Hope College senior Kevin Steinbach of Downers Grove, Ill., has earned second place in an international competition for translating Japanese.
Steinbach was one of two second-place finishers worldwide, receiving the "Distinguished Translation Award," for translating materials into English from Japanese in the Shizuoka International Translation Competition organized by Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan.
"This is the most respected Japanese translation competition in the world. I commend Kevin for his remarkable achievement," said F. Andy Nakajima, assistant professor of Japanese at Hope. "He possesses not only a high level of understanding of the Japanese language (both modern and classical), but also the esthetic sense of the English language to make the sentences come alive. Kevin is probably the youngest translator who has won such a distinguished international award. I am very happy that Kevin will be able to receive his award from Prof. Donald Keene, the most distinguished Japanologist in the world, whom Kevin highly respects."
As a second-place winner, Steinbach will travel to Japan for an awards ceremony taking place on Saturday, Sept. 29. He is receiving a 300,000-yen prize (approximately $3,000), and the competition is also paying for his airfare, lodging and most meals for the event.
Participants in the competition translate outstanding works of Japanese literature into a variety of languages. The goal of the event, established in 1995, is to introduce the works to foreign audiences and to promote international understanding. A prefecture in Japan corresponds approximately to a state in the U.S.
Through the competition, each entrant is sent three fiction selections and three non-fiction selections and asked to translate one of each into one of three languages, either English or, this year, Chinese or French. A committee then selects the best translations, considering not only technical aptitude but also the extent to which the translation recreates the world created by the author.
The competition awarded a grand prize, two second-place prizes and two third-place prizes for English translations, and a similar number of first-, second- and third-place prizes to entrants who made translations into Chinese and French. There were a total of 79 entrants in English, 39 in French and 119 in Chinese.
Steinbach's fiction translation was "The Cancelled Flight" by Kawamoto Saburo, a story about a couple whose plane is canceled, leaving them to become acquainted with downtown Tokyo. His non-fiction choice was "Sanetomo's Head" by Karaki Junzo, a historical narrative about the death of the third Kamakura Shogun and the possible whereabouts of his missing head.
Steinbach, who began studying Japan and Japanese when he was about 13 years old, is majoring in Japanese at Hope. His career interests include translation and teaching Japanese.
He spent the 2006-07 school year, studying at Nanzan Unviersity in Nagoya, Japan, and had also participated in the college's 2005 May Term in Japan, which includes four weeks of touring and study at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo.
His activities at Hope have included Hope's Asian Perspective Association (HAPA) and the college's Japanese departmental club. He is the son of Roger and Tracey Steinbach of Downers Grove, and is a 2005 graduate of Downers Grove North High School.