"La fille parle des robes."
Translation:The girl is talking about the dresses.
The French des in this context translates directly as de les/ of the (pl.).
About is an English approximation for des/of the.
Introducing about as a direct translation of both de and des as Google Translate does can lead students into uncertainty where such is not necessary. Using Google can be of use but is not the best source for translation. If you want to know how good Google is just give it a page to translate and see what you end up with. Google Translate can be useful with phrases but when it comes to dealing with tricky issues it is less than helpful.
A better French English dictionary online is available at www.Larousse.com
Also... Translating des directly into either of its two meanings (of the or some) usually makes it clear which of the two is correct.
Des = some....The girl speaks some dresses.
Des = of the.....The girl speaks of the dresses.
Which of the English sentences above seems correct even with the limited context?
The girl is not speaking of dresses in general but of the dresses which are dresses known to the writer and the intended reader. Or at least that is what of the dresses means in English.
I am a French teacher and I translated this as the girl is talking about dresses....this is totally an appropriate translation in English. I always tell my students that a word for word translation is NOT the way to go. Either translation word be appropriate in this case...the girl is talking about dresses OR the girl is talking about the dresses.
I'm confused about "des". Galactiger's explanation is good, but not quite clear enough for me. Is this sentence translated as "The girl is speaking about the dresses" because "parle des" translates together as some have said, "speaking of the", and therefore more contemporarily, "speaking about"? But then where does the "some" translation come in and how can I know the difference??
No! I have learned otherwise! parler de = talk about parler de les robes= parler des robes, which is not specific, so it means dresses and not the dresses, or it should mean both, because I think it is not possible to translate otherwise: je can never say parler les robes. In singular: il parle de la fille, means about the girl , but in plurial it would mean both again: il parle des filles, some girls/girls, the girls.
About as a translation of des is an Anglo response to their discomfort with French articles.
de = of
de la = of the
des = of the (pl). (in this sentence). There is another meaning some which does not apply here.
In normal conversation it is likely that it won't make much difference whether you use of or of the . But Duo wants to make sure you understand the difference and that the French have a way of expressing that difference.
I'm not sure if it answers your question, but it gets the "of" meaning from the word "des", which is a combination of "de" (of) and "les" (the [plural form]). The sentence literally translates as, "The girl is speaking of the dresses," but a more common way of phrasing it in English would be "The girl is talking about the dresses." Also, in case it's not obvious, you would use "de la" for "of the [feminine singular form]" and "du" for "of the [masculine singular form]", as in "de la fille" or "du fils". Also, in case it's not confusing enough, "des" is frequently used as a translation of "some", as with "Il mange des pommes," but that's not how it's being used here. Hopefully with this explanation, though, you'll be forewarned. Best of luck!