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Department for General Assembly and Conference Management

Chinese Translation Service

Chinese, which has some 1.6 billion users, is one of only two non-Indo-European United Nations official languages and the only one that uses logograms. It is also the only non-alphabet language among the six official languages of the United Nations.

The Chinese Translation Service is primarily tasked with translating United Nations’ parliamentary documents from English and other official languages into Chinese. In the past two decades, the Service has evolved significantly and has taken the lead and made great advances in the use of information technology for translation. Calligraphers and mammoth typewriters with complex 4,000-character keyboards have become a thing of the past. Translators and text-processors now use various electronic tools for their trade. Most outputs are for the immediate use of delegates, but their importance goes far beyond the conference room. Chinese translations of major documents such as conventions and treaties prepared by the Service are often cited by the media, quoted in statements and incorporated into legislation. Other important documents such as the recently adopted “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” by the world leaders also helped to raise public awareness of the important role and work of the United Nations. Nowadays, these and other documents are widely available online, reaching a vast audience.

The Chinese Translation Service has a cadre of sterling professional translation practitioners who are selected through highly competitive language examinations, and text-processing staff. The daily routine of the Service’s translators consists of a constant intellectual effort to transform complex combinations of words, expressions and ideas from one richly endowed language based on alphabets into one that is equally well endowed but based on an ancient logographic system of writing. The intellectual activity involved in translation is not without frustration, but neither is it devoid of sparks of excitement, especially when an ingenious rendition of an extremely difficult expression is superbly engineered. In a world that is in constant flux, the staff is faced with many new challenges: higher demand from clients in terms quality, quantity and timeliness; greater need of interaction among clients, the staff, different duty stations and wider audience; and fast-paced technological development.

Whatever challenges they encounter, translators, revisers, editors, terminologists, text-processors and other support staff always keep one thing in mind, that is, to make the utmost efforts to serve our clients with quality outputs. While embracing all the possibilities offered by advances in technology, the staff of the Service rely on their own intellect and hard work, both individual and collective, working as a team, to accomplish the mandate and meet the clients’ requirements and expectations.


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