Planet Venus Women: Elena Shlyapnikova

Meet Elena Shlyapnikova!

We spoke to the freelancing translator and interpretor who gave us a lot of insight about what the life in the exciting translation industry is like.

Read her full interview below!

Who are you?

I am Elena Shlyapnikova and I am Russian. I now live in Barcelona for almost 15 years and I work as a translator from Spanish, Catalan and English into my native language [Russian].

I like living in Barcelona, it’s the best city in the world! It’s very multicultural and international which is good for us, expats. There are a lot of opportunities for studying, working, and networking. And, of course, its social, cultural and night life are just amazing, you can find here everything you might be looking for. I have also lived in Germany and Ireland but still I find Barcelona the best place!

Describe yourself with 3 words

Curious, perfectionist, multicultural/an international person.

What do you do?

I am a translator & interpreter. A lot of people don’t know that the two are different professions. Translator means that you translate a written text, while interpreter means that you work orally. There are, of course, also different kinds of interpretation. It can be simultaneous or consecutive. I mostly work as a translator but I also do consecutive interpreting here in Barcelona or in other towns of Catalunya.

Moreover, I have different areas of expertise: legal and administrative are the most important ones. As a translator, I have worked for the agriculture or tourism sector, real estate agencies, notaries, industry, and others. My work is also focused on helping small businesses in Catalonia and Spain to connect with Russian ones and to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

I prefer consecutive interpretation because normally it is conducted in small groups. I serve as a bridge between two cultures – Russian to Spanish and Catalan.

The Slavic world where I come from is very different from the South of Europe. We are used to doing business in a different way than here, which is extremely important when you want to connect two businesses from different cultures.

Even though we are similar as people, there are important differences that play an important role in successful communication, especially in the business world. And they should be taken into account.

In general, I can say that translation is a challenging yet very interesting job. You will hardly work with the same text twice. As I’m a perfectionist, I really enjoy looking for the perfect word or expression. I can spend days reading about one topic in particular in order for me to understand it well enough and be able to translate it in the most understandable way. It’s very exciting!

I work as a freelancer and I collaborate with translation agencies from different parts of Spain, because nowadays we dispose of excellent possibilities to work remotely from home even if your clients are based in a distant country. In case of interpretation, the clients are based in Catalonia.

I am also a member of the Professional Association of Translators and Interpreters of Catalunya. I find it very useful because we are all professionals and you get to know your fellow translators; we organize many activities as seminars, talks, conferences, celebrations, etc. It is important to me because for many of us who work from home, it can get a bit boring because we don’t have ‘colleagues’ in the literal sense. This way we can socialize and network. Thanks to this association, I can always recommend a colleague with a linguistic combination that I don’t offer.

What do you aspire to do?

I would like to work for the European Commission or the European Council. Unfortunately, it is very difficult because Russian is not an official language of the Union. Still, maybe I can do something, such as working in some European institution, as for example, in a local representation of it here in Catalunya.

I would like to continue being this connection between the two worlds – the Russian and Catalan/Spanish one.

Biggest struggle(s) as a freelancer?

Finding direct clients. Most companies prefer to contract a translation agency who have their in-house translators or they hire freelancers. This way as translators we are at a disadvantage, because we receive much less than what we should. Besides, working for the agency, I would need to wait for the long chain to communicate or ask anything about the translation project. And direct clients are difficult to find because they prefer to contract these agencies because there are less interactions involved.

Actually, in the present translation industry there are two big agencies which concentrate a lot of the work – in a way they monopolize the market, not a good situation for individual players.

How have you been coping with the pandemic?

It’s not that difficult for me to stay home so many days because I am used to it. Yet, I am a very sociable and active person, I really like hiking and walking on the beach but now we have to wait… and it’s getting quite difficult. I try to stay positive, however! Practicing yoga and other different kinds of fitness, even at home, help me in staying active, calm and healthy. Other activities, like reading, cooking and learning Finnish, also contribute to reducing stress and negative thoughts. And now, fortunately, we have numerous virtual opportunities to connect with each other to not feel lonely.

Personally, I think that a lot of businesses will go online from now on thanks to the new functionalities that are presented these days. We’re witnessing really exciting changes.

How do you feel about the Planet Venus community?

I went to a Coffee Morning in February. It was very welcoming and nice! I’ve participated in some other networking before because meeting new people and being proactive is a part of my freelance life. What I liked in Planet Venus is that it was different from the previous networking events I’ve been to; it was very well organized. There are activities and small ice-breakers which make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. I couldn’t participate in March but I am excited to join upcoming events!

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