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Old 08-23-2012, 02:26 PM   #1
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Help with English

Not sure this is the right forum, but if not please redirect. The problem is not as serious as usually posted here, but it is driving me insane so I decided to ask for help.

My fiancé is one exam away from graduating at Architecture college here in Serbia where we live. She hasn’t been able to pass that exam for nearly a year, and because of that has missed couple of potential job opportunities. That last exam is English language. She has taken classes, used my help, but nothing worked. Point is, they have some random sentences in Serbian that need to be translated in English. My level of English is understanding nearly everything I read and a lot of what I hear and I can translate from English to Serbian easily. From Serbian to English is more difficult because you need to know English grammar very well. I have translated some of things she managed to remember from the last time she took the exam, and took it to some English schools here to compare. For certain things they had a different opinion to mine, and for some different to each other. I figured the only way to be a hundred percent sure what is correct is to ask English native speakers . So, if anyone has a bit of time, help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

This is how I did it, opinions from others are in the brackets.

1. Did you know he was my neighbor? He moved in two months ago.
2. He asked her if her birthday was soon, and she was quiet.
3. They have already arrived, and they said they had had a great time. ( this one was problematic, English teacher translated with only one had, but I think due to a sequence of tenses it should be moved to past perfect tense ) Your opinion?
4. We let him know not to come, because we have too much work. ( or because we had too much work ) . Our work is not finished yet, so i think present tense should be used in the second part.
5. A new member has been elected, and I believe you knew that, didn’t you. ( A new member has been elected, and I believe you have known that, haven’t you? ). For this one we might be all wrong, so go ahead!
6. Tell us where did your parents relocate? ( where your parents relocated; where did your parents move; where your parents moved ). Lots of options here, you say?
7. Why didn’t you tell me we would celebrate your birthday in the Café? ( we were going to celebrate your birthday in a Café )
8. My friend has been in London for two weeks, and now she’s coming home. ( or she was in London for two weeks and now she comes home)
9. You may have thought they would finish the job on time, haven’t you? ( Maybe you thought they would finish the job on time, didn’t you? Maybe you have thought they will finish the job on time, haven’t you? )
10. They had a good rest, and now they can learn English. ( They have had a good rest ).
11. Where did you leave my bag? I have been looking for it since morning but I haven’t been able to find it. ( or simply I can’t find it).
12. You knew we would come, but you didn’t tell her, did you? ( you haven’t told her , have you? )
13. The students have translated one text, and they have one more left. They are allowed to do that at home.
14. We asked them if they had passed all the exams.

Okay , that’s what I have. The sentences may look stupid, but this is just a translation, I didn’t write them. Thanks again.
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Old 08-24-2012, 06:06 PM   #2
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This seems like a pretty crazy exam to me (not your fault, I know!). If the purpose is to test for Serbian-to-English text translation skills, then they should really provide whole paragraphs (or longer) for translating, not a bunch of random decontextualized sentences--the inevitable result of that is that you wind up with English sentences which might be grammatically correct, but are not anything a native speaker would ever actually say (or write). And if the purpose of the exam is to test for real-world workplace fluency in English, well, I don't see how this measures that at all.

Anyway, rant aside...I'll take a shot at it. Some of the grammatical decisions involved here are very finicky and hairsplitting, and even a highly literate native speaker would probably be unsure about several of them, unless s/he's an English professor (which I'm not).


