A point to remember is that "all" of the drop-downs are not necessarily correct for a given sentence. You have to look at the drop-down list and choose the correct translation. Personally, I rarely use the drop-downs. When I don't know or am not sure of the correct word I will check using a dictionary or web sources.
Yes, I do wish Duo would be a little more forgiving when asking us to translate things out of context. If "los lugares" can mean "the seats" in any context, it seems strange for it to be considered wrong when there is no context. It's not a sentence, so we can't tell. If the "seats" usage is very specific, I think it'd better not to have it in the hints.
I'd far rather learn a less common way of using a word later on and be surprised to find a word I thought I knew has another meaning than to be confused early on with a brand new word.
Can any experienced speaker enlighten me about using "lugares" to mean "seats"? Does it need to be in some sort of fixed phrase?
Is the computer's pronunciation of 'lugares' correct? I'm wondering about the 'g' sound.
(Sometimes it is more of a back-of-the-palate thing, like a very harshly aspirated English 'H' or a Hebrew 'ch', but the only examples I can come up with are when the 'g' is followed by an 'e' [general, gente, angelos]. On the other hand, I know that a lot of variations in pronunciation are regional, so I'm not sure which generalization to apply.)
The pronunciation is definitely correct. The way "g" is pronounced in Spanish depends on the following vowel. For example, in the word "general," the "g" would be pronounced as an (as you say "harshly aspirated") English "h." The same goes for other ge- words like gente, gerente, genial, etc., as well as gi- words like girar. For other ga- words as well as go- and gu- words, the pronunciation of "g" would be the same as in lugar (ex: ganar, gastar, golpear, gobierno, guión, gusta, etc.) This could very slightly depending on region, but I've never heard of alternate pronunciations for any of these words. Hope this helps!
C and G before E and I are pronounced "S" and a rough "H" respectively. Before a consonant or A, O, U, the C and G are "hard", e.g., "Kay" and "Gay". Very similar to the treatment in English: C or G + I or E is usually pronounced "S", and "J" (as in jay); before consonants or A, O, U, usually will be Kay and Gay.