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Tomorrow's translators show their stuff - 28/11/2008

Girl and boy at work on translations

17-year-olds from across the EU test their translation skills.

"Translation is the language of Europe" according to Italian writer and intellectual Umberto Eco.

On 27 November, well over 2000 pupils celebrated the language of translation by taking part in the Juvenes Translatores contest – organised by the European Commission for budding translators in secondary schools throughout the EU.

Schools and students from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to Kittilä north of the Arctic Circle signed up to the challenge. The students worked hard to produce translations that were faithful to the original text and fluent in the target language.

Participants were free to choose any language pair for their translation, although it was recommended that they translate into their mother tongue or strongest language for the best result. The texts for translation were all on the same general subject, but not identical in the 23 languages. Commission translators will mark the translations based on the contestants' ability to use terms correctly, write fluently and find creative solutions to the problems encountered.

Juvenes Translatores (Latin for "young translators") seeks to promote the use of foreign languages in Europe and translation in particular. It generates interest in language learning and translation, and some schools have even decided to organise their own contests. Like several of last year's winners, many pupils who sat the test come from bilingual families – a valuable asset that deserves to be acknowledged.

The 27 winners – one from each EU member country – will be invited to Brussels in April for an awards ceremony with the Commissioner for Multilingualism, Leonard Orban, and to meet Commission translators to learn more about their work. Beyond the recognition, however, the most enjoyable experience for last year's winners was getting to know each other and communicating in a common language.

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