NCW Emerging Translator Mentorships 2020

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The confirmed languages for the 2020 NCW Emerging Translator Mentorship programme are:

  • Danish (mentored by Paul Russell Garrett)
  • Japanese (mentored by Polly Barton, in partnership with the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize)
  • Italian (mentored by Howard Curtis)
  • Korean (mentored by Anton Hur)
  • Polish (mentored by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)
  • Norwegian (mentored by Kari Dickson)
  • Russian (mentored by Robert Chandler)
  • Swiss French (mentored by Sarah Ardizzone)
  • One mentorship for a UK-based BAME literary translator and/or UK-based literary translator from the diaspora, heritage or community languages of the UK, supported by our Visible Communities Programme (mentored by Meena Kandasamy)

About the programme

Founded by Daniel Hahn in 2010, the Emerging Translator Mentorship programme aims to develop successive new cohorts of literary translators into English, particularly for languages whose literature is currently under-represented in English translation.

The scheme matches up experienced translators with emerging translators for a six-month period during which they work together on practical translation projects, developing their craft through working on a chosen text or texts. The mentor acts as an adviser to the mentee on aspects of life as a professional translator, such as time management, meeting deadlines, managing finances and understanding contracts, and as an advocate for their mentee with publishers in search of literary translators.

The evidence to date suggests that participation in the scheme represents, in itself, a significant professional development for mentees, with publishers seeing the mentoring cohort as a reliable source of high quality emerging translators.


What you will receive

Mentees receive a £500 bursary and reasonable travel expenses associated with the mentorship, which varies according to the relative geographical locations of the mentoring pair. The mentorship will include a residential weekend as well as access to various (UK) industry events such as International Translation Day and London Book Fair. Samples of mentees’ work will also be published in an anthology.

National Centre for Writing will facilitate an initial planning meeting between successful applicants and their mentors to agree on the scope of their project and how they will work together. The mentoring period lasts for six months, during which the mentoring pair will meet at least four times, either in person, by Skype or by telephone as appropriate. In between meetings, they will exchange work and comments via email.


Who can apply?

The programme is open to emerging translators at no cost to them. An emerging translator is someone who has published no more than one full-length work of translation in English. MFA and MA students in translation can apply, but priority may be given to those who do not have access to the kind of guidance already present in a translation degree programme. Though English is the target language, the emerging translator need not live in the UK (with the exception of the Visible Communities mentorship). We particularly welcome applications for all mentorships from those groups which are currently under-represented in the literary translation community.


How to apply

Please note, the following does not apply to Harvill Secker Young Translator’s Prize entrants, translating from Japanese. Details of how to enter for the prize can be found here.

Your application should include:

  • A covering letter stating why you believe you would benefit from a mentorship
  • Your CV
  • A one-page sample project proposal
  • A sample translation of up to 2,000 words of prose or up to 100 lines poetry or dramatic text along with the corresponding source text

Applications should be emailed to and queries addressed FAO Sarah Bower at the same address.

The deadline for receipt of entries is 11.59pm BST, Tuesday 1st September 2020.

Successful applicants will be informed by Friday 11 September and will be announced publicly at International Translation Day on Monday 30 September.

Supported by Arts Council England, The Danish Arts Foundation, The Harvill Secker Young Translators Prize, The Literary Translation Institute of Korea, The Polish Cultural Institute, The Royal Norwegian Embassy, NORLA, The Russian Institute for Literary Translation, The Italian Cultural Institute, Pro-Helvetia and the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities at UCLA and Waseda University.


Frequently Asked Questions

What does ‘Emerging’ mean?

Emerging refers to a translator who has published no more than one full-length work of literary translation into English. Applicants with commercial translation experience are encouraged.

What should I include in my CV/Covering Letter?

Your CV should detail any previous translation experience as well as any other relevant experience. Your covering letter should explain how you think you’ll benefit from the programme.

What should I include in my sample proposal?

Your proposal should include a short synopsis of a text, a short biography of the original author, and answer the following questions: why would this text benefit from translation and what is the appeal of the text in the English Language market. We would advise against choosing a text which has already been translated into the English Language for the purposes of this sample proposal.

Should my sample translation be from the text I would like to work on during my mentorship?

Your sample translation does not have to be from the same text you are proposing to translate but it may help your mentor to assess your proposal, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the text you are proposing to work with. The piece you eventually work on will be decided between you and your mentor.

Do I have to be based in the UK to apply?

No – with the exception of the Visible Communities mentorship, you do not have to be a UK resident to apply.

Why do you give priority to applicants who are not in full-time education?

The mentorship seeks to support those writers who do not currently have a supportive network of experienced translators around them.

Will I have to meet my mentor face to face for our sessions?

No – you may not live in the same country or continent as your mentor and sessions can occur exclusively via electronic media. As mentors and mentees are invited to the residential weekend, this does offer an opportunity for a face to face meeting if both are able to attend.

What happens if my mentor doesn’t translate from the same language as me?

The mentorship is designed to help with the challenges of translation as a whole – identifying universal translation issues beyond individual languages. The scheme is designed to help you better understand literary translation and the industry at large.

Will Covid 19 affect my mentorship?

As mentorships can be conducted remotely, we hope the effects of Covid 19 will be minimal. We will, however, have to keep our plans for International Translation Day and the residential weekend under review in this rapidly changing situation.