"Wir essen Kartoffeln."
Translation:We are eating potatoes.
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Huh? How is "we're eating potatoes" counted as a typo? What else would be the point of offering a "'re" tile? It's not like there could be any different German translation for "We are eating potatoes" than for "We're eating potatoes" since there is no way to abbreviate the verb in German here.
Why? Simply because they can. German "thinks" it needs a bazillion of verb forms for both subject agreement and tense, when, say, Chinese manages just fine without. We also think we need a plural, which speakers of Japanese don't have and don't miss (because if they did miss it, they'd long since have developed or borrowed it). Asking "why do they need it" doesn't really help you in language learning, and I'd go so far as to say that it probably even hinders embracing the target language. Just enjoy the fact that you just learned a new way to think, and that this or that language has opened up new categories to you, whether they be tenses you didn't know, noun classes, new phonemes, or just a neat new word. :)
Why is there a need for a continuous form in English? was more or less a rhetorical question. Evan wondered how it is possible that a German sentence, which appears to be in the present simple, has been translated into the English present continuous. Every language has its own characteristics and peculiarities. And that is the fun of learning another language!
You really can't. Unless you were given "wir essen gerade Kartoffeln" (or dialectal "wir sind am Essen"), German simply doesn't do a present continuous. This is a bit of an ongoing puzzle to me since Duolingo switched from mandatory "type in the translation" to "click on the matching tiles". Basically before I start on any given exercise, I first locate the verb and check if it is in the -ing form so I know what kind of sentence I have to construct. It seems to me the choice of the English translation is quite arbitrary; I haven't spotted any system behind when it's simple present and when it's continuous.