What attracted you to become a language professional at the United Nations?
Before joining the United Nations two years ago, I had already worked in the translation industry for more than a decade. I have always enjoyed my job, but the idea of serving an organization with such high values was particularly appealing to me.
How do you find working for the United Nations different from your previous jobs?
Translation invariably involves the same essential task: conveying a message from one language (source) to another (target). But there are certain characteristics in the context of the United Nations that make our job pretty unique. For instance, the political nature of many texts requires that translators exercise special care when choosing their words, since nuances and overtones are particularly important and might have a huge impact.
What do you consider as the key traits of a good translator?
In my opinion, a good translator should be able to analyse and to reproduce the source message in the target language, both accurately and organically. Translators analyse the source message to decode it as accurately as possible, considering every possible interpretation and picking the most plausible one. Next, they must encode the original message in the target language in a way that avoids any expressions that sound foreign to the reader and would not convey the message smoothly.
What part of your job do you consider interesting? Why?
The topics and events covered in the texts that we translate are relevant, and we have the opportunity to learn at first hand about the decisions that are adopted on a global scale on those topics.
What challenges do you face in your daily work and how do you handle them?
Sometimes, we work on texts dealing with a cultural or social reality that is relatively unknown outside the country it pertains to. In such cases, it is usually necessary to research the subject thoroughly or ask for help from a colleague with enough expertise or experience in the field.
What do you think about the evolution of technology in your field of work? How has it affected you?
Technology has a very significant impact in my line of work. In recent years, tools have emerged that speed up the translation process (thus improving productivity) and allow for quality checks to avoid certain oversights (thus improving quality). However, we should bear in mind that these tools are just that and cannot replace human translators.
How does your work fit into the larger framework of the United Nations?
Language professionals are the guarantors of multilingualism, a value that is at the very heart of the United Nations. Languages are vehicles for ideas and, ultimately, for collective action. For such action to be global, all stakeholders must be able to understand one another’s positions. It is our job to make sure that this is the case.
Do you have any advice for budding language professionals? Any tips on how to prepare for the competitive examinations for language positions?
I would recommend that they read articles on current issues and events, written in their working languages. They should also try to become familiar with the resources that the United Nations translation services make available to the public. Lastly, I would also strongly advise them to work with their fellow translators and carry out peer reviews when practising, since teamwork leads to more and better solutions.