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English translation: Yes - depending on the context

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13:50 Mar 26, 2002
French to English translations [PRO]
/ Cycling
French term or phrase: grammar
I need your opinion regarding the use of the present tense in the following context:

En 1966, Herman KROTT et TON VISSERS créent avec l’aide d’Amstel, l’AMSTEL GOLD RACE, une épreuve routière, essentiellement néerlandaise. Pour lui donner toutes ses chances, elle se déroule le jour de la fête de la Reine... etc.

Would you use the present tense in the English translation so as to make the events seem more vivid?
ayrin
New Zealand
Local time: 02:16
English translation:Yes - depending on the context
Explanation:
It is common practice in English as well as in many other languages to use the present tense for past events to make it mo0re vivid. If you think this is the best solution within the context, go ahead.
Bon courage!


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Note added at 2002-03-26 17:45:07 (GMT)
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Take a look at the following excerpt of David Lodge’s Therapy:


`I’ve come to the conclusion that the essential difference between book-writing and script-writing isn’t that the latter is mostly dialogue – it’s a question of tense. A script is all in the present tense. Not literally, but ontologically… Even when one character is telling another character about something that happened in the past, the *telling* is happening in the present, as far as the audience is concerned. Whereas, when you write something in a book, it all belongs to the past…
A journal is halfway between the two forms… As soon as you start to tell a story in writing, whether it’s a fictional story or the story of your life, it’s natural to use the past tense, because you’re describing things that have already happened. The special thing about a journal is that the writer doesn’t know where his story is going, he does not know how it ends; so it seems to exist in a kind of continuous present, even though the individual incidents may be described in the past tense… The past tense of the opening sentence implies that the story about to be told has already happened. I know that there are novels entirely written in the present tense, but there is something queer about them, they’re experimental, the present tense does not seem natural to the medium. They read like scripts…


So, using the present tense is common practice (no question: less common than the natural past tense). Hope the so-called value given by this change of tenses is clear from the above.

Selected response from:

Attila Piróth
France
Local time: 16:16
Grading comment
Thank you. I believe the present tense sounds OK in this particular context, as the author is trying to make his description of events sound as vivid as possible. I agree that French prefers the present whereas English prefers the past, but in this case I think the historical present is OK.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +10no
Victoria Barkoff
5 +6Yes - depending on the context
Attila Piróth
5No
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
4 +1it depends on the genre of your textcbosseaux
4it would be scheduled to take place on Queen's Daymarkmx
4Depends...Serge L
4Here is one way you can convert it to English in the present tense
Steven Geller


  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +6
Yes - depending on the context


Explanation:
It is common practice in English as well as in many other languages to use the present tense for past events to make it mo0re vivid. If you think this is the best solution within the context, go ahead.
Bon courage!


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-03-26 17:45:07 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Take a look at the following excerpt of David Lodge’s Therapy:


`I’ve come to the conclusion that the essential difference between book-writing and script-writing isn’t that the latter is mostly dialogue – it’s a question of tense. A script is all in the present tense. Not literally, but ontologically… Even when one character is telling another character about something that happened in the past, the *telling* is happening in the present, as far as the audience is concerned. Whereas, when you write something in a book, it all belongs to the past…
A journal is halfway between the two forms… As soon as you start to tell a story in writing, whether it’s a fictional story or the story of your life, it’s natural to use the past tense, because you’re describing things that have already happened. The special thing about a journal is that the writer doesn’t know where his story is going, he does not know how it ends; so it seems to exist in a kind of continuous present, even though the individual incidents may be described in the past tense… The past tense of the opening sentence implies that the story about to be told has already happened. I know that there are novels entirely written in the present tense, but there is something queer about them, they’re experimental, the present tense does not seem natural to the medium. They read like scripts…


So, using the present tense is common practice (no question: less common than the natural past tense). Hope the so-called value given by this change of tenses is clear from the above.



