French Translation Competition 2018

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2019 competition information

French translation competition 2018

Please note that this competition is now closed for entries.

We are delighted to announce the second University of Sheffield French Translation Competition for Year 12 and Year 13 students in the UK.

About the competition

The competition is open now and closes on Friday 16 November 2018 at 5pm. Students of French in Years 12 and 13 in the UK are invited to submit their translation of the original short French text below. Only one translation per student is permitted.

The prize

The authors of the ten best entries will each receive a prize of a £25 book token and an invitation to take part in a special Translation Workshop held at the University of Sheffield, involving French academics, Masters students in Translation Studies and alumni who work in translation-related fields. The Workshop will be held on Wednesday 12 December 2018.

The judges

The translations will be read and judged by a panel of French experts from the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sheffield. A fair copy of the translation of the text, based on the winning entries, will be posted on our website in early December.

How to enter

The competition is open to students of French in Years 12 and 13 in the UK. Please translate the text below by Tahar Ben Jelloun. Translations should be the original work of individual students and should be sent as an email attachment to before 5pm on Friday 16 November. Entries should include:

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Home Address and Postcode
  • Contact email address
  • School name and address
  • Whether you would be happy to be contacted by the University of Sheffield about other events, such as Open Days, in future (please note that we will normally contact you by email)

Winners will be notified by Monday 3 December 2018.

The Winners of our French Translation Competition 2018

Congratulations to the 10 winners of our French Translation Competition!
They are:

  • Iustina Roman, The Henrietta Barnett School
  • Sienna Crossley, Highams Park School
  • Isabelle Coley, The Weald Sixth Form College
  • Daniel Bourne, The Manchester Grammar School
  • Thomas Byrne, The Minster School Southwell
  • Lydia Handsley, Caistor Grammar School
  • Sarah Coleman, The Henrietta Barnett School
  • Rosie Aylard, St Helen and St Katharine
  • Darshan Patel, Queen Elizabeth’s School
  • Charlotte Wright, Wirral Grammar School for Girls

We received over 130 entries for the competition and the overall standard was impressive. Many thanks to all of you who entered the competition.

A fair copy of the translation, based on the best entries, is available below. Unfortunately, we cannot provide feedback on individual entries.

Merci encore une fois et bonne chance pour vos examens !
Dr David McCallam and Colleagues in French & Francophone Studies

The text

The translated text (below) is only a suggested fair copy. A good number of idiomatic variations on parts of the texts were also accepted, but are not shown here. The tenses were tricky: you could use past tenses, as is the case below, and which is more usual in the target language; or you could use a present tense for a lot of the text – as French has an historical present to give urgency and immediacy to recounting past actions as though you were living through them. The key in both cases is consistency. Register was also an important and difficult aspect of the translation.

Tahar Ben Jelloun, La Punition (Paris: Gallimard, 2018)

This is the harrowing tale, brilliantly told, of a young student detained and abused under the pretence of doing his military service after having taken part in a peaceful demonstration against the regime of Hassan II in Morocco in 1965. It is based on the writer’s personal experience.
It begins:

Le 16 juillet 1966 est un de ces matins que ma mère a mis de côté dans un coin de sa mémoire pour, comme elle dit, en rendre compte à son fossoyeur. Un matin sombre avec un ciel blanc et sans pitié.

De ce jour-là, les mots se sont absentés. Seuls restent des regards vides et des yeux qui se baissent. Des mains sales arrachent à une mère un fils qui n’a pas encore vingt ans. Des ordres fusent, des insultes du genre « on va l’éduquer ce fils de pute ». Le moteur de la jeep militaire crache une fumée insupportable. Ma mère voit tout en noir et résiste pour ne pas tomber par terre. C’est l’époque où les jeunes gens disparaissent, où l’on vit dans la peur, où l’on parle à voix basse en soupçonnant les murs de retenir les phrases prononcées contre le régime, contre le roi et ses hommes de main – des militaires prêts à tout et des policiers en civil dont la brutalité se cache derrière des formules creuses. Avant de repartir, l’un des deux soldats dit à mon père : « Demain ton rejeton doit se présenter au camp d’El Hajeb, ordre du général. Voici le billet de train, en troisième classe. Il a intérêt à ne pas se débiner ».

Le jeep lâche un ultime paquet de fumée et s’en va en faisant crisser ses pneus. Je savais que j’étais sur la liste. Ils étaient passés hier chez Moncef qui m’avait prévenu que nous étions punis.

(253 words)

16th July 1966 was one of those days that my mother set aside in a corner of her memory, as she put it, to share with no one but her gravedigger. A gloomy morning under a pitiless white sky.

Words went missing that day. All that remained was vacant stares and downcast eyes. Dirty hands tore a son, not yet 20 years old, from his mother. Orders flew thick and fast, insults too like “we’re going to teach this son of a bitch a lesson.” The military jeep’s engine spewed unbreathable smoke. A darkness closed in on my mother and she struggled not to collapse to the ground. It was a time when young people disappeared, when you lived in fear, when you spoke in hushed tones, suspecting the walls had ears and heard anything you said against the regime, the king or his henchmen – military men capable of anything and plain-clothed police whose brutality was hidden behind empty slogans. Before moving on, one of the two soldiers said to my father: “Tomorrow your boy has to report to camp El Hajeb, general’s orders. Here’s his train ticket, third class. He better not do a bunk.”

The jeep let out a last belch of smoke and headed off, tyres screeching. I knew I was on the list. They had called on Moncef yesterday who had warned me that we were being punished.

Please note that we will not be able to provide feedback on entries, but thank you, in advance, for your submission.

View last year's competition.

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