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Adeline, Millie & Matilda Win U14 Stephen Spender Translation Prize!

Published on isbi School News dated Wednesday 1st of December 2021

We are thrilled to announce that all three winners of the Under 14 category of the Stephen Spender prize this year all come from NHEHS! The Stephen Spender Prize is an annual competition for poetry in translation, with categories for young people (14-and-under, 16-and-under, and 18-and-under) as well as an open category for adults.

Huge congratulations to Adeline G (Year 8), Millie F (Year 9) and Matilda H (Year 10)!

The prize is run by the Stephen Spender Trust, which champions multilingualism and literary translation through a range of initiatives, including their Poetry in Translation Prize and Creative Translation in the Classroom programmes.

For the competition, student were invited to translate into English any published poem from any language, together with a commentary on the translation of 300 words. The poem chosen could be from any language, ancient or modern, as the Trust were keen to celebrate poetry in all its forms and genres— so texts from rap, spoken word and slam poetry were eligible.

This year the judges included award winning poet Daljit Nagra, Samantha Schnee, founding editor of ‘Words Without Borders’ and Khairani Barokka, an Indonesian writer, artist, and translator.

Adeline translated ‘The Temple by the Stars’ by Li Bai (Ancient Chinese), while Millie chose ‘A.A.’ (French) by Christian Bernard for her entry and Matilda translated from the German ‘All the Birds’ by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben. You can read the translations from the links to the winners here.

We asked our students about the prize and for their top translation tips:

Millie F, Year 9

“I really enjoyed translating the poem and learned that I like poetry, and translating more than I thought it did. Taking part in the competition has inspired me to do more translating in the future. My top tip for translating would be to try and make your translation original and to interpret it in your own way, instead of using the literal translation.”

Adeline G, Year 8

“I entered the competition as we were doing it as part of our Chinese lesson, and my Chinese teacher gave us all a choice of three poems to translate. I chose this one for its poetic, magical nature. I really enjoyed translating the poem as I found that it was a great way to apply my knowledge of the language, while allowing me to be creative. The hardest part about translating it was the flow of the poem – on top of it all making sense, I had to maintain the soft tone and rhyming scheme. I initially started by translating the poem directly into English, however, in doing this it did not sound like a poem. I realised that I had to change the way that I did it in order to allow more creative freedom, and make it flow and sound like a poem. I instead translated the individual words, and then constructed a poem, with one line of the original to a stanza and repeating the beginning. This allowed me to make the poem my own, while still keeping the meaning. The competition has encouraged me to do more translating in the future – it was a lot of fun and allowed me to increase my vocabulary while allowing me to be creative. My top translating tip? Don’t be afraid to go a little further away from the original poem! Make sure that you understand the meaning first, and then you can make the poem your own, from that.”

Matilda H, Year 10

“During a German lesson our teacher asked us if we wanted to enter a poetry competition and suggested some poems. The poem ‘All The Birds’ by August Heinrich Hoffmann Von Fallersleben particularly resonated with me as, like many others, I rediscovered the simple pleasure of listening to birdsong in lockdown. Living in London, we appreciated birdsong more thanks to the drop in air traffic. This poem encapsulated that innocent pleasure for me and I thoroughly enjoyed making it my own. The hardest aspect of translating this poem was being faithful to the German original whilst making it appealing in English. I realised that not everything needs to be polished and perfected to make a poem sing and that it is not so difficult to convey one sense in two languages. I would definitely encourage next year’s under fourteens to have a go too! My top translation tip would be to use the poem as a framework on which to build your own ideas. Don’t worry about being too precise. Make sure it feels right.”

The MFL department is immensely proud that their students have achieved such wonderful recognition from the prestigious Stephen Spender Trust for their translations. The department and our teachers are delighted to have inspired students in their journey of Poetry in Translation, the department’s motto and focus last year. Our winners are certainly an inspiration to this year’s classes, who will also be encouraged to learn their craft in our twice yearly poetry translation lessons and workshops at NHEHS.

Many congratulations to Adeline, Millie and Matilda – we can’t wait to see where the next translation will take you!
Adeline, Millie & Matilda Win U14 Stephen Spender Translation Prize! - Photo 1
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