‘I Will Not Stop at Just Four Languages’ — EU Celebrates Young Translators Award

EU Juvenes Translatores 2023

“Gaining a better understanding of each other’s cultures and standpoints is more important than ever today,” remarked Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Budget and Administration, while congratulating this year’s winners of the European Commission’s Juvenes Translatores competition.

The 27 winners of the 2022-23 young translators’ competition were announced on February 9, 2023 — one from each EU member state. 2,883 pupils from 681 schools participated in the 16th edition of the contest in November 2022. 

An additional 287 pupils received special mentions for outstanding translations. And for the first time since the competition began in 2007, teachers will also be honored for their hard work.

For the competition, pupils can translate between any two of the EU’s 24 official languages. This year, 141 language combinations out of the possible 552 were used, including some less common pairs, such as Spanish to Slovenian and Polish to Danish.

High Achievers

The astounding work done by the young translators was highlighted by the translators and revisers from the Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) who assessed the pupils’ efforts. On social media, the Polish team noted the higher level of translations this year compared to previous years.

Maxence Launay-Querré, translating from English to French, bested 371 other French pupils. France took the top spot as the country with the most competing participants, moving up the ranks from the previous year.

Italy — which had been the most competitive country for several years in a row — had 363 competitors in 2022-23. Ginevra Mingione from Naples snatched the Italian crown with her winning translation from English to Italian.

The country with the third highest participation was Germany, which showcased the linguistic talents of 284 pupils. Paul Möllecken, translating from French, from Brühl near Cologne, emerged victorious in Germany.

European Year of Youth

The theme of this year’s competition focused on the role of young people in shaping Europe, mirroring the 2022 European Year of Youth. According to Johannes Hahn, the source texts included important topics, such as “unity, peace, and a greener future.”

The English source text, titled, ‘Is Age Just a Number?’ followed a text conversation between an 18-year-old boy and his grandmother about the impact of social media and technology, the perception and often negative stereotypes of young people today.

The French text broached whether the EU is doing enough for young people in the form of a round table discussion. The German source text used cloud watching imagery to represent the current political climate in Europe, as part of a chat between two philosophizing friends.

One upshot of Juvenes Translatores is the additional linguistic and cultural events schools and individuals are subsequently involved in. Including visits to local universities offering translation courses, educational exchanges, and the EU’s e-Twinning project.

Former participants have gone on to study translation at higher education institutions, and others have joined the EC’s translation department as a trainee or full-time translator. 

A Word From the Winners

The winners, one from each member state, will gather in Brussels in March 2023 to receive their awards. Before then, Slator spoke with Ginevra Mingione, the 2022 vincitrice from Italy, and Theresa Drexler, the Austrian Königin, both of whom grew up bilingually. 

While Mingione’s mother tongues are Italian and Neapolitan, she has also learned English, Spanish, Latin, and knows basic German and Portuguese. 

Drexler, a native German and Hungarian speaker, learned English and Spanish in school, and told Slator she “will not stop at just four languages.” She would also like to learn French, hopes to transform her passion for languages into a career, and observed that “languages make up a huge part of my identity.”

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Mingione and Drexler shared how, although they had never done any formal translation prior to the event, they have often acted as informal interpreters. Drexler described it as an almost automatic consequence of having had the privilege of growing up bilingual.

Mingione said she prepared for the competition by translating previous source texts and described the encouraging yet competitive environment the school and her fellow pupils created during the lead-up: “All of my schoolmates were eager to test themselves and to help each other.” She added, “We encouraged each other to compete as our best selves.” 

Similarly, the group from Drexler’s school met weekly to discuss the art of translation, peer review each other’s translations, and offer suggestions and advice.

Participating in Juvenes Translatores comes highly recommended by the winners. Drexler summed up her experience as, “Exciting, rewarding, and educational.”, highlighting that the competition “allows you to recognise how different languages can be, but that at the core they connect us all.”