What attracted you to become a language professional at the United Nations?
First of all, I was motivated by the opportunity to work in such a prestigious organization with so many noble goals. I was also impressed with the level of expertise and professionalism of the Russian Translation Service staff, whom I got to know during my internship and was inspired by the chance to work in their team. Moreover, I was attracted by the fact that United Nations translators deal with a variety of subject matters and often with very complicated texts, which was a challenge that I wanted to rise to.
How do you find working for the United Nations different from your previous jobs?
Working at the United Nations is exceptional because here you get to deal with globally important issues that might have a tremendous impact. Knowing you are part of this is an amazing feeling. Speaking about translation in particular, I like that we work with certain databases, tools and systems which help translators use the right terminology and align their work with that of others, such as eLUNa and UNTERM.
What do you consider to be the key traits of a good translator?
I think that, apart from the obvious things, like being hard-working, diligent, professional, etc., a good translator needs to stay curious. What I mean is that having come upon an unknown notion in a text, a translator should never say, “I have no idea what this is, but it doesn’t matter because I know how to translate it”, but be sure to look it up instead. Also, a good United Nations translator should always keep in mind the goals that the United Nations pursues, and remember that each individual translation is part of the effort made to achieve them.
What part of your job do you consider the most interesting? Why?
First of all, it is the variety of subject matters about which I get to translate. It is also the fact that sometimes I deal with brand new topics that haven’t been studied in depth yet. It feels like being an inventor! Moreover, with this job I am learning every day, especially from my senior colleagues, who provide new perspectives for me.
What challenges do you face in your daily work and how do you handle them?
My biggest challenge is to find the balance between time and quality. I consider myself to be a perfectionist, and even though it helps me to provide high-quality translations, it sometimes leads to unnecessary polishing of things already translated correctly. It gets better with time though.
What are some of the most difficult documents you have translated?
Usually, the most difficult documents for me are the ones devoted to the subjects that I am not very familiar with. However, it is always a matter of time. For example, when I was assigned to translate my first document on disarmament, I was scared, but then I took time to learn the terminology, read related articles to broaden my knowledge in the area and provided a high-quality translation as confirmed later by the feedback from the reviser. It helped me to feel more confident and no longer get scared by such documents.
What do you think about the evolution of technology in your field of work? How has it affected you?
I am amazed at how quickly technology has been evolving and how much it helps people in various fields of expertise to do their work. As far as translation is concerned, nowadays there are lots of efficient computer-assisted translation tools, including eLUNa which is used at the United Nations. I like working in eLUNa because it helps me to do my job better and more quickly. However, you should never fully rely on tools and always double-check things of which you are not completely sure. I think that in the future these tools will be even more efficient in doing the mechanical work, so that translators can focus more on the intellectual part.
How does your work fit into the larger framework of the United Nations?
A translator is an important link between people who speak different languages, come from different countries and have different mindsets. We all know the value of understanding each other and how much harm misunderstanding can do. So, the job of a translator is to make sure potential readers of the translation understand what the author meant and get from the translation as much information as the original contained.
Do you have any advice for budding language professionals? Any tips on how to prepare for the competitive examinations for language positions?
My advice for budding translators is to do their job well without letting it be compromised by other things, however important they might be. As for the tips on how to prepare for the competitive examinations, I think that the main one is to have a good rest before it and try to stay calm. Extra pressure and anxiety only make things worse. Make sure to translate the text fully and remember that logic is the key!