Two pencils laying on a wall

What are the biggest translation contests?

As in many fields, translation contests are held so that professionals can showcase their talent and receive prizes to publicize their work. Although some contests are more valid than some other ones, translation contests are very common around the world. Every year, many translators take up the challenge. Some schools specializing in translation also challenge students who are interested and offer translation competitions.

In this blog post, Cultures Connection presents some of the world’s best-known translation contests, while answering two key questions:

– What are the main translation competitions?

– What translation competitions are available to students?

Many translators are aware of the boost that a prize in a competition can give them. They participate, for example, in the competitions listed below.

What are the main translation competitions?

Whether in Japan, France, the United States or even the United Kingdom, there are many translation competitions available to professionals. Here are some of them:

  • The JLPP (Japanese Literature Publishing Project) International Translation Contest, implemented by the Japan Culture Agency (Bunka-chô). In 2022, this contest celebrated its 7th edition. This competition aims to launch or strengthen the careers of translators, but also to make Japanese literature more accessible through translations into English and French. A first prize is awarded for each of these two languages. The winners receive a prize money, a certificate and a personalized trophy. A first jury is in charge of pre-selecting the translated texts and a grand jury is in charge of the deliberation. This jury is composed of university professors.
  • The LocJam contest is a worldwide video game localization contest open to anyone who wants to demonstrate their English translation skills. Everything takes place on the LocJam platform. A jury of experts chooses the winner in each language, i.e. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Turkish, for the professional and amateur categories. LocJam 1 was held in 2014 and was organized by the International Game Developers Association in the U.S., a nonprofit organization that brings together a large community of gamers. In some years, the public is asked to vote and test the translations that have been submitted.
  • The John Dryden Translation Competition, sponsored by the British Center for Literary Translation and the British Comparative Literature Association. This contest awards the best unpublished literary translation from any source language into British English. The top three winners receive a cash prize and a year’s free membership in the British Comparative Literature Association.
  • The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, established in 2017, which recognizes the translation of a work written by a woman published in the UK or Ireland. This competition was created to inform about the actual gender inequality in the world of literary translation, and to circulate more books written by women. The jury that evaluates the translations is mixed.
  • The contest organized by the “French-American Foundation” since 1986, which judges the translation of a fiction or essay from French into American English. This is a very important contest for publishing houses, as it is an opportunity to spread French literature in the United States.
  • The Mexican Literary Translation Competition, held for the first time in Egypt in 2021, rewards the translation into Arabic of a fictional work of Mexican literature. The competition was created through a collaboration between the National Centre for Translation and the Mexican Embassy in Egypt. Participants must be Egyptian nationals and less than 45 years old. The winner receives $1,000, a certification and several books of Mexican literature. In addition, the National Centre for Translation publishes the winning translation.

What translation competitions are available to students?

Many schools organize translation contests for their students. This is an opportunity for students to have fun while demonstrating their language skills. Student translation contests include, but are not limited to:

  • The Prix Atlas des lycéens (Atlas High School Student Award), in southern France, has been held every year since 1999 in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur area. This contest is aimed at high school students who speak one of these languages: English, German, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and Provençal. Their translation of a literary text is evaluated by experienced teachers and the best translations are rewarded with a financial award –depending on their place on the podium.
  • The Confucius Institute’s annual translation contest for French-speaking learners of Chinese. All French students of the Institute are eligible to participate in this literary translation contest, yet students from other higher or secondary schools as well as self-taught students can also take part. The jury is composed of the directors of the Institute, translators and academics.
  • A competition in the United Kingdom has emerged in recent years for high schools that wish to participate. The Anthea Bell Prize, named after a famous British translator, aims to promote language learning in the UK and enhance the creativity of British students in the classroom.
  • Since 2003, the University of Evansville in Indiana, USA, has honored the translation of a poem from any source language into English with the “Willis Barnstone Translation Award”. A renowned poet and translator, Willis Barnstone has been the final judge of this contest since its inception.
  • The Translation Challenge, which has been running for nine years, is present in two countries: Turkey and the UK. In this competition, students work in teams, with each person playing a different role in the translation process. The text to be translated is from the field of commerce and business – such as marketing documents, websites, and so on.
  • The “Juvenes Translatores” (Young Translators contest) is a translation contest organized by the European Commission since 2007, which allows the participation of all secondary schools located in the European Union. Teachers must register their students who wish to participate. Participants translate a one-page text and can only use a print dictionary. A draw is then held to select the schools that will participate. The awards ceremony takes place in Brussels.

For sure, there are many other translation contests –both international and national– in the academic and publishing communities. Translation contests are a great way to find new talent, motivate students, or strengthen the careers of professional translators. If you are a professional translator or a translation student who likes challenges, be sure to check out the potential contests you can enter. It is a rewarding and challenging experience.

This article has been written by Laura Le Galliot

A Master's student in Translation and Interpretation, Laura is doing her apprenticeship in translation, writing and vendor management at Cultures Connection.