The Linguist

The Linguist 53,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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28 The Linguist JUNE/JULY FEATURES Teen translator Walker Thompson finds reasons to be hopeful on a trip to the European Commission It felt like I didn't really deserve it. By translating a short passage of French, back in November, I had earned an all-expenses-paid trip to Brussels, accompanied by a teacher; a lavish awards ceremony in the European Commission's main Charlemagne building; and a visit to the offices of the Directorate- General for Translation (DGT). A feeling of nagging un-entitlement gnawed at me throughout the whole experience: What exactly had I done to deserve all this? The answer came in several pieces over the course of the three days I spent in Brussels as UK winner of the Commission's Juvenes Translatores competition. One of the most compelling was that your ability as a translator is determined by your life experiences and education: to convey the spirit of a text, you must be able not only to appreciate cultural references, literary allusions, legal terminology, technical jargon, and a whole host of other things in the source language, but also to reproduce them or find suitable equivalents in the target language. In this sense, the translation I performed in less than two hours was the culmination of years of reading, studying languages and linguistics, and keeping up with current affairs. Small wonder that one of the other national winners commented that we were a 'learned' group: we had to be. In my speech, delivered in Greek at the awards ceremony, I mentioned how languages are being cut in many English schools. This is partly a result of recent austerity measures, but it is also narrow-minded ministers sending a clear message that maths and sciences are the only important subjects. Juvenes Translatores seeks to rectify this situation. This year, it saw record participation from 73 UK schools, chosen by lottery due to oversubscription. Judging by the impressive young people I met in Brussels, the contest is doing much to nurture the sorts of young minds that the translating profession needs. I was impressed by the translators I met at the DGT. Their skill set – very strong passive knowledge of several modern languages – is similar to my own, and the sort of work they were doing eminently palatable to me. I was tempted by the prospect of embarking on some of the language courses offered to DGT staff to promote less well-known – primarily Eastern European – languages. I am unsure whether I want to spend years toiling away in the EU civil service on the outskirts of Brussels, but I am now much better placed to make the right decision, when the time comes. 'The future is bright, the present is wonderful,' remarked Rytis Martikonis, Head of DGT, at the awards ceremony. Meeting the other winners not only reassured me of the democratisation of language learning – participants came from all over, and from all sorts of backgrounds – but the number of young polyglots and budding translators also left me feeling profoundly optimistic. Rewarding talent The Juvenes Translatores competition is organised every year by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) and is open to 17-year-old secondary school pupils. It takes place in selected schools across Europe in November, when pupils must translate a short text from one EU official language into another. The competition to find the EU's best young translators aims to promote language learning in schools and give young people a taste of what it is to be a translator. As Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, made clear at the awards ceremony in April, the competition is also intended to 'raise awareness of the importance of translation for Europe and to spark interest in this profession and its different facets, be it technical or literary translation, subtitling or developing automated translation tools.' PRIZE PERFECT YOUNG MINDS Walker experiences work at the DGT (left); and makes his awards speech in Greek (below)

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