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Aside from the slight difference in sound, what gave it away for me was the lack of "einen" before "Äpfel".. I didnt think it would make sense to have it translate to "a girl eats apple".. It made more sense to translate to "a girl eats apples".. Disclaimer: Im still a beginner.
I was asked to fill in the blanks, i.e. "Das Mädchen isst [Apfel/Äpfel]" without an audio track, just using the first three words to pick the right version of apple/apples. I picked wrongly "Apfel", oops.
Anyway, In English I would either say "The girl eats an apple" or "The girl eats apples". So in German, if it was singular, would it be "Das Mädchen isst eine Apfel"?
Yes, an apple is - ein Apfel (not eine, as an Apfel is musciline). You didn't have an article, so it had to be plural. German has genders that in case of nouns like an apple, you often have to memorize. (My native language Russian has them as well...) Sometimes there are rules, like das Madchen (suffix CHEN makes is neutral even though it is a girl). So one apple is ein Apfel or der Apfel (an apple or the apple). 2+ apples will be die Äpfel (with an umplaut over an A that makes it plural). Like English German has exceptions for making nouns plural - an apple is one of them for making it plural. You will get used to it the same way we feel of with Children as a plural for a child... Good question!
"fressen" is eating in a very uncivilized manner. Using it for people is therefore not nice. For me it is connected to the image of sharp teeth and ripping out shreds of raw meat, that is for humans of course. No idea how a girl and an apple should pull that off. Also you would probably not use "to eat" in English for that.