Attila Piróth
France
Local time: 16:16
Native speaker of: Native in HungarianHungarian
PRO pts in pair: 222
Grading comment
Thank you. I believe the present tense sounds OK in this particular context, as the author is trying to make his description of events sound as vivid as possible. I agree that French prefers the present whereas English prefers the past, but in this case I think the historical present is OK.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  R. A. Stegemann: Very nice explanation.
11 mins

agree  Ed Murphy
31 mins

agree  markmx: or you could use the conditional
2 hrs

agree  zaphod: No problem at all, watch your transitions when you shift out.
2 hrs

agree  Steven Geller: It is a widely used literary technique and perfectly acceptable. I also agree with zaphod about transitions. The protagonist can always look back, speak in the present about past events, or look into the future. No problem.
2 hrs
  -> Quite like ordinary story-telling - though is rarer in written texts.

agree  Saleh Ayyub
7 hrs
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15 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +10
no


Explanation:
Unlike French, English rarely uses the present tense to "spice up" the narration of events. I think this usage seems rather trite, or even awkward, in English, and diminishes the credibility of the writer.

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Note added at 2002-03-27 20:56:55 (GMT)
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The asker qualified his question with the phrase\"in the present context\"; my response was given accordingly.

Victoria Barkoff
Local time: 10:16
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in pair: 119

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Dr. Chrys Chrystello
2 mins

agree  Erika Pavelka: It is common in French to describe past events using the present tense, but this is just not done in English (otherwise it sounds like a translation!).
15 mins

agree  GILOU: yes, exactly
18 mins

agree  DPolice
27 mins

agree  Margaret Lagoyianni
46 mins

neutral  Nikki Scott-Despaigne: I agree that it rarely does but it can be used inc ertian circumstances to good effect - and not just in literary contexts.
50 mins

agree  Rebecca Lowery
1 hr

agree  Didier Fourcot: Statistically I do rather often have to change from past in English to present in French for this kind of narration, so at least the authors that I translate stick to past in English more often than not
1 hr

agree  xxxPaulaMac: Totally, absolutely agree
4 hrs

agree  ydmills: Me tto. It does absolutely nothing by using the present tense in English
8 hrs

agree  Jennifer White: yes, this is absolutely right
1 day6 hrs
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24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
it depends on the genre of your text


Explanation:
If you have a literary text, you can use the present tense but if it is any other texts do not use it.
In literary texts, you can have the present tense to descibre past event (le present de narration) but it is the only genre in which this fits.

Good luck with the rest!

Charlotte

cbosseaux
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in pair: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Steven Geller: Agree completely.
2 hrs

neutral  Nikki Scott-Despaigne: It is a technique which works perfectly well in literary contexts, rendering images more poignant. In descriptions of sporting events it is common too, for the same reasons. However, the extract posted is background/historial with a time marker - prétérit
3 hrs
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33 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Depends...


Explanation:
Some linguists say you can, others say you can't use the historical present.

The link below might be interesting...

HTH,

Serge L.


    Reference: http://www.uni-koeln.de/~ame02/jahn83.htm
Serge L
Local time: 16:16
PRO pts in pair: 227
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
No


Explanation:
In the extract quoted, I would use the simple past.

However, if parts of the text later on go into a description of the event - particularly if it is illustrated by film, photographs and so on - then you can adopt the same technique.



Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Local time: 16:16
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 4404

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  Steven Geller: It is a widely used literary technique and perfectly acceptable. I also agree with zaphod about transitions. The protagonist can always look back, speak in the present about past events, or look into the future. No problem.
2 hrs
  -> It's a matter of opinion, obviously. In the body of my answer I agree with the first part of your "disagree". I maintain that with the context we have, it sounds distinctly odd to render this one in the present.

agree  Clair@Lexeme: If this is some sort of company document, ie describing the company's history or suchlike, I would stick to the past, unless you just have a list of events (and not really full paragraphs) where the present may be acceptable.
3 hrs
  -> Cheers. I think the most natural choice still remains the simple past for the specific extract posted.
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Here is one way you can convert it to English in the present tense


Explanation:
In 1966, Herman Drott and Ton Vissers are busy creating the Amstel Gold Race, a typically Dutch road trial. To give him every possible chance [for success], it is scheduled to take place on Queen's Day...

WHY NOT?

P.S. Have you ever been in Amsterdam on Queen's Day ? It is the Queen's birthday - not Breatrix but her mother.

Steven Geller
Local time: 16:16
PRO pts in pair: 1246
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2 days11 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
it would be scheduled to take place on Queen's Day


Explanation:
bringing a sense of immediacy and pace to an event in the past by the use of the conditional (here, the 'future' in the past)

markmx
Local time: 16:16
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 63
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