The European Commission has just announced the winners of its latest Juvenes Translatores (Latin for Young Translators) competition. This is an annual contest that it runs for 17-year-old secondary school students across the European Union. This year's winners, all 28 of them (one from each member state), will go to Brussels on 10 April to receive their trophies and diplomas. There's no overall winner; it would be too difficult to judge one, especially as there are considerable differences between the styles of the various texts.
The competition has been building up for some years since it was launched in 2007, and consequently there's already quite a full commentary on it spread over several posts of this blog. I won't repeat it all here because you can retrieve the series just by entering juvenes in the Search This Blog box on the right. But here are a few reflections on this year's results,
Some figures. There were over 3,300 contestants, up from about 2,000 in 2010. This indicates that enthusiasm for translation as a competitive skill has by no means waned. It illustrates that translating can be done for pleasure, as a hobby, as a game; as what we called ludic translation in 1987 when done by young children. It can be a mind-tickling game like crosswords or Scrabble.
In view of the constant (and justified) complaints in the United Kingdom about the decline of language teaching in the schools, it's particularly encouraging to see the large number of contestants from there (312 from 73 schools), surpassed only by Germany (370), Italy (352) and France (333).
There's no doubt that one of the reasons for the large number of UK contestants is the continued tradition of language teaching in the grammar schools (see Term below), a tradition that includes translation exercises – the kind of syllabus I went through myself. There are no fewer than 13 such schools in the list of participating schools. The UK winner was Daniel Farley from Manchester Grammar School for a Spanish to English translation. His school was founded in 1515 by the Bishop of Exeter to provide "godliness and good learning"' to poor boys in the city of Manchester.
The winning entries are available on the first EC website listed below; and so also – if you would like to try your hand at one of them – are the source texts.
Grading 3,300 translations is no mean job. The staff of the EC who were involved should be thanked warmly for their dedication
European Commission. Juvenes Translatores 2017 Contest. https://ec.europa.eu/info/education/skills-and-qualifications/develop-your-skills/language-skills/juvenes-translatores/2017-contest_en, or click [here].
European Commission. Juvenes Translatores: announcing this year's winners of the of the European Commission's translation contest for secondary school students. Press release, 2 February 2018. https://ec.europa.eu/info/education/skills-and-qualifications/develop-your-skills/language-skills/juvenes-translatores/2017-contest_en or click [here].
Grammar school. A UK secondary school of a type with Renaissance origins that stresses academic rather than a practical or vocational education. There are over 100 of them. They got grammar in their name because they taught the grammar of Latin and other languages. Nowadays they've become controversial because of their selective admission. My father went to the King Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham, where he won a prize for German in the form of a beautifully bound anthology of German poetry.