Using the future tense for describing past events.
Thread poster: Anne McElroy-Arnaud

Anne McElroy-Arnaud
France
Local time: 23:51
French to English
Feb 21, 2011

I am translating from French into English. I have often had the problem of "Historical Present" and have dealt with it by just using the past tense, for example:
"Quand Thucydide écrit son histoire de la guerre du Péloponnèse en date du premier siècle de notre ère, il a recours à des témoins visuels."
Translated by
"When Thucydides wrote his history of the Peloponnesian war in the first century of our era, he used eye witnesses."

But what about "Historical Future"? If the rest of the text is translated to be written the past tense as above, should we translate this as follows:

"Avec l’apparition du christianisme, l’oralité va jouer un nouveau rôle."

translated by:

"With the appearance of Christianity, orality would play a new role."

I can't see the forest for the trees on this one.

Thanks!


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Lauren Butler
Local time: 22:51
Russian to English
+ ...
I'd translate it just as you did Mar 12, 2011


But what about "Historical Future"? If the rest of the text is translated to be written the past tense as above, should we translate this as follows:

"Avec l’apparition du christianisme, l’oralité va jouer un nouveau rôle."

translated by:

"With the appearance of Christianity, orality would play a new role."

I can't see the forest for the trees on this one.

Thanks!


I would translate it just as you did.

The French version of that sentence uses the future, which looks odd to me. (Why didn't they use the conditional jouerait?) But my French is really rusty, so maybe I'm missing something.

You decided to translate it using the conditional, which sounds fine and is congruent with the rest of the text.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Trust your instincts Mar 12, 2011

Lauren Butler wrote:
I would translate it just as you did.


I agree with Lauren.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:51
French to German
+ ...
The French is correct so far... Mar 13, 2011

and to the best of my knowledge, the sentence is not stricto sensu in the future tense.

Furthermore, the conditional would not make any sense in the source language (as orality indeed started to play a new role with the appearance of Christianity).


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
French to English
+ ...
Usual translations Mar 13, 2011

anniemacnaud wrote:
"With the appearance of Christianity, orality would play a new role."

I can't see the forest for the trees on this one.


If you don't think that "would" fits the sentence in question, another possibilitity to consider is "was to". But either way, you're on the right lines-- it's just a case of finding the alternative that sounds most natural in English.

The main thing is to avoid "French museum translation syndrome" and end up with odd sentences like "the king will die in 1634".


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:51
French to German
+ ...
Museum translation syndrome Mar 13, 2011

Neil Coffey wrote:
(.../...)
The main thing is to avoid "French museum translation syndrome" and end up with odd sentences like "the king will die in 1634".


Indeed, I always found such sentences to be excessivement précieuses.


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Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
French to English
+ ...
Orality? Mar 13, 2011

anniemacnaud wrote:

"W...ith the appearance of Christianity, orality would play a new role."

I can't see the forest for the trees on this one.

Thanks!


Not sure about orality - oral transmission of history, or the oral tradition perhaps; and it's usually "I can't see the wood for the trees" (in the UK at least). icon_smile.gif


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Sarah Puchner  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:51
French to English
Rules for "moving back" one tense Mar 13, 2011

This might help:

http://www.athabascau.ca/courses/engl/155/support/direct_and_indirect_speech.htm

It gives a flow chart for moving back in time by one tense. Although it is meant to be for indirect speech, I think it applies equally to dealing with the present / future historic in French.

Sarah


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Using the future tense for describing past events.

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