What attracted you to become a language professional at the United Nations?
Love of languages in general is what guided me to choose translation as a career. Working in my favourite domain, within the biggest international organization, was a golden opportunity at that time because of the expertise that one can acquire from such an international context, where all subjects are dealt with and where people from all over the world come to meet and deliberate on world issues.
How do you find working for the United Nations different from your previous jobs?
Before joining the United Nations, I worked as a freelance translator. I used to manage my projects, work tools and deadlines. However, working for the United Nations is completely different from what I had done before. Within the Organization, I am part of a big team that constitutes the backbone of multilingualism. For a newly-recruited translator, working for the Organization is a new journey that starts with understanding the various processes that United Nations documents go through, learning the jargon and terminology, and acquiring the translation skills necessary to handle the specificities of United Nations documents and be an effective member of the team.
What do you consider to be the key traits of a good translator?
A good translator/reviser is one who strives to preserve the essential traits of the translated document through faithfulness to the original text, integrity, consistency, accuracy and completeness.
What part of your job do you consider the most interesting? Why?
For me, continuous learning is the most interesting part of a translator’s work. Translation is, in fact, a daily enrichment of knowledge that goes beyond the linguistic gain in terms of terminology and style to encompass all subject matters considered in United Nations documents. Through their work, translators at the United Nations have a first-hand knowledge of international current affairs, world politics and legal matters, as well as opportunities to learn about practically all areas ranging from issues of everyday life to the most global social, economic, cultural and scientific issues.
What challenges do you face in your daily work and how do you handle them?
The challenges in my daily work are basically related to workload and tight deadlines. These have increased over time compared to a few years ago. But thanks to good organization and the improvement in work tools, these challenges are often overcome. There are also challenges related to some very specialized documents or poorly written documents, and these are handled differently, but with professionalism, on a case-by-case basis for the best possible outcome.
How often do you come across words or phrases that you are unfamiliar with?
New and unfamiliar words or phrases are the bread and butter of the translator’s work and constitute a large part of their continuous learning process. Depending on the subject-matter of the document, they may constitute the most time-consuming part of some translation jobs.
How does your work fit into the larger framework of the United Nations?
I think translators play an important role in advancing the goals of the United Nations in general. They are among the pillars of communication and multilingualism in the Organization.
What is the most memorable story about your work?
Working on some of the most important United Nations documents is among the most memorable moments in my work. Hearing in the news about this General Assembly or Security Council resolution or that outcome document of a United Nations conference on which I have worked, in whole or in part, is memorable in itself because it reminds me of my contribution to the dissemination of some records that have global significance.
Do you have any advice for budding language professionals? Any tips on how to prepare for the competitive examinations for language positions?
For budding translators:
- Read a lot to build and improve your writing style.
- Consult often with colleagues and counterparts with more experience.
- Choose a specialization and build your skills in it.
- Embrace and keep abreast of new developments in translation technology.
To prepare for the competitive examinations:
- Learn about United Nations bodies and documents.
- Do an internship within the relevant translation service if possible.