凱 (pyrrhic_victoly) wrote in linguaphiles,

pyrrhic_victoly
linguaphiles

what tense do you use in translations?

Present tense is sort of the default way I think of Chinese, as a language with an aspect system but no tenses. When I translate in my head, all the sentences come out in English present tense unless there's a modifying particle. But past tense is the most common way to write fictional stories in English, so it gets weird when I try to translate novels. So far, I've gotten around the issue by just going with present tense. It's not as common, but it's not considered wrong, either... except by stuffy traditionalists. I have some trouble with tense-switching, though, and sometimes I'll find whole passages where I went past tense and then shifted back, so there have been times where I've really considered just going with past tense for the whole thing.

Has anyone else had similar problems? What tense do you prefer to use when translating stories from a language with a totally different aspect system?
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