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London student wins prestigious European prize

Jane Welton, a part-time mature student at London's Metropolitan University, was named on Friday 16 March as the winner of the European Commission's Leopoldo Costa Prize for the best essay by a trainee interpreter. Many of the previous winners have gone on to become successful professional interpreters in the EU institutions and other international organisations.

Jane Welton speaking at the Leopoldo Costa Prize ceremonyJane, who is in the second and final year of her interpreters' course, has her sights set on more immediate horizons. "I'm very happy to have won the prize. I didn't expect to get anywhere but, right now, I'm just concentrating on getting the best mark I can on my course," she said modestly.

She is no beginner in the linguistic field.  After studying at Leeds University and Oxford, she took up a career in teaching. She has recently spent time teaching deaf children. "I taught them basic German and French," she said.

The essay contest which Jane won was based on a quote by the French 18th century philosopher François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire: "Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning."

"I wrote something quite light-hearted, based on my own training as an interpreter. It was fun to do," said Jane. "We're often told that we shouldn't try to interpret things literally but to convey the spirit of what the speaker is saying."

Her prize, shared with two runners-up, was an invitation to a two-day visit to Brussels which includes spending time with professional interpreters at the European Commission and attending a conference for interpreters.

"The training I've received has been a great help. I've had the opportunity to practise interpreting during a real meeting," she said.

The European Commission's interpreters work in the 23 official languages of the EU - and sometimes also translate into other languages such as Welsh and Catalan.