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Department for General Assembly and Conference Management


Following the work of the editors, 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 Translation and Editorial Service also prepares the summary records of meetings of intergovernmental bodies, which give an account of the proceedings of the meeting, including statements made and action taken. Once drafted, these records are translated into all the other official languages.

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, including the eLUNa computer-assisted translation tool and its integrated machine translation component, TAPTA4UN. However, translation at the level required at the United Nations remains a fundamentally intellectual endeavour that requires high levels of linguistic expertise and substantive knowledge.

United Nations translators may be posted in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, and in United Nations regional commissions in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, and Santiago, depending on their language combination.

Because the translation and text-processing workload of the Department exceeds the capacity of staff at Headquarters and other duty stations, up to 25% of the work is done by over 220 outside individual translators, 6 translation companies and more than 60 text-processors on a contractual basis. The responsibility for outsourcing that work, which may involve parliamentary documentation, publications and legal agreements, among other types of texts, is in the hands of the relevant translation service. Each service performs quality control on all work done by contractors to ensure it meets the high standards for United Nations documentation.


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