Present tense distinction.
I am studying both French and Netherlands Dutch. I vaguely remember my experience with French in High school and College as distinguishing between the simple present "I eat" and the continuous present "I am eating" but I have seen no such distinction here and have often been marked wrong for making it in my translations of both French and Dutch. Can someone help to clarify whether or not this is a verb tense distinction that actually exists in other languages? If so, is it merely creating a complex verb tense using "to be" or are the distinctions different in French/Dutch? Much appreciated.
The importance of expressing the continuous/progressive aspect with an own grammatical form is an oddity of the English language (among European languages) that it possibly inherited from Celtic languages. It is not that important in most other languages. In every language (that I did) there is a skill about expressing the continuous aspect in the target language, late in the tree. This is a good thing as to not fool learners. Those forms that you learn there exist, they can be used and they are used; they are just of very low importance compared to English. You need to understand them when you come across them (more in Dutch than in French) but they are not necessary to form correct and well-formed sentences.
For now just convert before translation every sentence using a continuous form to the non-continuous form and add a "just now" when it is not obvious from context that it should express continuous. Later in the tree you will learn the other forms but by then you should be familiar with the usual way of expressing in the other languages. (And that's why I don't tell you now how to do it.)
On a side note: Those skills are the most annoying ones for me. My native language is not English (obviously) but it is my base language for learning other languages. I understand that for English natives such skill may be expected but if neither your native nor your target language put any emphasis onto it then it becomes just an annoying chore.
Like landsend said, you can just use the present tense in Dutch, where continuous or present tense is used in English. Usage of the continuous in Dutch is usually limited to when it is really important something is happening now, so:
- I always walk = Ik loop altijd
- I walk = Ik loop
- I am walking = Ik loop (you can use the continuous here (Ik ben aan het lopen), but that usually isn't done)
- I am walking now = Ik loop nu (you can use the continuous here (Ik ben nu aan het lopen), but still not really needed)
- Go away, I am studying! = Ga weg, ik ben aan het studeren! (so here you will usually use the continuous, since it's important you are doing this activity now)