Incorrect music terminology at that! I've sent this as a report:
"4/4 is the most prevalent term used in English for common time. I'd argue that "it is a rhythm in 4 time" is both unnatural and ambiguous to English speakers, though probably serves its purpose for the exercise as a direct literal translation of the French term. In any case, four-four is definitely not the preferred standard way of writing the signature in plain text.
Sincerely, a concerned musician."
Hope it didn't come off as picky or snobby, it just irritated me.
transliterated it means "four time," but the equivalent meaning would be "quarter time." a couple of my american lecturers at uni called it quarter time so i think it's more common there than other english speaking countries.
edit - duolingo's prompt was quarter time, it didn't suggest four for me
"At four-four time" is not a thing. You'd only use "in." I'm a musician, and I've been getting alerts on this for a few years. It's so bizarre - I want to get to the bottom of it once and for all. If "un rhythme" means "a rhythm" and "à quatre temps" means "in 4/4 time," then the sentence doesn't really make sense. Like, if you said this in a rehearsal, the other musicians would be like, "Wait. What?..."
A VERY specific scenario in which this would make sense would be as follows: An elementary music teacher is talking to another music teacher colleague about a rhythm practice exercise they were doing with their class that day. "So in my 2nd grade class we were practicing clapping rhythms in 4/4 and 6/8, alternating between both to challenge them and make sure they're paying attention to the time signature and how the notes are beamed. And they were doing really well. I was so happy 'cause I wasn't sure if it would be too hard for them to switch back and forth, ya know? So we get to Claire, you know the one who takes private lessons and never gets anything wrong. Love her. I give her a rhythm to clap. It's a rhythm in 4/4 time. And she starts counting it in 6. She gets half-way through, and you should have seen the look on her face; she looked like she was going to pass out. Poor thing.
But that's about the only kind of situation where you'd say THAT exact sentence in English. But then again, Duolingo has sentences like "There's a bee in the boot" or "The bear drinks the beer."
I'm not sure what the translation means, but a 4/4 rhythm is the most common (thus why its also called common time). Anyhow, the next time you listen to commercial rock music (I only use this as an example because the percentages are higher and anything with drums in it is easier to count along with) and see if you can count 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3 and so on along with the music. You should be able to hear that the music is grouped in 4's even if you are not a musician (once in a while though its in 3/4 or something else). I found this on youtube if it helps: http://youtu.be/LNJAY0OO_Kc.
Ok, I think I may have figured this out. I posted on italki and searched basic music theory sites written in French. I'm a native English speaker and a professional, trained singer/composer. The bottom line is the most accurate translation seems to be:
"It's in 4/4 time."
1) None of the English translations Duolingo gives make sense. Musicians DO NOT say these sentences.
2) I'm still not 100% sure that French musicians would say this sentence. But having researched it, it seems more plausible than I originally thought.
I think the big confusion comes from the English musical terms "rhythm," "meter" (aka "time"), and "beat." Unless you're VERY conversant in music – for example, you would have no problem communicating with clarity in a professional rehearsal – it's very possible that these closely related concepts would seem like the same things to you. THEY ARE NOT.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RHYTHM AND BEAT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPWTuoYXoMA
Beyond the ideas sounding similar in English, the French translation for each word confuses things even more: "Rythme" and "temps, would seem to translate to "rhythm" and "time." BUT in musical terms, they seem not to translate like that. "Rythme" here seems to actually mean "time," meaning "meter." (Not to be confused with the metric system!)
The time signature or "chiffrage de la mesure" gives us the meter or "rythme" of a piece of music.
Although "temps" means "time," it seems to translate here to "beat." (And native English speakers often confuse the terms rhythm and beat. Colloquially, they can mean the same thing as in the youtube explanation above. "The song has a great beat." "The song has a great rhythm." These both mean the same thing in everyday speech. But in the technical lingo that musicians actually use, they are NOT the same.)
SO, using these translations, word for word, it would be: It's a meter in four beats. Which starts to make more musical sense...
BUT, that's not how we say it in English. Here are some examples of how you'd actually hear these words and ideas in English:
Musicians aren't playing together. The pianist is playing different parts of the song than the drummer and bass player: "Ok, hold on, we're not together." "It's in cut time. I think you're playing in 4." "Oh my gosh, you're right. My bad!"
Another example. Two musicians are preparing to do "The Star-Spangled Banner" at an event. They're trying to decide how they want to play it. "I'm trying to remember. Did Whitney Houston do it in 3 or in 4?" "Let me think... I'm pretty sure she's holding the first note of each phrase – "Oh, SAYYYY can you SEEEE, by the DAWNNN's early LIIIIIGHT ..." etc. So I'm pretty sure it's in 4." "Does she switch to 3 at any point?" "Maybe. I don't think so though."
Or a musician writes an original piece and forgets to include the time signature. Someone asks: "What meter are we in?" "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry! We're in 4/4." "Got it."
I'm piecing this together from a lot of digging online. We really need a musician who's fluent in both French and English to be certain. All this is to say, I'm feeling fairly sure that what this is trying to say in English amounts to:
"It's in 4/4 time." (But this would usually sound dorky in a professional context. You'd say this if you were a 6-year-old in piano lessons.") (And remember, in this sentence, it seems that "RYTHME" = time = meter, and "TEMPS" = beats.)
OR "It's in 4/4." (Still slightly dorky unless someone specifically refers to a question about the meter you're in, in which case it wouldn't feel so awkward. It would just feel like you're trying to be really clear."
OR "It's in 4."