The grammar tables in THE NEW PENGUIN RUSSIAN COURSE give just one example of a masculine noun ending in the soft sign - писатель, for which they give the accusative singular as писателя. I used Google Translate to translate "I saw bears" and got "я видел медведей". I was expecting to see "я видел медведя" because my dictionary says медведь is masculine. Can you help me with my confusion here? Thank you
It is the plural number. If you want to say "I saw writers", it is going to be Я видел писателей. And "I saw a writer" is Я видел писателя. It is the same example with the bears, Я видел медведей, plural, Я видел медведя, singular.