In going over work assigned to a second year Latin student in college, I notice a couple of corrections made by the instructor that strike me as unhelpful.
In one, the sentence
Marco in taberna bibente, Quintus diligenter studebat.
studebat was corrected from ’studied’ to ’was studying’.
Give the freedom of translations of the ablative absolute, one wonders what could possibly be wrong with ’studied’ The student had written:
Marco drank in the tavern, while Quintus studied diligently.
One could quarrel with her translation of other parts of the sentence, but the only thing marked was that.
In discussing this with the student, I could tell she felt there must be something wrong with her translation and therefore her sense of what the tense means.
In another paper, she had first translated
si me adiuves pater te laudet
as ’If you help me, father will praise you”. Then she had used a caret to insert “should” after ’if you’, giving a translation that is very foreign and misleading to American ears. I believe this reflected the student’s tenuous grasp of the Oxford textbooks use of ’should’ for the subjunctive, a usage quite rare in American English. Anyone saying, “I should do that if I were you” marks himself immediately as an Englishman or an American prig.
Then the instructor corrected ’will praise’ to ’would praise’, further confusing the student. The instructor obviously wanted “If you should help me, father would praise you.” That’s a pitiful, misleading translation for a young American. This student I tutored is quite capable and needed tutoring only b/c of illness. If she was confused, anyone would be.
“If you help me, father will praise you” is fine. Also, “If you helped me, father would praise you”; also “If you would help me, father would praise you” as well as “If you were to help me, father would praise you.”
Volumes have been written on these modals of English and they are by no means simple. To grasp their equivalents in another language is very difficult. To muddy the waters with these arcane usages is just stupid.