Ten classics students spent time translating passages of Greek and Latin as a part of the annual Maurine Dallas Watkins Translation Contests this past week.
Although the results will not be announced until the national convention of the Eta Sigma Phi Honorary for Classical Studies March 23 through 25, Assistant Professor of Classics Laury Ward said Hillsdale College students had success in previous years. Last year, Hillsdale students placed within the top three nationally in four of the six translation categories, one of which had two students place.
“That, I would say, is representative of how we’ve usually done,” Ward said.
Each exam consists of translating a passage of Latin or Greek of about a half or a third of a page in length. Students have two hours to complete the translation in the categories of advanced or intermediate Latin, advanced or intermediate Greek, and Koine Greek.
Students can also complete a three-hour exam in Latin Composition, which consists of translating English prose into Latin.
Ward said students completed an average of two exams each.
Junior Carrie Bieganek, who completed the advanced Latin and intermediate Greek exams, said this year’s exam was harder than last year’s exam in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary. She added, however, that it was a valuable experience as a classics major.
“It’s a cool way to gauge where you’re at and how much Latin you actually know,” Bieganek said.
Sophomore Emma Frank, who placed third in last year’s intermediate Latin exam, said the reading and discussion in her Latin classes helped to prepare her for the translation exam.
“It’s something good to know how to do as a classics major,” Frank said.
Passages from previous years’ competitions have included works from writers such as Cicero, Herodotus, Livy, Plato,Tacitus, Thucydides and Xenophon, according to Ward.
Ward said Hillsdale’s Latin and Greek classes help students succeed on the translation exams by emphasizing the importance of reading in Greek or Latin and not just translating it to English.
“We consider this to be very valuable experience not just because they’re getting to compete nationally, but also for people who are Latin or Greek majors, we have translation exams that you need to pass,” Ward said. “Those are sight exams, so it’s good experience and we always encourage our majors especially to do these exams because the act of sitting down and trying to translate a passage without preparation or context is always good experience .for improving their reading ability.”