When she finished high school, Iliana Auverana knew exactly what she wanted to do. “My dream was to become a translator… I wanted to be able to understand all the complexity of languages at the highest levels,” she explains. She also liked travelling and being able to communicate with locals wherever she went. “Languages are tightly linked to cultures, and for me, they open doors to a whole new world”. But some people discouraged her, suggesting she study something more lucrative, like economics (which she studied for one year and didn’t enjoy).
She went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies in her native Venezuela and then relocated to Canada, studied French for one year before completing her Master’s Degree in Political Science at the Université Laval. Next, she earned a Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B.) at the same school before being admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1993.
By age 58, with three degrees and 19 years of experience in law (initially as a lawyer and then as a jurilinguist), Iliana had what was, by all appearances, a successful career. But something was missing. Her desire to study translation has always lingered in the background, and now seemed like a better time than ever to bring it front and centre.
While doing some research online, she discovered McGill’s Graduate Certificate in Legal Translation and thought it would be the perfect way to blend her legal expertise with a passion she couldn’t wait to pursue. The fact that courses were offered in the evenings was perfect since she wouldn’t have to give up work to enrol in the program. Iliana passed the entrance exam and began the program in February 2019. She was committed to making the most out of this course as she travelled from Ottawa to Montreal each week to attend her classes.
Practical Legal Translation Training: Why the Best Way to Learn Is by Doing
For Iliana, the hands-on skills she acquired in the Graduate Certificate in Legal Translation were the highlight of her studies at McGill. “What I liked most about the program was the practical focus of the courses. We translate various types of texts on different subjects and get actionable feedback from instructors that helps us improve,” explains Iliana. But it didn’t just stop there. Iliana felt that her instructors did things to help students learn and grow that she had never experienced at another school. “Normally, university classes require that you write a final exam and provide you with a mark, but you rarely get any feedback to help you learn from your mistakes. In this program, though, our final exams were often on the second last day of class so that we could review our results and learn from our mistakes during the final class. It was great!”
Iliana also noticed how dedicated the professors were in helping students launch their careers. She says “a number of students in the program got jobs right away, even before finishing their certificate.”
An Educational Investment Well Worth the Effort, and the Commute
With three degrees and a long and successful career, Iliana had high standards when considering a new program. “I have studied at multiple universities in international studies, political science, law and even taken courses in writing, social media and management,” she says. “With my background and experience, not any program would do.” However, the long commutes, investment and effort she put in certainly paid off. “For me, McGill was like going to Harvard. I didn’t mind taking two and a half hours to get there. I felt energized each time and the skills I gained have made everything worth it”.
So what’s in store now that Iliana has nearly completed her certificate? “My goal is to one day work translating court decisions,” she says, adding that she would even like to “combine law, translation, and writing all together.”
To others who are interested in earning a Certificate in Legal Translation or furthering their education, Iliana offers some words of encouragement, “Every day, we have to take a step ahead towards our goals; otherwise, we’ll be complaining about our life and have regrets at the end.” For those still unsure about taking the course, she says, “Don’t think too much about how long it’s going to take to finish a degree or certificate. We can spend years saying it will take too long, and we don’t progress. ”