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Speaking your language for 85 years

Ventseslav Nikolov: Radio Bulgaria in Spanish has been the best time of my life

In the year in which Radio Bulgaria celebrates its 85th anniversary we present some of the veterans of its foreign-language services, trailblazers in the BNR’s programmes targeted at audiences abroad. Without doubt many of them had to face the challenges of a profession they had to learn on the fly, and the only barometer they had for their work was the feedback from listeners.

“There was so much to learn in this wonderful profession. Such an awful lot! And when I had a certain amount of experience as a translator and announcer came the interviews, commentaries, the coverage.” With these words Ventseslav Nikolov, senior editor, translator and announcer at Radio Bulgaria’s Spanish-language service begins his story. A universally acknowledged authority in the intricacies of the language and the history of the two nations, in 1985 Ventseslav Nikolov wrote a book entitled: “100 Spaniards about Bulgaria’s past” in which he presents multiple comments and references to the history of the Bulgarian people written by Spanish authors through the ages. He is also author (and translator into Spanish) of the text of a bilingual album “Bulgarians and Spaniards”, as well as of a number of articles about Bulgarian-Spanish relations, of two dictionaries, and translator of many books, and in 1998 was awarded a high Spanish distinction – the Order of Civil Merit, conferred by King Juan Carlos I for his contribution to the consolidation of the ties between the nations of Spain and Bulgaria. He is holder of a Union of Bulgarian Translators award for lifetime achievement as a translator of fiction.

Here is what Venteslav Nikolov says about his first steps in professional translation:

“Let me tell you a story from almost 60 years ago. In 1964 I was a third-year student of Spanish philology at Sofia University. I was one of 20 or so Bulgarian students, pioneers in university Spanish studies in Bulgaria. On that day so many years ago we were having our first practical Spanish class. When the lecturer came in, the unforgettable Emilia Tzenkova, two men came in with her. They took a seat at the back of the room and listened very carefully to the answers we were giving. A few days later she called me and by Elba Philipova (who also worked for the Spanish language service for many years) to tell us that the two men were Nisim Benbasat, editor-in-chief of the Spanish service and Nikola Ivanov deputy editor-in-chief. She told us that they had invited us to work for the Spanish service as translators and announcers. It was such an honour – we were just in our third year and all of a sudden – we were translators at the Bulgarian National Radio! And so, we started straight away.”

What kind of relationship did the listeners have with the members of the Spanish language section?

Spanish section, 2003. Sitting from the left: Lyudmila Petrakieva, Ventseslav Nikolov, Katya Dimanova; standing – Evelina Savova, Maria Pachkova, Mihail Mihaylov, Anna Georgieva and Rayna Petkova

Many listeners knew us by name and treated us practically as members of the family,” Ventseslav remembers.

Ventseslav Nikolov continued as contributor at the Spanish service even after he started teaching Spanish at Sofia University. Some of his students also joined Radio Bulgaria’s Spanish service and asserted themselves as top experts in the field. Working here takes hard work and vast knowledge but that is something that only makes the team stronger.

Ventseslav says that the work was fascinating and that thanks to this work he fell in love with radio, with the microphone, with his contact with all the open-hearted people who wanted to know more and more about Bulgaria.

“Let me end by saying that the germ of love of radio had gotten under my skin and has stayed there, because after spending 12 years as a journalist and a teacher of the Bulgarian language in Cuba and Mexico I came back to Radio Bulgaria. What is more I stayed on after my retirement in the 2000s. This half a century I spent at Radio Bulgaria will always live in my heart and my mind as the best time of my long life. I very much hope that the young people now working here will feel the sameas they pick up the baton from us.”

Photos: Museum of Radio History in Bulgaria “Prof. Dr. Veselin Dimitrov”

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