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I have spoken English my whole life and would not ever interpret we see the menu to mean we see it at a distance without more context added. The best English interpretation would be we see the menu or look at the menu. We look at the menu does not necessarily mean we are reading it
As far as I can tell "olhar" can mean"to look at" but you are right, several sentences here on Duolingo use a preposition too, typically "para" though. See: http://dictionary.reverso.net/portuguese-english/olhar. My Brazilian friends, when speaking English can be heard saying things like "look the menu" so I suspect that means they are translating "olhe o menu" literally which for them implies "look at the menu".
Of course you are right that it's past tense, but it doesn't follow that it's not correct.
It is a feature of regular verbs like "olhar" that the "Nós" versions of the present and past tenses are identical. That means it is impossible to tell, without more context, whether "Nós olhamos (para) o menu" means "We look at the menu" or "We looked at the menu" or even "We have looked at the menu". (In Portugal, writing "olhámos" for the past tense can avoid the ambiguity but that option is not part of Brazilian Portuguese.) See: http://www.conjuga-me.net/verbo-olhar.
You are right, is the same word for both tenses. When I did this lesson the past tense had not been introduced, then I assume, at this point, all the phrases are present tense. Maybe it should be accepted with a warning, because the meaning changes. Thanks for the explanation.
"Check" poderia funcionar aqui. Veja item 2a: http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/check
The expression "to have a look" is a perfect equivalent of " to look at". In English you can say "We have a look at the menu." or "We look at the menu." to express "Nós olhamos o menu". So my answer is actually correct. I see the need to stick to the option we are taught within the course, for obvious practical reasons,, but perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to include the alternatives if there are, when they are very common and frequently used in the target language, the same as is already being done for other language courses in DUOLINGUO. Thanks again for a marvelous service! Cheers.