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Interviews: present tense or past tense?
Thread poster: transwebtrans

transwebtrans  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Italian to English
+ ...
Jan 13, 2009

I have undertaken a translation of five articles for the website of the Italian Trade Commission which includes various instances of interviews. Question: is there a rule as to whether to use the present tense or the past tense in these cases?

«In questo caso - sottolinea Ravaioli - le aziende hanno messo a punto una contromisura...
Ravaioli points/pointed out: “The companies have introduced a counter-measure...

I mercati più ricettivi per l’esportazione di tecnologie italiane in questo settore sono alcuni Paesi dell’Europa Orientale, in particolare Polonia e Romania, dove, sottolinea Ravaioli «la condizione della rete stradale è molto deficitaria».
The most receptive export markets for this branch of Italian technology are some of the Eastern European countries, in particular Poland and Rumania, where, as Ravaioli notes/noted, “the condition of the road network is very sub-standard.”

Personally, I would favour the present tense for the sense of immediacy. However a reviewer tells me the past tense is better "for articles" (which these are). Nonetheless, the magazine ItaliaImballaggio, for which I also work, the articles are of the same style and the present tense is often favoured (so, "he says" or "he adds").

Am I caught in a translator's dilemma? Is there really a right and a wrong way? Or am I making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill?



[Edited at 2009-01-13 10:42 GMT]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:55
English to Arabic
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IMO Jan 13, 2009

I would say both are correct and it's a personal choice, but I would do the following:
If you're telling an event/ story that's set in the past, I would use the past tense. E.g "We visited the company last week and met the director who told us blablabla. He added "blablabla"".

If you're writing a kind of report about the state of certain things, all of which are relevant at the moment in which the article is written, it would be fine to use the present tense. E.g. "The company did well in 2008 and is expected to continue to do so this year. "We are very optimistic", says the director". (Text just made up, sorry if it sounds silly).

===

Added note: In the second example, there is no mention of when and where the director made this statement. The quote only serves as part of this "report".

[Edited at 2009-01-13 10:21 GMT]


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transwebtrans  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Italian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
A good compromise Jan 13, 2009

Thanks Nesrin, I like your point and wholeheartedly agree.

But do you think it is possible to use instances of both past and present in the same article (within reason, of course) in line with what you suggested? Or should one be consistent throughout?


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:55
English to Arabic
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If I follow my own advice.. Jan 13, 2009

william wooderson wrote:

Thanks Nesrin, I like your point and wholeheartedly agree.

But do you think it is possible to use instances of both past and present in the same article (within reason, of course) in line with what you suggested? Or should one be consistent throughout?


If I follow my own advice, then I think consistency is advisable (the statement is either set in the past, or part of a topical report). By the way, I'd never really thought about this before, it's just my gut feeling. I wonder if there's any style rule on this.

(I had just added a note to my 1st posting BTW)


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transwebtrans  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Italian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Yes Jan 13, 2009

That's fair - thanks again Nesrin. I might look more into this.

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:55
Spanish to English
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Both are acceptable in English Jan 13, 2009

Since both are acceptable, I'd preserve whichever is used in the source text. It was probably chosen for a reason.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 22:55
Member (2009)
English to Croatian
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Reference Jan 13, 2009

You must follow the semantic reference. Does the event talked about refer to the past or its reference is somehow linked to the present ( even the consequences of the event, are they present now ? )

This is where you will find the answer to your queries.

I hope I've been helpful.


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transwebtrans  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Italian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Semantic reference Jan 15, 2009

Thanks Steven and Lingua, much appreciated!

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milena ferrante  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:55
Member (2006)
English to Italian
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Past and present when needed Jan 15, 2009

Sorry, I have just read your comment.

You translated perfectly, your source, in my opinion, did not understand absolutely what you meant. Past and present in Italian are used in exactly the same way as in English in articles, apart from the obvious grammar requirements.

There is no rule for articles: if I have to say something, I would say exactly the opposite.

When I write about a person I always use the simple present when possible: as you say, it's much more immediate....


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Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:55
English to Italian
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Maybe it could help... Jan 16, 2009

I don't agree with Milena.

I worked for a press agency in the past, and my boss, a really good Italian journalist with many years of experience, told me that in Italian the verb used to report quotes (so, in interviews, which I did as well, "say", "points out", etc.) has to be in present tense.

So in Italian you should always find the present tense. Hope this can help, although as you I have no clue which form should be preferred in English...


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