed...)
There is no direct object mentioned. The verb is 'speak'. We speak words, sentences, phrases, etc. Only such things could be 'spoken' (I use the made up word 'verbed'). Since the king isn't being (can't actually be either) spoken, the king is not the direct object. You can see a king. You can call a king. You can hear a king. I suppose you can even throw or kick a king if he lets you. You can't speak a king. You speak (words) to the king.