Brussels, 5 February 2014
'Juvenes Translatores': Winners of EU Young Translator Contest announced
The names of the winners of the European Commission’s annual EU Young Translator 'Juvenes Translatores' contest for secondary school pupils are published today – see list of winning pupils and schools below. More than 3 000 teenage pupils from 750 schools sat the contest and their papers were marked by the Commission's in-house translators. The winners – one per Member State - will be invited to an award ceremony in Brussels on 8 April, where each will receive a trophy from Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
"Language skills broaden the mind and enrich people's lives. I want to encourage more young people to study languages. We need to make sure they are aware of all the practical benefits, from being able to speak in the local language when they are on holiday or travelling, to widening their career options - a big plus at a time when many face difficulties in finding work in their home countries," said Commissioner Vassiliou.
The Commission’s translators have been running the contest since 2007 to share their passion for languages. The pupils who sat the test last November could choose from any of the hundreds of combinations possible from the EU’s 24 official languages; in total, they used 157 combinations this time, the highest to date.
The popularity of the contest has grown each year, both in number and in geographical spread, from La Réunion, more than 2 000 kilometres south of the Equator, to Kittilä in Finland, north of the Arctic Circle.
The list of winners features schools that have won previously and schools that were taking part for the first time. The most successful school since the contest's launch is Salzmannschule Schnepfenthal in Thuringia, Germany, which has produced the national winner four times.
"Two hours spent in silent concentration did not feel like an exam," recalls Paula Schembri, the 2008 Maltese winner and now, five years on, a trainee in the translators’ team at the Commission. For most of this round's young winners their trip to Brussels in April may be their first visit to the Belgian capital, but if they follow in Paula's footsteps, it may not be their last.
The ‘Juvenes Translatores’ (Latin for ‘young translators’) contest is organised every year by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation. Its aim is to promote language learning in schools and give young people a taste of what it is like to be a translator. It is open to 17-year old secondary school pupils (for those born in 1996 in the case of the 2013-2014 contest) and takes place at the same time in all selected schools across the European Union. The contest has encouraged some entrants to take up language studies and to become translators.
The winners, with their chosen language combination for the test and their schools, are as follows:
For more information
Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU
Annex: Interview with Commissioner Vassiliou
Juvenes Translatores: sharing a passion for languages
A couple of months ago, 3 000 teenagers across Europe sat down one morning to a gruelling two-hour test of their translation skills. For most, if not all, the European Commission's Juvenes Translatores contest was their first taste of international competition - and an introduction to what it is like to be a professional translator up against a tight deadline. Pupils from 750 schools across the EU took part in the test, which involved translating a one-page text on European citizenship in any of the 552 language combinations possible from among the EU’s 24 official languages.
On 8 April, Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will welcome the winning pupils, one from each EU country, to an award ceremony in Brussels.
In this special interview, Tytti Granqvist, a Finnish national working in the Commission's Directorate-General for Translation, invites Commissioner Vassiliou to share her views on the contest.
Commissioner, can you tell us about the contest and why the Commission feels it is important?
Language skills are a fantastic asset: they broaden the mind and enrich people's lives. They contribute to enhancing understanding between peoples and can also improve employability, something which has an extra significance in the current economic climate.
For the Commission, the Juvenes Translatores contest is also a way of raising awareness of the value of language learning and our policy of multilingualism. We support language learning and linguistic diversity. We want to encourage more young people to study languages, not just for travelling or for personal enjoyment, but also because they can boost the range of career choices open to them. Languages make it easier for people to live, study and work in another country, so they can take advantage of their right to do that.
The Commission's Juvenes Translatores contest is also a way for us to encourage young people to think about a career in translation.
The contest is extremely popular. Why do you think that is?
In 2013, nearly 1800 schools applied to take part in the contest, the highest number to date. I wish we could say ‘yes’ to them all, but our translators, who organise and mark the contest, do this in addition to their normal jobs, so we have to put a limit on the number of schools taking part. This also helps to maintain quality. We set a maximum number of schools per country, based on population size. The final list of schools which are selected for the contest are chosen after a random draw.
I believe that the contest's popularity is largely down to the enthusiasm of language teachers in the schools and the pupils themselves. The winners receive their awards at a special ceremony in Brussels, quite an incentive. It is always a great pleasure to meet the winners and share in their achievement.
The schools which are not selected can still benefit from the event in different ways. I know that some decide to organise translation competitions in their home countries, using the texts available on the contest’s website. There’s also a Facebook page to enable participants and others to stay in touch with one another.
What is your impression of the young people you meet through Juvenes Translatores?
The young people I meet through Juvenes Translatores tend to be high achievers – not only in languages, but in maths, technology, music and other subjects. I am not surprised by this because many studies have demonstrated that there is a link between proficiency in foreign languages and success in other subjects. I am also always struck by how very well-rounded the young people are.
It is a pleasure to see how quickly they make connections with the other pupils and how the similarities which draw them together outweigh any differences. We see the beginnings of what often become friendships.
When I hear these young people giving speeches at the awards, I am always amazed by their maturity and by the range of issues they address – not only on languages and Europe, but also their thoughts about being young today and about their own futures. It is fascinating to listen to their views on the EU and other topics, whether they are very personal ones or covering much wider issues.
Above all, it is very rewarding to witness what happens when we give young people the opportunity to share new ideas and discover new avenues for the future.
Tell us more about the professionals behind the scenes of Juvenes Translatores.
The contest is run by top-flight professionals who are keen to share their knowledge and passion for languages. Our translators thoroughly enjoy meeting the young people, who may well, in some cases, end up being their colleagues one day as we welcome the next generation of translators. Indeed, one of our recent winners from Malta came to the Commission as an intern, working in the Maltese department.
The award ceremony is not only an opportunity for us to meet the winners, but also their parents and teachers and to encourage them to continue to support these talented young people. It is also a chance for our visitors to see that ‘Eurocrats’ are people just like them.
Whatever our winners go on to do, we like them to keep in touch.
Why are the winners’ teachers also invited to the awards ceremony?
We invite the teachers to show how much we value their work and because we recognise the impact it has on young people. Teachers are the most important resource we have in education. Events like this are an opportunity to thank all teachers for their time, dedication, knowledge, patience and creativity.
Why would it be useful to put more emphasis on translation in the classroom?
When you translate, it is immediately clear that it is not simply a question of replacing a word with another, because one needs to take into account the specific cultural context inherent in the language.
These days, most teachers prefer to emphasise language learning through speaking rather than translation in the classroom. But I think translating is very much about communication, because it is about the person to whom a message is addressed. That is the real purpose of translation: not just to convey a text in a different language, but to ensure that the reader or listener understands the message that was communicated in the original language.
It is true that pupils did a lot more translation in school at one time, but at some point it went out of fashion. Initiatives such as Juvenes Translatores can play an important role in re-introducing translation into classrooms, in a modern and attractive way.