From: John Porter
2006 Sight Translation Competitions
The 2006 Sight Translation
Competitions were held on January 16 (high school Latin papers), January
18 (Latin papers), and January 25 (Greek papers). Following last year's
practice, I continued to rely a great deal on electronic media in
advertising the competitions and delivering the scripts. The system works
fairly well, but there are still some glitches and frustrations.
One change that seemed to cause some difficulties: I set the university
competitions on Wednesday instead of Thursday this year, which clearly
did not fit well with class schedules at some institutions. I would
appreciate feedback on this point but, unless I hear differently, will
revert to Thursday next year.
You will find that two sets of submissions were disqualified. Both
arrived well after the stated deadline of 10 February (i.e., well more
than 25 days / 16 days after the dates of the two contests in question;
in neither case were postal delays involved). There are a number of
reasons for the February deadline, not least being the examiners' desire
to take advantage of the February break to read through the submissions.
As a result, while I did wait until 2-3 days past the deadline before
couriering the scripts to the examiners, I did not forward entries that
In general, I would urge that institutions establish some regular system
for dealing with the competitions. Despite two calls for submissions in
the CCB and individual reminders from me to every university department,
a fair number of institutions did not register for the competition until
well past the December 1 deadline, while it is common each year to find
institutions or individual faculty failing to mail in their students'
scripts in a timely fashion. It is simply not fair to add to the duties
of us volunteers in this way, particularly at what by late-February/March
is an especially busy time for all of us.
On a more positive note, I would like to thank Thomas Schmidt of Laval
University once again for generously volunteering his assistance.
Professor Schmidt provided invaluable service over the Winter in helping
me to proofread material and, in more than one instance, crafting the
script that was employed in the competition and in my correspondence with
As the following figures indicate, submissions were generally down in
comparison to 2005. We made up some ground in the high school
competition, but I still need to work on advertising that competition
Jr. Greek: 59 (2005: 72; 2004: 71; 2003: 54)
Sr. Greek: 29 (2005: 32; 2004: 28; 2003: 28) [late/disqualified
Jr. Latin: 90 (2005: 123; 2004: 113; 2003: 61)
Sr. Latin: 68 (2005: 80; 2004: 69; 2003: 47)
High School Latin: 61 (2005: 72; 2004: 54; 2003: 78) [late/disqualified
The results are as follows:
HIGH SCHOOL LATIN
Pliny Epistulae 3.14 (adapted)
Examiner: David Page, Trent University
• 1st Prize: Arden
Rogow-Bales, Toronto French School
• 2nd Prize:
University of Toronto Schools
• 3rd Prize:
April Ross, Waterloo
• Honourable Mention:
Rae Desson, Lisgar
Collegiate Institute, and
Daniel Owen, St. George's School
Of the 61 entries for
2006, only two were incomplete and only one, after beginning well,
deteriorated into "silliness." Generally the standard was quite high,
with well over half those entering gaining at least a "good" result. No
entry was perfect but the highest 25 or so students had difficulty with
only the occasional phrase. The sentence causing the greatest problem for
a large number of entrants was Tum demum quasi aestu solutus effertur,
which tended to be translated as "Then finally the heat was brought to
an end." A few had difficulty distinguishing between "active" and
"passive" and many believed excipiunt meant "escaped" or
"left." On the positive side there were some excellent renderings of
fidem peractae mortis implevit, such as "he succeeded in convincing
them that they had killed him" and "he tricked them into believing that
they had pulled off his murder." Most students understood very well
indeed what was happening in the passage, perhaps partly because
extensive vocabulary help was provided. The overall quality (even with
most of the papers deemed "poor") was quite impressive and not at all
out of line with translations produced by university students towards the
end of their second full year of Latin.
Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.3.14-15
Examiner: Aara Suksi, University of Western Ontario
Recipients of the Margaret H. Thomson Prizes:
• 1st Prize: Rhéa El Housseini, Université de Montréal
• 2nd Prize: Stuart Hill, University of Victoria
• 3rd Prize: Timothy Riggs, Dalhousie University
• Honourable Mention: Zachary Moull, Dalhousie University
There were 59 entries
in all. I enjoyed reading them very much and I am impressed by the
general level of competence displayed. I can make the following general
remarks about where difficulties came up:
• The first prize paper
really stood out for accuracy of translation as well as elegance of style.
• There were many
difficulties with the e(/ws a)/n ... o)du/rwmai
clause in the first sentence. The
conjunction was not often recognized, nor even the fact that the form was
in the subjunctive.
• parame/nein was often mistaken for perime/nein.
• The dative
adjective e(ni/ was
• The verb forms e(w/ra,
e)ka/qhto, e)piqei=sa, h)/|sqeto, and i(/etai were often not recognized.
• Only one entry
correctly translated the clause ei)/ ti du/naito bohqh=sai.
• The failure to
recognize the crasis in the last sentence (ka)kei=noi) resulted in many
creative translations for this word (most of them having to do with the
idea of evil).
