Two Middlebury Institute alumni, Hilary Ancel-James MAT ’03 and Kunyuan (Lawrence) Chen MACI ’17, won first prize in the prestigious UN Translation Competition in the general category for their English and Chinese translations. We have previously shared the news of current student Jem Walker MATI ’21 who won first prize in the student category for his translation from French into English.
“This is actually my third time participating in the contest,” shares Chen who says he submitted an entry for the first time when he was still a student at the Institute and then again right after he finished an internship with the United Nations in Geneva. “I tried really hard back then, polishing my translations over and over again but didn’t win any awards. This time, I sort of took a more casual approach and only decided to give it another shot when the deadline was one week away. Honestly, I was really surprised when the organizers emailed me, telling me I won first prize.”
Ancel-James works as a translator at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and says her day-to-day work is worlds apart from the text she translated for the contest (a humorous blog post in Slate on the author’s fear of flying). “At the Court, I’m fed a steady diet of pleadings, speeches, press releases and decisions. The register is high, precision is paramount and the subject-matter, while quite interesting, doesn’t lend itself to much artistic license.
She says that at first glance, the French text chosen for the contest seemed like a breath of fresh air. “Yet it proved every bit as challenging to translate as some of the complex legal arguments we see at the ICJ. Between pinpointing the “mots justes” that would accurately convey the source text’s humour and vivid imagery, and weaving these elements together in a way that would make the translation flow nicely, we contestants had our work cut out for us!”
“I have come to realize that what truly sets the best translators apart is their writing skills,” Ancel-James says. “An excellent command of the source language is essential, of course, but the stronger your grasp of your own native language, the better you’ll be able to express the full nuance and spirit of the source text. In my own case, I wouldn’t say that writing has come naturally; any talent I might have has been gleaned from style books and observing other writers!” At the Institute, Ancel-James says she gained the solid grounded she needed to “hit the job market running.” The encouragement by faculty to pick a specialization especially helped her focus and prepare for steady advancement in her career.
“The need for translation has existed since time immemorial,” Movses Abelian Under-Secretary-General for United Nations General Assembly and Conference Management and Secretariat-wide Coordinator for Multilingualism, said in his statement released in connection with the results of the 15th St. Jerome Translation Contest. “Translation of literary, philosophical and scientific works have contributed significantly to the march of civilization.”
It should come as no surprise that alumni and students of the Middlebury Institute have excelled in this competition year after year. Apart from the three first prize winners, alumna Shuai (Ivy) Wang MATLM ’17 won honorable mention for her translation into Chinese, and Lena Greenberg MATI ’21 for her translation into Spanish. “Her accomplishment was especially noteworthy because she is an English A student who was working into her B language,” shares Professor George Henson of his student Greenberg.
“I am thrilled to celebrate the five MIIS alumni and students who were recognized for their achievements in this prestigious competition” says Dean of the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation, and Language Education Laura Burian. She notes that the award recipients this year represent the Translation and Interpretation, Conference Interpretation, Translation, and Translation and Localization Management degrees, and “show that the education at MIIS helps our students reach the highest standards in the profession.”
“During these exceptional times, we search for common values that unite us as individuals, cultures, societies, and countries in an interconnected world,” Movses Abelian wrote in his statement. ”We draw comfort from our shared humanity, and our mutual desire for peace and prosperity. Communication is vital to achieving such collective goals; and language, as the instrument that bridges divides and resolves disputes across diverse societies and cultures, ensures that what ought to be done is done.”
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Middlebury Institute student Jem Walker MATI ’21 won first prize in the UN organized St. Jerome Translation Competition for his translation from French into English.
Middlebury Institute Translation and Interpretation students Magdalena Kotzurek and Matthew Ross won first prize in the prestigious United Nations St. Jerome’s Translation Contest, and Translation student Rachel Echeto won Honorable Mention.
Students from the Middlebury Institute were awarded one third of the six available student prizes in the United Nations’ 12th annual St. Jerome Translation Contest.