Monday, February 18, 2019

Juvenes Translatores 2018

Once again the European Commission has announced the winners of its annual tranlation contest for schools, called Juvenes Translatores, and once again we take a quick look at them. The Commission's Directorate-General for Translation has been organising the Juvenes Translatores (Latin for 'Young Translators') every year since 2007, which makes them one of the earliest organisations to recognise the translating capability of teen-agers. For previous posts about the contest, enter juvenes in the ‘Search This Blog’ box on the right.

The sheer numbers and range of the contestants are striking: a total of 3,252 drawn from all 28 countries of the Union. The number of participating schools is 72. There’s one winner from each country. In terms of participation, it must surely be the largest of all translation contests. The countries with more than 250 contestants are France, Italy, Poland and the UK. Spain comes close with 241. The differences between countries can be explained by several factors: demographics, school systems, relative importance of the country’s own language, etc. The surprise, though, is the UK, because one reads so much in the UK press about the decline of foreign language teaching there. Perhaps it’s significant that the winning UK school is a private school for girls only(!) Anyway the UK may be out of the competition soon because of brexit.

The target language of all the winners is the principal language of their country. Out of 27 theoretically possible source languages, 18 winners chose English, which reflects the popularity of English as a second language in Europe. Three translated from the next most popular, Spanish. Nobody translated from French. The student who surprised by translating from Hungarian to Finnish has a Hungarian name, so Hungarian is probably not a second language for her. The Italian winner, who translated from Slovenian, is from a school in Trieste, which is a city right next door to Slovenia. Two contestants, the Irish and the Maltese, translated from one of the official languages of their own bilingual countries.

A word of caution to Followers. These aren’t Professional Translators –though there’s the reward of a prize – but nor are they naive Natural Translators. The fact that they are selected through their schools ensures that they’ve had language courses, and it’s very likely that the courses have included some translation exercises. Furthermore the schools probably only submitted the work of their more advanced or more gifted students. It would be interesting if somebody could delve into the background of those students. What makes a winner?

Once more the Commission is to be thanked for organising and financing this encouragement. Grading thousands of translations is no mean job. But given its popularity, it’s surprising that others haven’t emulated it. Couldn’t the hundreds – yes, there are literally hundreds – of university translation programmes, get together to organise a contest at a somewhat more advanced level?

European Commission. Juvenes Translatores: European Commission announces winners of its annual translation contest for schools. Press release. Brussels, 4 February 2019.

Woldingham School. Wikipedia, 2019.