Augustine, On the City of God 1.15 (adapted)
Examiner: Michael Cummings, Queen's University
Recipients of the Margaret H. Thomson Prizes:
• First Prize: Timothy Riggs, Dalhousie University
• Second Prize: Catherine Émond, Université de Montréal
• Third Prize: Jasvinder Pandher, University of Toronto
• Honorable mention: Amelia Hardjasa, University of British Columbia
• Honorable Mention: Éloïse Lemay, Université de Montréal
About half of the ninety entries had major errors or gaps, or were
written in something only approximating English. Of the remainder, close
to twenty were respectable, and of those about ten had very few errors,
including three of the four French entries (a disappointingly low total).
The most common problem among the better entries was failing to recognize
a passive infinitive (reddi), and not recognizing that the reflexive suis
referred to the subject of the sentence. The phrase si minime peregisset
also caused a lot of suffering: it was most usually translated along the
lines of "if he achieved the least bit."
The nonsensical English of many of the entries raises a problem I often
face; how do we convince students that if the English version does not
make sense, it cannot be accurate, and not to offer unintelligible
translations? We clearly need to stress to students that they should
think carefully about what their translations might mean. Many students
also find it difficult to balance accuracy with fluency, and I have no
suggestions here — I prefer my students to offer accurate but stilted
translations rather than fluent paraphrases, so I am guilty myself of not
preparing students better for producing something stylish.
Finally, many of the better entries fell short of excellence because they
had not paid enough attention to the Latin word order and took the jigsaw
puzzle approach. Students should probably be forced to do more
For the most part, these comments do not apply to the French entries,
whose syntax and overall accuracy was on average much better than those
of the English entries.
Demosthenes, Against Meidias 48-50
Examiner: Robert Todd, University of British Columbia
• First prize: Catherine Émond, Université de Montréal
• Second prize: Zoe Misiewicz, University of Toronto
• Third prize: Jane Burkowski, Queen's University
• Honourable Mention: Ben Addis, University of British Columbia
There were 29 scripts (28 English; 1 French). The passage was
challenging, and while the long blurb ensured that its general thread was
maintained, even the winners had problems with vocabulary: e.g.,
a)ndra/poda, guessable as a synonym for the earlier dou=loi; and the
figurative sense of dieci/wn, widely rendered as a verb of motion. The
syntax proved an obstacle in places, especially the correlated o(/swn and
tou/tous, a minefield since the pronoun did not precede the relative.
Minucius Felix, Octavius 25.1-7
Examiner: James Rives, York University
• 1st Prize: Anthony Laughrane, University of British Columbia
• 2nd Prize: Kyle Gervais, Queen's University
• 3rd Prize: Jane Burkowski, Queen's University
• Honourable Mention: Tristan Thomas William Sharp, University of
From: John Porter
I've finally made time to go through the Senior Latin sight
translations. This proved to be a very interesting exercise, not least in
revealing how little sense I have of what Latin vocabulary good
university students are likely to know! For example, the verb polleo,
occurs in the first sentence, in an easily recognizable form; I
thought nothing of it, but only a tiny fraction of the entrants knew it.
It was the vocabulary that I misjudged more than the grammar; with the
latter, people largely had trouble in the places where I expected them to
have trouble. But my impression is that what gave people the most trouble
was the rhetorical structuring of many sentences, which was in a broadly
Ciceronian vein: thus many did not pick up on parallel constructions and
antitheses, and as a result went astray trying to decode the syntax.
Overall, I thought students made a good showing. Of the 68 entries, maybe
two-thirds managed to get through most of the passage and make at least
some sense out of most of it. About 18 had a more or less decent grasp of
the whole passage. This I thought was pretty good for a somewhat
elaborate (rhetorically if not syntactically) passage from an author of
whom most of them had probably never even heard. But in the end, only six
or eight required close attention.
It was not always easy to make distinctions among this group. The
first-place entry was notably the best, but the next three were very
close in quality, and it was by no means obvious how to rank them.
Lastly, I should note that all the entries were in English; none at all
in French, which is regrettable.
I would like to thank all of the examiners for the time and energy that
they have put into this year's competitions, and for their excellent
The list of winners has been posted on the CAC WWW site
), as has a list of this year's
passages (with links to pdf versions of the examination papers).
University of Saskatchewan
The Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies programme at the
University of Saskatchewan is pleased to announce a conference on
"Sixteenth-Century Commentary" to be held in Saskatoon on May 24-25,
The Renaissance recovery of classical texts; the development of printing
and the spread of literacy; exploration, trade, colonization, and
increasingly conspicuous consumption; the Reformation return to the
sources of Christianity; the critique of authority engendered by
religious controversy and the beginnings of science — these are among the
factors that made commentary on authoritative texts a dynamic genre in
the rapidly changing sixteenth century.
Topics for 20-minute papers or 90-minute panels may include (but are not
limited to) changing definitions and types of commentary, development and
format of the printed commentary, commentary as a vehicle of controversy,
issues of attribution and authority, and the sixteenth century in the
history of commentary from its ancient beginnings to the present.
Papers may be given in English or French. Proposals of 200-300 words for
papers or of 500-750 words for panels should be submitted by August 15,
either through the CMRS web site,
>, or by mail to "Sixteenth-Century
Commentary" Committee, CMRS/Department of History, 9 Campus Drive,
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A5, Canada.
Next regular issue 2006 07 15
Send submissions to <email@example.com>