In Swedish, it's called en lockespindel.
– knappast in this sentence means 'hardly' as in 'it is unlikely that it is a spider'. So I could be claiming that some dark spot on the wall is an insect and you'd disagree with me. You're just saying that you don't think Object X is a spider.
The English rendering leaves something to be desired for a native speaker.
In the sentence given, hardly is read as synonymous with barely, turning the sentence into something akin to It only just qualifies as a spider.
Much more natural in English is I don't think/believe that's a spider or the more emphatic There's no way that's a spider.
I had understood it the wrong way too ahah, even though English is not my native tongue.
For those of you who speak Italian, I think that "Difficilmente è un ragno" is an accurate translation in this case. The English translation made me think of "è quasi un ragno", which is not the actual meaning of the Swedish sentence!
Is it of any help for someone? :)
It really does, but it has other senses as well, and many natives - like you, Ian, and Leslie - are not accustomed to this sense used in this manner. We've had several other natives look at the sentence as well, so it's not just Swedes trying to teach English, and the sentence does not have high error rates, so most people appear to understand it.
I'm not saying the sentence is good, nor that you're understanding your native language wrong. Clearly, any sentence that results in unnecessary problems for a lot of our users is a good candidate for change or removal. But just writing that we don't understand a word is hardly constructive.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the English translation given by Duo. When used as an interjection (here it actually is, hence the exclamation mark), 'hardly' can mean: certainly not, far from it! (Source: Oxford English Reference Dictionary) So, if someone claims that looks like a spider, the answer can be: That is hardly a spider (it actually is 'just' a beetle). By the way, I am not a native English speaker.
I think the problem with "barely" is that it is a synonym of "hardly" when that means "only just/almost not" (e.g. "She was hardly/barely able to speak") but not when "hardly" means "probably/definitely not" (e.g. "That's hardly surprising"). In this sentence "knappast" means "hardly" in the second sense, so that's why "barely" isn't accepted.
Hardly is often used as a euphemism for "clearly not." Like "I am hardly an expert on this, but..." Barely is used literally. "That is hardly a spider!" Can be used in a debate when you and another person. "What is that insect there? A spider?" "I am not sure but it is hardly a spider, it has wings and feathers!" "Barely a spider" would be used for a very very small spider I guess but just sounds strange to me. However, I have no idea if the above applies to the Swedish word too.
Knappt normally means "a little less than": Han väger knappt 80 kg.
Knappast means "almost not": Jag kunde knappast ta mig över den hårt trafikerade vägen.
Knappt works here as well: Jag kunde knappt ta mig över den hårt trafikerade vägen.
(I could hardly cross the busy road.)
Exactly, "knappt" is normally the opposite of "drygt" :).
But "knappt" can also be used instead of "knappast" (see my examples above).
I just realized that "knappast" actually can be used in my first sentence, but then with a different meaning:
Han väger knappt 80 kg - He weighs a bit less than 80 kg but
Han väger knappast 80 kg - He almost surely doesn't weigh 80 kg
Even though "definitely not" isn't a direct translation of "knappast," it can still be used as an equivalent of it in this kind of situation. Take, for example, a situation where person A asks person B if they want a cookie, and they respond with, "knappast". That would be a way to say no said question.
It would still mean "hardly". Please bear in mind that this is a language course for beginners. We're not trying to teach finer nuances between specific phrases. You obviously speak native Swedish, so you can afford the luxury of considering such equalities, but most people here cannot - it would be detrimental to their learning experience.
I see, I was not aware of the limited extent of the course. I am sorry for any inconvenience caused as of this. You are welcome to ignore my recent comments on the site. I will stick to commenting on more basic mistakes/gaps in the future. Although, my foremost language is English, and my Swedish is definitely more of a riddle, especially when it comes to my vocabulary being more old-school because of this (I am also only fifteen, so that further forwards my sake of you ignoring my, in this situation, clueless rambling.
Denna fras har knappast någon mening.
I think one of the underlying problem of Duolingo, given that is anyway a great platform to learn, is a lack of "accountability" when it comes to people who contribute those kind of sentences, and unfortunately there are several instances of really odd and pretty much meaningless and sometimes also kinda creepy sentences sprinkled all over the place. A contributor who makes too many of these mistakes should be in my humble opinion prevented to add any other nonsense.
I imagine this phrase would primarily be used for e.g. satirical purposes. I could easily imagine a British panel show with a scenario like
Host: *shows image of weird-looking animal*
Contestant 1: What on earth is that?
Contestant 2: I think... it might be an elephant from the back?
Contestant 3: Well, it's hardly a spider.
Jimmy Carr: Ca-caw!
Besides, I don't mind a little nonsense now and then. I find that throwing people an occasional curveball may even facilitate learning.