Thursday, December 22, 2011

Young Translators of European Languages Unite: DGT Goes West

by Anna Holmén
Dr. Elizabeth Lowe, Director of the Center for Translation Studies, addresses high school students and teachers at the Illinois Translation Competition capstone program, held on the campus of the University of Illinois, November 4, 2011.
Sometimes when you open your mailbox in the morning you find something that really cheers you up. That definitely was the case for the Juvenes Translatores team when we got a letter of invitation from the University of Illinois. ‘Request for assistance,’ it said. ‘Speaker from the Directorate-General for Translation [DGT] for the "Illinois Translation Competition" awards luncheon’.
The Illinois High School Translation Competition, to give it its full name, turned out to be a school contest modelled on DGT's Juvenes Translatores translation competition for secondary schools. The University of Illinois has a European Union Center, established in 1998, as well as a Center for Translation Studies, which started up only three years ago. So when they heard of Juvenes Translatores, our American colleagues decided to pick up the ball and run with it.
They say that everything is bigger and better in America, but for this first round of Juvenes Translatores the US version covered only high schools in the State of Illinois, with a maximum entry of 25, and the rules were less strict than ours. The texts they used were the ones written by DGT colleagues for JT 2010 on Erasmus. The teachers were free to organise the test any time in August or September, and it was the teachers too who picked the winners.
Just as in the original EU version, the pupils were free to choose the source language from any of the official EU languages, but the target language was only English. The young winners who were invited to Urbana-Champaign, which is where the University of Illinois is situated, translated from Spanish, French, German, Lithuanian, Bulgarian, Polish and Italian.
I was the lucky one to make the trip across the pond and into the prairies to attend the award ceremony on 4 November 2011. The University of Illinois were generous enough to pay for all my expenses, and what they asked in return was for me to hold a presentation and in general act like a genuine translator from the European Commission.
For the presentation I decided to give the teachers and high-school students some fairly basic facts about the EU and its language regime. I followed it up with a few words about the founding fathers and the Coal and Steel Community, then the first four languages, all the subsequent accessions, and of course Regulation No 1/58 and the daily work of DGT.
I also had some useful exchanges with the staff of the Center for Translation Studies, who are planning to visit DGT with their pupils in May. Dr. Elizabeth Lowe, the director of the Center, is interested in attending a future European Master’s in Translation conference. What is clear is that DGT, as the largest public translation organisation in the world, is seen as a centre of excellence for translation by our friends in the west, as well as in other parts of the world.

Anna Holmén is coordinator of the annual ”Juvenes Translatores” competition, which is designed to reward the best young translators in the European Union. Juvenes Translatores is organized by Unit S.3. Multilingualism and Translation Studies, part of the Directorate-General for Translation for the European Commission.

Note: a version of this article originally appeared in DGT Monthly, the internal magazine of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission.

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