Following the work of the editors and of the terminologists and reference clerks, documents are ready for translation – the next link in the documentation chain. The Translation Services translate all official United Nations documents, meeting records and correspondence at Headquarters from and into Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Some official documents are also translated into German. The English, French, Russian, and Spanish Translation Services also prepare the summary records of meetings of intergovernmental bodies, which give an account of the proceedings of the meeting, including statements made and action taken.
All United Nations translators are required to have a perfect command of their first language and an excellent knowledge of at least two other official languages. They must also be able to write in a clean, clear and perfectly grammatical style in their first language. Since many readers of United Nations documents, in particular the representatives of the 193 Member States, will be working in a language other than their own, the goal of the Services is to produce documents that are readily comprehensible to all into whose hands they fall. It also needs to be mentioned that, although texts are generally translated for immediate use, they remain long after to serve as historic records. The results of the work of the United Nations translators are a lasting legacy of the work of the Organization.
The United Nations Translation Services use many modern technological tools in support of their work, such as terminological databases, document repositories with full-text search capabilities, bitext alignment tools, translation memory managers, and voice-recognition software. They actively track new developments in promising fields such as machine translation. However, translation at the level required at the United Nations remains a fundamentally intellectual endeavour.
United Nations translators may be posted in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, and in UN regional commissions in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, and Santiago depending on their language combination.