Translation:Vanya was explaining to his grandmother where the school was.
I think the original sentence does not have the word his. Could the sentence mean that Vanja explained to (a) grandmother...?
If she was someone else's grandmother, it would be said so. Here, the sentence implies it is his grandmother. Russian does not use possessive pronouns as often as English does.
What if I was talking to my brother and we were talking about my grandma?
Like in English, I'd say "John told mum where the shop is" if I'm talking about MY mum. The "my" is already implied in english for family members. But not in Russian?
This moment when you think... Ваня is definitely feminine, no matter what the TTS says. Haha! I'll write объясняла. And then you discover that Ваня is male.
находится is in present tense, yet the recommended translation "where the school was" is in past tense. Not sure if this is a mistake, or if I'm not understanding something.
The English word "was" indicates that the school existed in the past but not in the present. So... is this detail lost when it's translated to Russian? (for example, there is a difference between "where WAS the school" and "where IS the school)
In English, the meaning of the tense of the second verb ("was") depends on the tense of the main verb ("was explaining").
If the main verb is in the present tense, the tense of the second verb is the same as if you were reporting a quote directly.
If the main verb is in a past tense, the tense of the second verb has to be in the past tense to show action at the same time of the main verb, and the past perfect tense to show action before the main verb.
Think of it this way: the explaining took place in the past. Something that was explained as "is" in the past is a "was" now. Something that was explained as a "was" in the past is a "had been" now. "Was" comes before "is" and "had been" comes before "was."
Contrast the following: Vanya tells her, "this is where the school is." Vanya tells her where the school is.
Vanya told her, "this is where the school is." Vanya told her where the school was.
Vanya told her, "this is where the school was." Vanya told here where the school had been.
But in Russian "babushka" is also mean "an old woman", so Vanya could explain location of the school not only to the his grandmother but to any old woman, for example, on the street. I think that "Vanya was explaining to an old woman where the school is." also acceptable (just not sure about indefinite article).
Old women are sometimes addressed as "бабушка", but we don't normally use this word to refer to old women. We'd say "старушка", "пожилая женщина".
Strange, but in Belarus we use "бабушка" often when we're talking about old woman.
Maybe it depends from country or something, but here "бабушка" used more often than "старушка" or "пожилая женщина" in colloquial speech in regard to an old woman. I'm not saying that it is wrong too, but I think that this option could be added in the list.
To assume that the grandmother is Vanya's grandmother and not the speaker's grandmother, nor even my grandmother, stretches the context. There is nothing in the sentence that clearly shows the grandmother is Vanya's grandmother. I would accept that the grandmother to whom Vanya spoke was indeed his grandmother if the pronoun свою were included: Ваня объяснял свою бабушке, где находится школа. It is not. And thus, the exercise is in error for refusing the translation "Vanya explained to grandmother where the school is." Perhaps he is helping my grandmother! Without the pronoun, it cannot be certain to whose grandmother he gave the explanation.