Translation:Well, I have always wanted to go to Africa.
Because now we are learning past tense!
It's just how the little owl teaches us things: it throws us in. Still, more importantly, the past tense is (in conversation, at least) often done differently from this; in German, the past tense is often done with a past participle, similar to "I have seen" instead of "I saw." However, wollen is often put in simple past, so this is something of an exceptional case for past-tense. Hence, Duolingo is teaching it to us separately.
Fundamentally, though, Duo teaches you by just springing things on you and mostly counting on you to pick up the patterns. (I agree with the approach--humans are naturally pattern-seeking animals, and oftentimes just being exposed is the best way to learn. That said, a book on German grammar makes an excellent secondary resource for any Duo users!)
I was confused because I noticed further down the tree there are lessons for verb tenses specifically and I thought it must be a bug that they put past tense sentences in this level. But I think you are right. The lessons later on are for more complicated tenses like Present Perfect and Past Perfect. Simple past does not seem to have a specific skill so I guess they just drop it in. I just wish this section had notes like some others do. I will just google for how to construct past tense. Thanks
Sure thing! Simple past in a nutshell: add a t to the end of the verb stem, and then use the usual conjugation endings, except an -e for er/sie/es instead of a -t. So machen would go "ich machte," zucken would be "er zuckte," lachen would be "du lachtest."
There are a gargantuan number of exceptions to it, though: fliegen -> "ich flog," springen -> "wir sprangen," gehen -> "du gingst," among others. I recommend http://www.canoo.net/ to tell you the conjugations of any verb (and many other uses). It's all in German, but search a word and check its "Wortformen" under the verb entry and it'll show you all its conjugations.
Simple past is most often used in writing. If you read a German book, odds are you'll find it in simple past. It also has its place in spoken language, though--typically when talking about a previously established time, like a past construction with "wenn," in exceptional words like "wollen," or, hey, just trying to sound fancy. c:
Googling it to get some more details is a great idea, but a basic rundown to get the overall idea before diving into details helps. Or if anyone doesn't feel like googling, there's your mini German lesson for the day. :p
So, I am a native speaker and I've never ever heard Ich möchte nach Afrika fahren. BUT I did a little research and assume I found the point of confusion:
- gehen: Gehen is generally used, when you want to express that you want to go somewhere, but aren't sure it's ever gonna happen. The official german dictionary Duden states In Ausland gehen (go abroad) as an example translation [http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/gehen#Bedeutung4a].
- fahren: Fahren is used e.g. for going on holiday. So you have a specific or at least planned time, when you want to go somewhere. [http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/fahren#Bedeutung2b]
I've heard "nach ein anderes Land gehen" used sometimes without the arduous process of walking there. In terms of short distances where walking and driving are both options, "gehen" sounds more like going by foot, but in such a grand scope as going to Africa, it better translates as "to travel."
Also, searching "nach Deutschland gehen" (or several other countries) in Google returns plenty of native-speaking results, so it seems it's not as strict as your instructor said :-)
Would be glad if a random native speaker passing by could elaborate on the usage of "nun" :) Seems like a nice word.
Can it be translated as "come on"? ("Come on, I always wanted to go to Africa") In that case, can it be used even more as "come on"? :D E.g. "Oh come on, of course I know it!" or "Come on, let's keep walking, why did you stop?"
There are some subtle differences, from what I understand (nun is more common continuing from something the other person is saying, also is more common breaking a silence or continuing what you're saying, I believe), but really just in feel. You can use either basically the same :-)
(Non-native speaker here though, take with a grain of salt :x)
Technically speaking, that is what the German here means, and "I have always wanted..." would be "Nun, ich habe immer nach Afrika gehen gewollt." With modals, though, past-tense is often written just as simple past--wollte instead of gewollt haben, for instance.
English makes the distinction between those two forms--have always wanted makes it sound like it continues up to the present, while did always want makes it sound like it continued up to a certain point in the past--but German tends to just use the simple past, as you see in this exercise, to say either one.
(I'm not a native, though. I might be wrong, this is just what I've gleaned from reading, and I would appreciate confirmation or denial from a native ^^)
Well, that's just because the verb (wollte) takes second position (not counting the lead-in, nun). Besides that, the most common form for a sentence to take is subject (ich), verb (wollte), time (immer), manner (none here), place (nach Afrika), and then things that are grammatically forced to the end of the sentence (gehen). You'll see the mnemonic TMP used to refer to that common order--time, manner, place.
Technically speaking, you could say "nun, immer wollte ich nach Afrika gehen," and it wouldn't be incorrect, but it would sound peculiar. Time expressions can often switch places with the subject and take first position, especially if they're the main focus of the sentence, but this is one case where it definitely feels most natural to use TMP order.
"I always want" would be "ich will immer;" "I have always wanted" would be "ich wollte immer." Just a matter of tense! "Ich will immer" is like a recurring thing, every day you wake up thinking how you want to go to Africa. "Ich wollte immer" is the past continuing up to the present--you wanted to go to Africa when you were five, and you still want to go to Africa.