There is little logic to German noun genders - I recommend that you simply learn them along with the word.
For nouns describing people, the gender usually matches the sex (nouns referring to male people are usually masculine: der Vater, der Junge, der Sohn, der Bruder; nouns referring to female people are usually feminine: die Mutter, die Tochter, die Schwester).
"Das Mädchen" does not follow this because it is a diminutive, and all diminutives in -chen are neuter. The base noun (die Maid) was in fact feminine but it is not used much any more in standard Germans (I believe it survives in some dialects).
German has exactly three grammatical genders.
Grammatical gender is not, in general, related to natural gender of people -- for example, die Person "the person" is grammatically feminine, regardless of the (natural) gender of that person, and das Mädchen "the girl" is grammatically neuter, though girls are female.
If you cannot figure out how to type ä or the other special characters, you can find instructions here: http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Guide_to_keyboard_layouts_and_input_methods
It's worth learning how to type them properly if you want to use the German that you learn :)
Need help spelling German words? Here's what to do:
When you see a new word in a question you know you can't spell, type the word (even if typing it is not required, you're going to erase it later.) and add it to the dictionary. Then erase it and continue playing Duolingo. And when a question comes that requires you to type the word, type the few letters of the word that you know, and it will appear in the dictionary, right when you need it!
I hope this will help. Go ahead and try it! :-D
I believe this topic is mostly covered already in this thread, but something that hasn't been explicitly stated is that in German each noun has a grammatical gender. Based on the gender of the noun, there is a different word for the. It might seem useless but it's how the language works. Read the other comments if you want to know specifically which gender correlates to which article. Hope this helps :)
Grammatical gender often does not coincide with assumed gender. You are assuming that the word girl is feminine because what the noun is describing is but they are two entirely seperate things that do not effect each other in any way.
For example die tur means the door, yet this does not insinuate that doors are female just that the word for doors carrying the grammatical gender feminine just as the word for girl carries the gender neuter
No - "der, die, das" are the German definite article, corresponding to the English definite article "the".
The indefinite articles in German, corresponding to the English indefinite article "a, an", are "ein, eine".
(The German definite and indefinite articles may also have different endings depending on case.)
What do you mean? Where is there no der?
What kind of exercise did you see? "type what you hear"? multiple choice? tap the matching pairs? translate a sentence by tapping words from a word bank? translate a sentence by typing on a keyboard?
What did you write?
What, exactly, was the complete text of the error message you saw?
Thanks. Was this a "fill in the blank" exercise with multiple options for what goes into the blank?
I've found one such exercise and have tried to disable it. I'm not sure how long it takes for that to take effect in the public course -- especially in mobile apps which may need to wait for the next release.
Are you using the website or a mobile app? If so, which one?
The app generally ignores punctuation.
If you make a simple spelling mistake (e.g. one letter added or dropped or changed) and the result does not make a new word (e.g. misspelling boy as boz), then you generally get a typo warning but the sentence is accepted. If the misspelling is another valid word (e.g. misspelling boy as box), the sentence will be marked wrong.
What was the entire answer you had typed?