A little bit of the translation and interpretation industry in Venezuela

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This brief article aims at outlining to New York’s translators the experience of a Venezuelan remarkable professional and business owner, convinced of the key role of high quality translators in multicultural communication.


Maria Josefina Quijada Aponte is a Venezuelan Spanish, English, French translator and interpreter. She graduated at the Universidad Central de Venezuela on Modern Languages and pursued high level studies on Translation and Interpretation at the School of Interpreters and Translators of Paris (ESIT) and has a master´s degree in International Relations. She started to work as a professional interpreter and translator in 1986 when she founded ENLACE SERVICIOS LINGUISTICOS PROFESIONALES, a company that offers comprehensive translation and interpretation services.

In Venezuela, because of the reduced size of the market, it is difficult to specialize; however, the oil sector, the most important industry in the country, certainly employs much of the available interpreters, due to the intensive training programs of the oil industry, largely dictated by instructors who use English as the language of communication.

Claudia Layas (CL): Maria, what motivated you to found Enlace?

Maria Quijada (MQ): I was motivated by the desire to be financially independent and the realization that there was the need in the country for high quality and comprehensive translation services.

CL: What do you consider as your main challenges as a business woman in the Venezuelan translation industry?

MQ: The challenges in the translation industry do not differ from those in other business areas: permanent innovation, attention to the clients’ needs and never compromise on quality. Additionally, the market for translation and interpretation in Venezuela is not very large, so we all compete for the same clients, mainly the oil industry, to some extent medical congresses, the public sector and some technological areas such as computer industry.
Fortunately, the country has a training school for interpreters and translators at the university level that has been a remarkable seedbed of professionals, whose integrity and discipline have allowed them to overcome obstacles and outshine both inside and outside the country.
About the access to technology, in the early years of my career it definitely represented a challenge. I remember that back then computers began to be sold, cell phones were not as ubiquitous as today and fax machines were almost magical. Nowadays, with the available technology, access to information is no longer a problem.

CL: When you offer interpretation services for international conferences in Venezuela, do you follow any certification standards or internationally agreed guidelines?

MQ: Of course, although sometimes the strict compliance with some of these international rules is impossible. For example, while in international organizations it is mandatory that interpreters work into their native language, the reality is that, to work in our market, you have to translate in both directions. Otherwise, nobody would hire you.

CL: Translating in Latin America, what do you think is the main feature of Venezuelan Spanish?

MQ: Besides the regional peculiarities or the use of idiosyncratic locutions, I think that the communication in Latin America is not at all impeded by localisms. The professional translator learns to overcome these obstacles through research. The Spanish language of Venezuela, like in other countries in the region, has also its local nuances but I think it lacks some of the richness observed in other countries of the region with a longer tradition of production and reading of books.

CL: Your Company has accompanied many intergovernmental meetings. How would you describe your feelings after your team is able to recreate discussions towards the Latin America and the Caribbean union? Is it rewarding? Do you think it could be possible without translators and interpreters contribution?

MQ: It is not possible to have a successful multilingual meeting without high quality interpreters and translators. But besides the mere professional perspective, I have been fortunate enough to practice my profession at the highest political level and at a landmark moment for Latin America and the Caribbean, where our services have been instrumental in fostering dialogue to achieve the Bolivarian dream of uniting and integrating our peoples, not only in the commercial field but socially and spiritually. I can say it has been an additional source of pride and satisfaction for me.

CL: You work as High Level Officials interpreter, including Heads of State. What is the main skill do you think is needed for this job?

MQ: Command of the languages, constant pursuit of knowledge and permanent self-update. It is also important to observe discretion and respect for the rules of the protocol.

CL: You were President Hugo Chavez’s interpreter. Do you have any special memory of him regarding interpretation?

MQ: He was an exceptional speaker, not only by the quality of his ideas, which ring true today more than ever, but by the consistency and clarity of thought, which is a treasure for any interpreter. Although the length of his speeches constituted sometimes a challenge to the endurance of any professional, he was extremely respectful of the work of the interpreter and very attentive to his/her requirements. He was mindful of the importance of translation in international events so was always careful to ensure the service to his foreign language speaking guests.

About the author: Claudia Layas is a Venezuelan English to Spanish translator who recently joined the NYCT. She has devoted her career to international negotiations and has contributed with translations mainly in Latin America. For any comments about this article please contact in twitter: @claulayas

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