United Nations Interpretation Service
The United Nations Interpretation Service is a part of the Meetings and Publishing Division (MPD) of the UN's Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM). Its core function is to provide interpretation from and into Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish for meetings held at United Nations Headquarters, and those at other locations which the department is responsible for servicing. Interpretation is essential to the inter-governmental bodies for the proper conduct and smooth functioning of their deliberations.
History and evolution
The creation of the conference interpreting service – and the interpreting profession itself – at the United Nations has a direct connection with the evolution of international diplomatic relations, the League of Nations, the Nuremberg trials, the founding of the United Nations, and the birth of multilingualism within the United Nations itself.
Early days of the interpreting profession
Most of the early interpreters of the United Nations were natural polyglots who were uprooted by wars and revolutions. For years, the only criterion used to select potential interpreters was the knowledge of two international languages the interpreters had to communicate in. Polyglots were found mainly in privileged social groups, government employees and professionals in colonial empires, in militarily and diplomatically powerful nations, in political or ideological exiles, in those who leave their countries temporarily for academic purposes, and in children of couples who speak different languages.
After the 1960s, there was change in the sociological make-up of UN interpreters. The United Nations began recruiting and training potential interpreters who were monolingual from birth but had learned and specialized in languages. This generation of interpreters did not come from privileged groups or complex migratory backgrounds.
In contrast with the early beginnings of the profession, there was also a progressive addition of women in the field of conference interpreting.
Modern-day conference interpreting
At the League of Nations and during the San Francisco Conference (1945) before the formal founding of the United Nations, the interpreters played a vital and visible role in meetings. In consecutive interpretation, conference interpreters spoke from the same dais as the original speakers, and the speaker stops periodically so that the interpreter can interpret what has just been said while the participants in the meeting viewed and listened to the consecutive interpreter. The conference interpreters were often exposed to selected or large audiences and the media. In the late 1940s and the early 1950s, United Nations officials introduced simultaneous interpretation as a preferred method for the majority of UN meetings because it saved time and improved the quality of the output. Simultaneous interpreting – a mode that confined the interpreters in glass-encased booths aided with earpieces and microphones – arose in the 1920s and 1930s when American businessman Edward Filene and British engineer A. Gordon-Finlay developed simultaneous interpretation equipment with IBM, and was also used in the post-World War II Nazi war crime trials held in Nuremberg, Germany.
UN Duty Stations with interpretation or language service offices
- United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ), New York City, New York, U.S.
- United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Switzerland
- United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), Austria
- United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), Kenya
- United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Addis Ababa
- United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Bangkok, Thailand
- United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), Beirut, Lebanon
- United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Santiago, Chile
The UN Interpretation Service is composed of the following staff:.
- Chief of Service (Chief Interpreter) (1)
- Administrative Staff (Secretaries or Meeting Services Assistants)
- Chiefs of Sections (Heads of Booths or Heads of Sections) (6)
- Interpreters (permanents and freelancers)
Interpretation Service Sections
- Arabic Section
- Chinese Section
- English Section
- French Section
- Russian Section
- Spanish Section
The interpretation system sequence
- The speaker talks to a "microphone discussion system" connected to a central system.
- The central control system distributes the signal to the audience that do not need interpretation and to the simultaneous interpreter.
- Audio consoles are placed in the interpretation booths. Interpreters receive the signal, and are still able to capture the environment of the meeting.
- The interpreter talks to his or her transmitter and the signal goes back to the central console.
UN interpreters and filmography
- The Interpreter, a film by Sydney Pollack, 2005
- The Art of War, Amen Ra Films, 2000
- Charade, Universal Pictures, 1963
- United Nations System
- United Nations General Assembly
- United Nations Security Council
- United Nations Trusteeship Council
- United Nations Secretariat
- International Court of Justice
- International Association of Conference Interpreters
- Abud-Krafft, Salome and Elena Howard. United Nations Interpretation Service: Information for Incoming Headquarters Staff. (Publisher: United Nations Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, New York: 2000), 2 May 2000, 15 pages.
- "UNITED NATIONS DGACM". www.un.org. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
- Interpreters at the United Nations: A History Baigorri-Jalón, Jesús. Barr, Anne (English translation from Spanish). Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca:2004, page 106. ISBN 84-7800-643-5.
- "Interpreters: Inside the Glass Booth", Endrst, Elsa B. The UN Chronicle, United Nations Publications (1991), Gale Group (2004)], date retrieved: 28 May 2007.
- "The Origins of Simultaneous Interpretation Equipment". Infinity Translation Services. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- How The Translation System Works Arnone, Michael and Javier Ruiz. Speaking at Babel, The Art of Diplomacy, NYC24.com, 2001, retrieved on 01-06-2007. Archived August 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- Interpreters at the United Nations: A History by Jesús Baigorri-Jalón. ISBN 84-7800-643-5
- La interpretación de conferencias: el nacimiento de una profesión, de Paris a Nuremberg by Jesús Baigorri-Jalón. ISBN 84-8444-055-9
- From Russian into English: An Introduction to Simultaneous Interpretation by Lynn Visson, UN Interpreter. ISBN 0-87501-095-4
- A Brief Guide to From Russian into English: An Introduction to Simultaneous Interpretation by Lynn Visson, UN Interpreter. ISBN 0-87501-095-4
- Interpretation: Techniques and Exercises by James Nolan, UN Interpreter. Hardbound ISBN 1-85359-791-0, Paperback ISBN 1-85359-790-2, Ebook ISBN 1-85359-792-9
- More Publications about Interpreting and Translation
- The Interpreter: A Novel, by Suki Kim, Picador; Reprint edition, January 1, 2004, 464 pages - ISBN 0-312-42224-5; ISBN 978-0-312-42224-0
- The Interpreter by Alice Kaplan, Fiction, Free Press, August 30, 2005, 256 pages – ISBN 0-7432-5424-4
- The Interpreter by Suzanne Glass, Fiction, Ballantine Reader's Circle, Ballantine, Reprint edition, June 17, 2003, 336 pages, ISBN 0-345-45024-8; ISBN 978-0-345-45024-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to United Nations.|
- United Nations Interpretation Service Website (New York), retrieved on May 28, 2007
- United Nations Office at Geneva Interpretation Service, Conference Services Division, retrieved on 8 June 2007
- "Interpreters: Inside the Glass Booth" by Elsa B. Endrst, The UN Chronicle, United Nations Publications (1991), Gale Group (2004), date retrieved: 28 May 2007