I'm aware of the reference but I would still translate this more directly as "it is not a spoon", which doesn't have exactly the same meaning in english as "there is no spoon" - would a more definite way of saying the latter be something along the lines of "Tie ne estas kulero" or would that be wrong?
"It is not a spoon" would be "Gxi ne estas kulero." The construction "Estas <objekto>" means "There is <object>" and "Ne estas <objecto>" translates to English as "There is no <object>."
In the English constructions "There is <object>" and "There is no <object>" the word "there" is not being used in the same way as it is used when we say "There is my car" as we point to the car. It is a feature of the English language that the expression "God exists" can be rendered as "There is a God" and the latter expression does not mean that we are pointing at Him or otherwise indicating His location.
In the context of the sentence "There is no spoon" we should not translate the word "there" literally as "tie" in Esperanto and I would imagine that this is true for most non-English languages.
Very clear, Ralph. Indeed, in Dutch for example, this special case of "there" is rendered by using "er", an undefined location marker. This Matrix quote would be: "Er is geen lepel".
I find the Esperanto way (ne estas kulero) to be quite poetic. Kind of like saying "the spoon is not". Because it IS not. It has no being.
"Tie ne estas kulero" adds a locality to the sentence. What if I want to say "There're no purple elephants", where it is a universal statement with no locality? I guess I could add a "cxie" to mean "everywhere".
The bigger issue though is that for the sentence to mean "it is not a spoon" would require that a "gxi" have been dropped. In order for it to mean "there's no spoon (everywhere)" a "cxie" would have to have been dropped.
I think that with Esperanto's strong principle of clarity and unambiguity, dropping an optional helper word like "cxie" is more preferable than dropping a subject like "gxi". A subject is a fundamental component of a sentence, and the sentence in incomplete without it. Therefore, choosing the above sentence to mean "there is no spoon" is preferable.
Without more info to go on, I hesitate to say the course is wrong, but you're absolutely right. Without "gxi" here, you means "a spoon does not exist" or "there is no spoon."
"It" is only implied in impersonal expressions like "it is raining" or "it is cold" - when there's no actual "it" that rains or is cold.
If the course says otherwise, then the course is wrong.