Quote:
1. Did you know he was my neighbor? He moved in two months ago.
OK.
Quote:
2. He asked her if her birthday was soon, and she was quiet.
Many, if not most, native speakers would say "was coming soon" or "was coming up soon," but that's a matter of idiom, so you're probably okay leaving "coming" out. "...and she was quiet" has an oddly literary feel to it (in everyday speech we'd say "...but she didn't respond" or something similar); however, there's nothing actually wrong with it.
Quote:
3. They have already arrived, and they said they had had a great time. ( this one was problematic, English teacher translated with only one had, but I think due to a sequence of tenses it should be moved to past perfect tense ) Your opinion?
I'd go with "had had," because this is indeed the past perfect: you're jumping from something in the past (your conversation with them) to the more distant past (the experience being reported on in the conversation). In practice, we rarely use "had had" simply because it sounds so awkward, but it is technically more correct here.
Quote:
4. We let him know not to come, because we have too much work. ( or because we had too much work ) . Our work is not finished yet, so i think present tense should be used in the second part.
"We let him know not to come" is ambiguous as to how long ago he'd intended to come. If he'd intended to come today, I'd say "we have too much work." If he'd intended to come last week (and we told him at that time not to come), then I'd say "we had too much work"--regardless of whether we've finished the work yet or not.
Quote:
5. A new member has been elected, and I believe you knew that, didn’t you. ( A new member has been elected, and I believe you have known that, haven’t you? ). For this one we might be all wrong, so go ahead!
Definitely not "have known." That's positively painful! But really, a native speaker would say something more like, "They (or 'we,' if applicable) elected a new member, as you probably already know." Or, if preserving it as a question is essential, "You probably already know they (or 'we') elected a new member, right?" The Serbian sentence structure you're presumably trying to replicate really isn't one we'd use in English, even though your version is probably the best attempt possible at doing so.
Quote:
6. Tell us where did your parents relocate? ( where your parents relocated; where did your parents move; where your parents moved ). Lots of options here, you say?
Is this a demand or a request? If it's a demand, I'd say "Tell us, where did your parents move?"--and note that in English, the comma would be essential in that case. (Or, if it's not necessary to preserve it as a question: "Tell us where your parents moved.") If it's a request (more formal and polite), I'd say, "Could you tell us where your parents moved?"
Quote:
7. Why didn’t you tell me we would celebrate your birthday in the Café? ( we were going to celebrate your birthday in a Café )
Both seem OK; "were going to" would be the more typical way to say it. Either way, though, note that it's unclear in English whether the birthday party has already happened--not sure whether that's true in Serbian or not. Also, "café" shouldn't be capitalized.

(I'm assuming your use of "the" in one sentence and "a" in the other is a typo--obviously, those are not interchangeable, so one or the other is wrong. If it's "the" café, then "at the café" would be better.)
Quote:
8. My friend has been in London for two weeks, and now she’s coming home. ( or she was in London for two weeks and now she comes home)
Your version is correct.
Quote:
9. You may have thought they would finish the job on time, haven’t you? ( Maybe you thought they would finish the job on time, didn’t you? Maybe you have thought they will finish the job on time, haven’t you?
Those are all wrong--"didn't" and "haven't" are incompatible with the "may(be)..." construction. "You probably thought they would finish the job on time, didn't you?" works well. (The "probably" is really optional, since it's implicit in the "didn't you.")
Quote:
10. They had a good rest, and now they can learn English. ( They have had a good rest ).
To be honest, neither sentence makes much sense in English, but the second one sounds better. Again, it's something a native speaker just wouldn't say. I'm guessing the idea here is something like, "Having had some much-needed rest, they're now ready to throw themselves into learning English." ??
Quote:
11. Where did you leave my bag? I have been looking for it since morning but I haven’t been able to find it. ( or simply I can’t find it).
"I've been looking for it since this morning, but..." and as for the rest, both versions are OK.
Quote:
12. You knew we would come, but you didn’t tell her, did you? ( you haven’t told her , have you? )
Both are OK.
Quote:
13. The students have translated one text, and they have one more left. They are allowed to do that at home.
OK.
Quote:
14. We asked them if they had passed all the exams.
OK.



Good luck to you and your fiancée!
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Old 08-25-2012, 05:35 AM   #3
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Yolland, thank you so much for your effort. I'm glad we agree it's a very badly organized exam. On top of that, the professor demands that translation should be as literal as possible, which is quite stupid. During my high school and college I've always had teachers that encouraged me to be creative, to search for different options and to avoid word by word translation. Which is quite the oposite with this and the way my fiance's teacher see things. Anyway, thanks again for your help!
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