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English at the UN

Verbatim Reporters

When a statement is given in English, the English Verbatim Reporting Section edits it to ensure correct grammar, usage, terminology and style, while retaining the speaker's individual voice and, of course, without diluting or altering the statement's substantive content. Verbatim reporters track down quotations and check facts, names, dates, document symbols, references to other meetings, etc,. and insert citations, as appropriate.

When a statement is given in another language, reporters and revisers check the simultaneous interpretation against the original, correcting and retranslating as necessary to bring the English into conformity with the source language.

English is the de facto lead language of the Verbatim Reporting Service, and the work of the English Section provides the basis for that of the other five language sections.

English is the "common denominator"

Jean Gazarian
About Jean Gazarian

"English is a beautiful language – it’s very rich – but speaking from the UN-ese point of view, it is a very useful language, I would say. For practical purposes, English is unique. Because we have to admit that in spite of the beauty of all the other languages, the English language is now spoken by a majority of delegates at the UN. So it is the common denominator. But that does not diminish in any way my love for the other languages and for the need of using whenever possible other languages that bring their various contributions to the work of the UN – because language there would be no understanding in the world – and we need understanding. "    

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The Verbatim Reporting Service produces, in all six official languages, records of the meetings of the Assembly, the Security Council and other bodies. As official records, they are meant to answer the following questions: “Who spoke at the meeting?” “What exactly was said?” and “What was finally decided?” A verbatim record serves as the edited transcript of the proceedings, and each language version contains the statements delivered in that language plus translations of speeches given in the other languages. The scope of the work of the Service is indicated by the number of meetings for which it is required to produce records: in 2009, the number was 392; in 2010, it was 411.

Whereas in the past it was a necessary for verbatim reporters to be present at all meetings for which they produced records, they are now able to work from digital sound recordings of meetings transmitted electronically to their work-stations. This also allows off-site work.

Combining the skills of transcription, translation and editing, verbatim reporters ensure the substantive accuracy of all statements given at a meeting, while maintaining a uniformly high standard of style. In accordance with prescribed models for parliamentary procedures, they employ standardized formulas when dealing with procedural matters and the conduct of voting.

Just like the interpreters, the verbatim reporters must be thoroughly up to date on all matters discussed in meetings of intergovernmental bodies, which often requires extensive research in those different areas. Their work represents the permanent, historic record – in written form – of all oral statements that were made at the meeting.