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Interview with Elena Shlyapnikova

Questions to Elena Shlyapnikova

Freelance translator and interpreter

Barcelona, Spain

Translating texts is something that requires a lot of patience. We have interviewed Elena Shlyapnikova, of Russian origin and resident in Barcelona, to find out more about her profession.

1. Elena, please tell us: how did you decide be a translator?

The truth is that I have always liked foreign languages, since I was little. In primary school, when I was only 6 years old, I started to learn German and German culture. Later, in high school and during my first university career, one of my favorite subjects was English and its application in the tourism sector. By then my interest in other languages and cultures had already emerged, which over time became my profession and my interest in linguistics in general.

2. What is the most difficult in your profession?
In general, I can say that being a translator is a really fascinating job, but also demanding, since it requires a lot of concentration and attention to detail. It is often necessary to spend several hours researching a particular topic in order to find the right term or expression in the target language.

3. If you were not a translator,what profession would you choose?
I would probably be a historian, because I really like history and reading about important dates, people and events from the past. In fact, I believe that linguistics and history are closely related to each other, since language reflects the reality experienced by the society of a particular language at a given time. In addition, the social, economic or any other changes experienced by said community will necessarily be recorded in the language.

4. Translate the texts required a lot of patience and a lot of attention. How do you prefer to rest?
Yes, concentration and attention to detail are the main pillars of my work. When I feel that I need to rest and distract myself, I like to go for a walk in a park or near the sea or, if I have more time, I even go hiking in one of the natural parks of Catalonia. Luckily, we have several easily accessible from Barcelona. I love being in contact with nature, breathing fresh air and enjoying the views. Listening to quiet music also relaxes me.

5. What advice can you give to people who are looking for their passion?
Follow your sixth sense/instinct 🙂 Although it seems trivial, it is the most successful. Somehow, our intuition knows what we are passionate about and what makes us happy. However, many times we do not listen to it or ignore it because of our fears and insecurities, although I am sure that it is worth overcoming them and taking risks. My motto is that it is better to try something and regret it than to regret doing nothing.

6. Tell us, please, your three daily habits without which you could not survive.
I couldn't survive without reading, walking or garlic prawns 🙂

7. Without a doubt, you are a good translator. Which are the keys to your profession?
Thank you very much. Well, in my opinion the key to success in any profession is to be truly in love with your craft. In other words, if you love your job, you do it in the best possible way, putting everything on your side so that the result is optimal. In addition, another key factor is to enjoy working and have fun; this greatly helps relieve any stress and pressure that may be present. Finally, we must not forget to continue learning and expanding our knowledge so as not to be left behind and continue to advance both professionally and personally.

8. What advice would you give to people who are going to live in another country without knowing a single word of the language spoken there? Can you give some tips to learn a new language quickly and easily?
The truth is that first I would advise you to think about it very well and, at least, start learning the necessary language while still in your country of origin. Moving to another country is difficult in itself, and it is even more difficult if one does not speak the language, as life becomes considerably more complicated and the integration process much more problematic, which brings additional stress. Language is not only a means of communication, but a part of the culture, the mentality and the society in which it is intended to live. If one chooses a new home, one must certainly learn their language in order to feel comfortable and develop personally and professionally; Ultimately, that's the goal. Apart from the language, I also recommend reading about the customs and traditions of the host country, the locals will appreciate it.

According to my personal experience, to learn a language it is especially important to be in the environment where this particular language is spoken, that is, to immerse yourself in linguistic immersion. In this way, learning will take place both actively and passively by listening to how native speakers use their language in different situations. Another piece of advice would be not to be afraid of making mistakes when speaking; It seems like an insignificant detail, but it is what makes the difference. Keep in mind that no one is born knowing. Even native speakers sometimes make mistakes and that's a human thing, especially during the learning process. Without a doubt, it is important to practice what you have learned, since, as is known, practice makes perfect.

Also, do not forget the usual techniques to master a language, which may seem boring but are very effective: reading texts, listening to the news, doing grammar exercises, etc. Doing all this together always gives good results.

9. What differences are there between Spain and Russia in the business world?
Actually there are quite a few and most of them are rooted in the mentality and in the way of living. As the main difference, I would point out that the majority of the Spanish businessman is calm and prefers to conduct his business slowly and calmly, while the Russian businessman is often in a hurry, nervous and wants everything “for yesterday”. These characteristics are a reflection of the reality lived by each one. Another important aspect that foreigners find difficult to get used to is the famous Spanish “mañana”. I mean, if they promise to call you tomorrow, that means they'll call you someday if they do, which is never entirely clear. That is something unthinkable in Russian culture, where there are always concrete deadlines and “tomorrow” means tomorrow. When these two realities collide, it is important to find a middle ground that satisfies both parties so that it is possible to work together. Normally, the two of them have to adapt a bit for the good of the joint project.

10. Tell us, please, what inspires you?
A job well done, a long trip to a new country, a dreamlike landscape...

11. What is your opinion about the digitization era in which we live? How does it affect your business?
Personally, I believe that we are living in a time of change and many companies are going to go digital, that is, they will start to take their businesses partially or totally online, or even change their business model. Today there are many possibilities, as technology develops at a rapid pace and new applications, services and platforms are constantly coming onto the market. Some companies are already fully digital and operate 100 % remotely, and there are more and more. This shows us that, for example, it is not necessary to have a physical location to open your own company, which opens up numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs.

In my case, technology is, without a doubt, a great ally, since, thanks to new advances, it can be translated from almost anywhere on the planet. It can be said that in the last decade the translation profession has become global and has gone beyond the borders of countries precisely as a result of the technological development that has given us so much mobility in the literal and figurative sense. I believe that this trend is going to increase, because, for example, remote or telephone interpreting services are increasingly requested by clients and many interpreters have to adapt to the new reality.

12. The best lesson life has given you.
Do not take anything for granted, especially if we take into account the situation we are experiencing today. Everything can change overnight and you have to know how to adapt to new circumstances to move forward. Y have faith in yourself, that is something of the utmost importance.

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