Translation prizes around the world

September 14, 2016
Translation prizes around the world

How good a translator are you? Do you think your linguistic talents and the translation services you offer put you at the very top of your game? Translation prizes are on offer around the world, providing recognition, prestige and (usually) cash rewards to translators who go above and beyond in order to assure the quality of their work. Here we take a quick look at some of the translation prizes on offer around the world. 

1. Read Russia Prize

The Read Russia Prize is awarded biennially for the best translation of Russian literature in the last two years. The most recent prize was awarded at the IV International Congress of Translators of Fine Literature, held at the Russian State Library on 8-11 September. 

2016 winners included Spanish translator Joaquín Fernández-Valdés and the Alba publishing house for their translation of Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, Mexican translator Selma Ancira and the Fondo de Cultura Económica publishing house for their translation of selected stories by 20th-century Russian writers, Fancy landscape of Russian literature, American Lisa Hayden and Oneworld Publications from London for their translation of Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus and Italian Claudia Scandura and Gattomerlino publishing house for their translation of Sergei Gandlevsky's Rust and Yellow. 

2. Man Booker International Prize

Although a literary award, the Man Booker International Prize rewards the winning novel’s translator equally with the auther. The 2016 prize went to South Korean author Han Kang for ‘The Vegetarian,’ with Kang sharing the $72,000 prize pot with English translator Deborah Smith. 

3. Found in Translation Award

The Found in Translation Award is presented annually, with a prize of PLN 16,000, and a three month residency in Kraków (a UNESCO City of Literature since 2013). The award recognizes translations from Polish into English and was won in 2016 by American Professor Bill Johnston, for his rendering of Twelve Stations, the mock epic poem by Tomasz Różycki, into English. 

4. The John Dryden Translation Competition

The annual John Dryden Translation Competition offers three prizes, of £350, £200, and £100, along with a one-year BCLA membership. Commendations are possible for other entries. The prize recognizes the translation of unpublished literary translations into English from any language. 

5. The Stephen Spender Prize

The Stephen Spender Prize recognizes poetry translation into English from any language. Interestingly, the award includes ancient literary works as well as modern ones. The prize rewards young translators, with categories including a 14-and-under award and an 18-and-under award. 

6. PEN Translation Prize

PEN translation awards include a $3,000 prize for the translation of prose and a $3,000 prize for the translation of poetry into English. There is also the $3,000 PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature, which is awarded to the author of a major work of modern Paraguayan Literature every other year and to a translator on alternate years. 

7. Close Approximations

Asymptote’s Close Approximations translation competition is open to translators who have just begun their careers. At total prize pot of £4,500 is available, split between literary translation, poetry translation and literary nonfiction. 

8. The Goethe-Institut Award for New Translation

The Goethe-Institut Award for New Translation rewards British and UK-resident translators who produce Germany literature in English. The winner of this biennial award receives €1,000 and a place at the Leipzing Book Fair. The 2016 winner was Imogen Taylor, for her translation of an extract from Momente der Klarheit by Jackie Thomae. 

Final thoughts

These are examples of some of the rewards on offer around the world for professional translation. What other prizes are out there for translators? What is available in your country to recognise the value of translation as a profession? Let us know by leaving a comment. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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