French Translation Competition 2019

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


The Winners of our French Translation Competition 2019

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

  • Theo Berenzweig, Merchant Taylors’ School
  • Aurora Tuckwell, The Henley College
  • Katie Kirkpatrick, Hills Road Sixth Form College
  • Lily Archer, The Henrietta Barnett School for Girls
  • Megan Harley-Martin, St Mary’s School, Calne
  • Holly Milton-Jefferies, Petroc, Barnstaple
  • Alexander Robson, The Judd School
  • Lizzie Roughton, St Mary’s School, Calne
  • Dyala Kelly, Westminster School
  • Tessa Brook, Thomas Rotherham College

We received 109 entries for the competition and the overall standard was impressively high. Many thanks to all of you who entered the competition.

A fair copy of the translation, based largely 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


François Bégaudeau, Histoire de ta bêtise (Paris: Pauvert, 2019)

This provocative text from the author of Entre les murs (2006), was inspired by Bégaudeau’s disgust with the ‘bêtise’ of voters for Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential election campaign. On one level, it can be seen as extending the French literary fascination with the hypocrisy of the ‘bourgeoisie’. It produced strong reactions, both for and against it, on publication this year.

Souvent pendant la campagne je t’ai trouvé bête. Je t’écoutais, et je pensais : comme c’est bête. Le penser n’était pas correct de ma part. Pas très courtois et passablement hautain. Mais peut-on jamais réfréner une pensée ? Dépréciative ou non, une pensée me traverse comme un courant d’air. D’elle je suis aussi innocent que toi de tes mots, qui par ta bouche ne font que passer. Tu n’en es pas l’auteur. Tu es parlé, tu es pensé. A travers toi parle et pense une condition, une position sociale, une situation, dont il faudrait raconter l’histoire.

Il faudra travailler à une généalogie de ta bêtise.


Les bavardages passés par toi au cours du printemps 2017, j’aurais pu faire en sorte qu’ils ne me parviennent pas. J’aurais pu radicaliser mes techniques d’évitement de cette présidentielle à somme nulle, tout inédite que l’aient prétendue tes éditorialistes en surchauffe. Il m’était loisible d’ignorer les débats télévisés ; d’obturer les canaux par lesquels la monotone polyphonie pénétrait mon appartement ; de sectionner les câbles, de couper le son.


Hélas, on ne vit pas d’amour et de livres. Hélas, entre lecture et coucher, la société parfois me tirait au-dehors et je tombais sur toi, souvent car tu es légion dans Paris, et c’est de cela qu’alors tu parlais, c’est ce bruit-là que tu tenais à redoubler. La campagne tu en avais plein la bouche, comme des attentats deux ans plus tôt […]

(238 words)


François Bégaudeau, Histoire de ta bêtise (Paris: Pauvert, 2019)

The translated text (below) is only a suggested fair copy, based in good measure on the winning entries. A good number of variations in vocabulary and expression were accepted but are not shown here. The tenses were often overlooked, with a simple past used throughout in English, whereas the imperfect in French often suggested the need for an equivalent in the target language (‘I would listen… I would bump into you’) etc. Another common sticking point was the poetic inversions used by Bégaudeau for emphasis (‘D’elle je suis aussi innocent…’) which don’t have obvious idiomatic equivalents in English.  Finally, some explicitation was necessary in places to unpack the passive or elliptical phrasing in French (‘Tu es parlé… comme des attentats…’).


During the campaign I often found you stupid. I would listen to you and think: how stupid. It wasn’t very decent of me to think this; not very proper and pretty arrogant. But can we ever hold our thoughts in check? Disparaging or otherwise, thoughts just breeze in and out of my head. I’m as innocent of each thought as you are of your words that just spill out of your mouth. You don’t invent them. You don’t speak, you are spoken; you don’t think, you are thought. A condition, a situation, a certain social status, thinks and speaks through you, one whose story should be told.

We need to chart the family tree of your stupidity.


I could’ve made sure that the chatter you relayed in the spring of 2017 didn’t reach my ears. I could’ve stepped up my avoidance techniques for this zero-sum presidential election, however unprecedented your overexcited op-ed writers claimed it was. I was free to block the channels through which the monotonous chorus of voices got into my apartment; to cut the cables, mute the sound.


Alas, one cannot live on love and books alone. Alas, between reading and sleeping, society would sometimes pull me outside where I would bump into you, because you are often legion in Paris. And you would talk then about this, this was the noise that you insisted on amplifying. The campaign was all you could talk about, as two years earlier you’d talked incessantly about the terrorist attacks […]

Please note that we are not able to provide feedback on individual entries, but we thank you again for your submission, and suggest that you compare this proposed fair copy to your original translation.

About the competition

The competition is open now and closes on Friday 15 November 2019 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 11 December 2019.

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. 

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 François Bégaudeau. Translations should be the original work of individual students and should be typed or copied on to the competition entry form (available on the right of this page) and sent as an email attachment to before 5pm on Friday 15 November

Entrants should also include:

First Name Last Name Date of Birth Home Address and Postcode

Winners will be notified by Friday 29 November 2019.

A fair copy of the translation, based on the best entries, will be available on this website from early December. Unfortunately, we cannot provide feedback on individual entries.

Bonne chance !
Dr David McCallam and Colleagues in French & Francophone Studies

  • 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)

View previous competitions from 2018 & 2017

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