It’s time for another postcard on the Diaries!
You may recall that last fall I decided to add a bit of colour and variety to my blog by soliciting “postcards” from fellow interpreters from around the world. The first postcard I received gave readers an up-close look at the interpreting market in Toronto, Canada. Today, I’ll be sharing a postcard from Caracas, Venezuela.
The members of Avinc, the Venezuelan Association of Conference Interpreters, got together to draft some replies to my questions about the life of a conference interpreter in Venezuela. My thanks to Isabel Pieretti -Restrepo, María Pereda, Loló Gil, Danute Rosales, Raquel Yaker, Celina Romero and Angélica Márquez for all their help, and to Loló Gil for this lovely photo of Caracas!
You’re sending this postcard from Caracas. Tell me briefly about this place.
I am sending this postcard from Caracas, Venezuela, South America. The city is in a valley flanked by our magnificent Cerro El Avila – a mountain that silently watches the busy city life.
Describe for me a typical week in the working life of Avinc’s members.
Avinc groups 35 conference interpreters and among our members we also have teachers, translators, and liaison interpreters. We feel very proud to count among our members some of the first Venezuelan interpreters, people who have over 40 years of experience and who are still very active.
The majority of work in Venezuela is freelance. As in many other countries, conference activity ebbs and flows during the year. Also, some sectors concentrate their meetings and conferences in a certain season. The typical interpreting job begins with a call from a direct client or maybe a sound company for a specific event. The call might come months in advance or the day before. Usually you are given the name of the conference and, sometimes, the name of the speaker. The majority of events take place in local hotels, and more recently, in clients’ offices, although it is not rare to be asked to go to a plant or some other industrial facility. Week-long conferences are not as frequent as they used to be and the majority of jobs are one or two days long.
What opportunities would you say exist for conference interpreters in Venezuela?
Currently, our economy is not doing very well and there are not as many job opportunities as there used to be. Also, the quality of Venezuelan interpreters is very high and you have to prove yourself over and over again.
What would you tell a new conference interpreter on the scene to look out for?
Our advice to anyone who wants to be a conference interpreter in Venezuela is to study and prepare and always try to strive for excellence.
What are the main languages used on this market?
English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Currently, some jobs require Chinese, Arab, Russian, and Persian (Farsi), but interpreters in these languages have to be brought in from other countries.
Who are the main institutional / private market employers? Is Venezuela a conference destination?
The main institutional market is PDVSA (our National oil company), as well as other governmental institutions. SELA, OAS, and some UN organizations and specialized agencies also hold meetings and conferences in the country. The private market includes companies, medical associations, universities, etc.
Venezuela used to be a conference destination due to its privileged geographic situation. However, currently, things have slowed down.
What sort of training opportunities exist in Venezuela for language specialists? Are there established interpreting schools? Where will conference interpreters working in Venezuela have trained? Where do graduates of the schools go?
The Central University of Venezuela (UCV) offers a degree in interpreting and translation, which begins with language teaching. Students must choose a combination of two foreign languages from English, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. Many of Avinc’s members were trained in the Central University and are excellent interpreters. Private institutions offering interpreting no longer exist owing to different market and commercial reasons. The Metropolitan University (in Caracas), The Arturo Michelena University (in Valencia), and the Andean University (in Mérida) offer translation courses, as well. The UCV has graduated over 300 professionals in the last 30 years of existence, most of which are currently active in the country and even in the United States, Canada and countries of the European Union. Many others have moved on to undertake managerial positions, teaching, and editorial activities.
What features do you think make Venezuela unique as an interpreting market? Are you familiar with any other markets that you could compare Venezuela with?
Our market is very small and shrinking, unlike that of neighboring countries, which are booming. We have no unique feature, and the topics of conferences are extremely varied.
How about AIIC or other interpreter associations? Is there much association activity in Venezuela?
Avinc is modeled after AIIC and TAALS. Many of our members also belong to these associations. Avinc was created to protect its members from unethical working conditions and is considered the benchmark for good practices in Venezuela. Our association organizes general interest talks and events for its members and holds regular meetings along the year. Currently, our President is Kirsten Runge, the Vice-President is Raquel Yaker, and the Secretary is María Pereda.
Venezuela is part of AIIC’s South American Region. Eleven of our members are also AIIC members. Two of our colleagues, Angélica Márquez and Martha Briceño, held the positions of AIIC South America’s Regional Bureau Council Member and Regional Secretary, respectively in 2008. In Venezuela, AIIC members’ meetings are usually organized together with Colombia and Ecuador.