The translation here says "Children read letters.", but what's wrong with translating to "Child reads letter."? I understand it sounds strange but isn't it literally correct?
Would you really say "Child reads letter" in English? 'Barn' is always plural unless a singular adjective or 'et' is before it.
It's "letters" in this case. "Barn leser et brev" = "the child reads a letter". "Barn leser brev" = "the child reads letters". It's confusing, but you use the lack of "a/an" to tell singular and plural apart.
Generally, the plural of neuter nouns don't change from their singular, especially so if they are one-syllabled. See http://www.learn-norwegian.net/tutorial/2/03conjugation.htm
can "brev" mean letters as in the letters in the mail and letters as in the alphabet?
It's not correct English. "Children read letters" or "Children are reading letters" are acceptable.
What is not correct about it? In response to the question "What's on this video tape?" neither of your phrases would be natural whereas "Children reading letters" would be.
Ah, good point. I was only thinking of compete sentences. I tried "children reading letters" in Google translate and it gives "barn lesebrev" -- no idea why the words are fused. "There are children reading letters (on the video)" gives "det er barn som leser brevene" -- no idea what "som" is doing there. Hopefully someone can clarify.
'Barn leser brev' is a full sentence. 'Children reading letters' is a gerund phrase (I think) that acts as a noun.
How do you know which of those translations to use? Or does it not matter?
In the listening exercise, you have to press the turtle button, otherwise you hear “Barnet leser brev.” Which makes perfect sense.