A Prize for Any Language But One

Written by Specimen


About the Prize

Language is unique in that it offers us a way of holding more than one identity, one credo, one country at the same time.

In the year of Brexit, “To Speak England in Different Languages” celebrated the linguistic and cultural mixes and multiplicities that inhabit the UK by inviting those who speak more than one language to make creative use of each language, and of the movements between them.

Authors were asked to submit texts of any genre (narrative, essay, poetry, drama, or a mix of them) written in any language but English, along with their own rendition into English, ranging from straightforward translations of the original to autonomous texts resulting from the free interplay between the two languages.

Our panel of multilingual experts and jurors Elena Botchorichvili, Matteo Campagnoli, Xiaolu Guo, Erica Hesketh, André Naffis-Sahely, and Shadi Rohana, read and discussed entries in Arabic, Korean, Basque, Finnish, Kernewek, Filipino, Zaghawa, and other 22 languages, to bring you their five best.

Winning Entries

S., Tougouy Soko – Together – Amma Gina
SJ Kim, 엄마 없는 집에/Home Without Mom

Honorable Mentions

Antonietta Bocci, Anfibia/The Amphibian
Beatriz Chivite Ezkieta, Poesia eta phrasal verbs/Poetry and phrasal verbs
Carla Montemayor, Basag/Broken

Praise for the Winning Entries

SJ Kim’s 엄마 없는 집에/Home Without Mom

엄마 없는 집에/Home Without Mom is a quiet and powerful diptych, whereby an impressionistic poem written in Korean has been rendered into a narrative prose monologue in English. The two texts are not only “extensions of one another,” as the author writes: through the imagined words of the author’s mother, the English prose offers a late and retrospective glossa, a commentary on the Korean verse, in which the passing of time and the experience of migration speak to things left unsaid between child, mother, and father. 엄마 없는 집에 – Home Without Mom achieves what the best poems do in all languages: occupying spaces once filled with silence.

S.’ Tougouy Soko – Together – Amma Gina

S.’ mini-epic poem of deracination, migration, and integration, is a babelesque polyphony composed in five languages, namely English, French, Chadian and Modern Standard Arabic, Zaghawa, and Gourane. Not only is it an elegy for “those who never had the chance to leave,” as the author writes, it is also a testament to the power that being multilingual confers on the powerless, who are often left feeling “hungry for translation of the world’s news”. Continuously translating itself back and forth as it progresses, this poem links languages together like a caravan traversing the human unknown, allowing the author to produce a sharp portrait of a woman in transit in a globalized world.


The prize was promoted by “Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations” in collaboration with English PEN, Poetry Translation Centre, Poetry London, Babel Festival, and was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Published May 26, 2022
© Specimen 2022


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