What do I need to do to become a (UN) interpreter ?
Thread poster: demi-loves-you

demi-loves-you
English
Nov 28, 2008

I'm currently a 16 year old coming up to my last year of high school in New Zealand and conversations have started to arise about what I will do after I leave school and what I will study for my tertiary education.
I've always had a love for languages, and when I was younger I used to teach myself languages with little phrasebooks from the book store, then when I was older I started taking Maori (national language of NZ), French, Mandarin and Japanese. I continued only French into high school, and then dropped French for Spanish which is what I take now. Everyone who knows me can only see me in an interpreting career, well that or journalism, but I would much rather prefer doing something with languages.
Of course my dream, like so many others, is to work for the UN but to be honest I would be happy with any sort of interpreting as long as it is a stable job and I get a steady income. So basically I would just like to know what I need to do? I haven't come across many people where I live who want to be interpreters. Are there specialized interpreting universities?
Any advice would be greatly appreciatedicon_smile.gif

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-11-29 03:51 GMT]


 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 02:23
English to Russian
+ ...
What languages do you actually know? Nov 29, 2008

Demi, by reading your post, I can see that you either "used to teach yourself languages with little phrasebooks", or took classes in languages.

Well, this is certainly admirable, but how far did you advance in the languages you've mentioned? Of all the languages you've studied in your life (you named quite a few), is there one which you can read, write, speak and understand with ease?

If the answer is yes - then my congratulations. Even more so if there is more than one language that you know well. However, if the answer is "not really, I can understand it, but I have difficulty speaking it", or something to that effect - than you have to select ONE language and devote next two years of your life to really learning it well. This is an absolutely necessary first step towards an interpreting career.

I would recommend a book by Barry Farber, called "How To Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably and on Your Own". Even if you study in a class and not exactly on your own, it still contains a lot of good advice you can use.

Of course, you should research interpreting courses even before you fully master the language. Check with New Zealand Universities to see which one has a course for you. Or you might choose to study in another country - if your language of choice is Spanish, than to go to a University would be ideal, if you can arrange it.

Best luck to you! Remember, self-discipline and determination are the keys to success.

(Looking back, I wish I had an opportunity to start on the path to my career when I was 16... sigh...)


 

demi-loves-you
English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Nov 29, 2008

Thank you for your reply,

You're right- I didn't really progress with the languages. For a while when I was about eight I knew Dutch really well, and used to speak it to my next door neighbour who was from South Africa. But I didn't study it at all. Same with Korean. The other langauges I studied at school but very briefly, for a semester each apart from French which I studied for three years. I've studied Spanish for three years now as well and I'd say that I know it well, I'm getting the spanish prize for my grade for example, but I know that I can know it better, like learning all the grammar and stuff. Spanish is the only language that I would consider myself competent in- the others I just added as background info, I've always been a quick learner of languages and good at speaking and writing them.
So you're saying that I should major in say Spanish? For interpreting is it only necessary to know 2 (including your first) language? I assumed that the interpreters for the UN and the like know a lot more...?

Thanks for your help Alexandra!


 

The Misha
Local time: 05:23
Russian to English
+ ...
Be careful what you wish for ... Nov 29, 2008

The UN is a miserable can of worms that no one in the right mind would want to be associated with. Neither should you.

 

Jonathan Sanders (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:23
Thanks for that Nov 29, 2008

The Misha wrote:

The UN is a miserable can of worms that no one in the right mind would want to be associated with. Neither should you.


Thank you for such a well-informed, objective opinion. I don't see that you've ever worked in the UN on your profile. But that's OK, I'm sure you must know what you're talking about in some other way.


 

nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:23
English to French
+ ...
some information Nov 29, 2008

You might have a look at the job page form the UN website to learn more about working with them.
https://jobs.un.org/Galaxy/Release3/Vacancy/Vacancy.aspx

The following page from the US Department of labor gives information about interpreters working for the US administration.
http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos175.htm

Usually an interpreter works in two languages (including the native one) but you have to know perfectly well your 2 languages, meaning that the best thing to do would be to study abroad in your second language at University level - for instance in Spain, in Argentina or any other Spanish speaking country.
Of course you need also to study interpretation and to have a very good command of your native language too.

Universities tend more and more to have international exchange programmes - make some research on the web, starting with NZ universities.

International bodies (UN and the like) usually recruit their staff through a very competitive process of examination - but there are plenty other opportunities to work as an interpreter.


 

Jonathan Sanders (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:23
A few ideas Nov 29, 2008

As an interpreter who works in the UN, I might be able to give you a few ideas.

First and foremost, just so we're clear, your job in the UN would be expressing simultaneously what you understand in at least 2 foreign languages (French and then Spanish and/or Russian) in your mother tongue.

What this means is that before we even get into foreign languages, you have to make sure that you have an extremely good command of your mother tongue. You need to be widely read in English (i.e. knowledge of Shakespearean and biblical quotes), with a command of a wide range of registers.

You need a good level of general knowledge and since you'll be dealing with current events, I would suggest you start reading high-quality publications such as Foreign Affairs or the Economist regularly, as well as the daily newspaper.

On top of that, you need analytical and communication skills. Beyond the language, a big part of interpreting is just understanding the ideas of your speakers. Taking a debate or diplomacy class in high school or in college is a good way to practice that.

And now on to languages...no high school foreign language program prepares you for the level you need to be an interpreter, but it can be a good basis. Before you go to college, you can already start to watch TV from your different language's countries on-line (a directory of international TV broadcasts on-line can be found on: www.wwitv.com). Also, listen to the radio and read newspapers from each of your countries on-line. When you get to college, take classes in the language, and plan to spend a good period of time abroad. When you go study abroad, make sure you take not just language classes, but also subject classes in the foreign language.
(BTW, there's a dirth of English interpreters with passive Russian, so learning it might be a good investment).

Once you have acomplished all of the abovementioned, if you still want to be an interpreter, then study at an accredited conference interpreting school after you finish your degree. All of the schools accredited by the International Conference Intepreter Association (AIIC, its French acronym) were formerly listed on their website. (http://www.aiic.net ). It seems, however, that their site is being overhauled and thus might not be available until next year.

Finally, all of thus is dependant on you having a lot of intellectual curiosity. You must actually find languages, communication, international affairs, etc. to be interesting. If not, I think it would be very difficult.

Hope that helps you out. Good luck and take care.


demi-loves-you wrote:

Thank you for your reply,

You're right- I didn't really progress with the languages. For a while when I was about eight I knew Dutch really well, and used to speak it to my next door neighbour who was from South Africa. But I didn't study it at all. Same with Korean. The other langauges I studied at school but very briefly, for a semester each apart from French which I studied for three years. I've studied Spanish for three years now as well and I'd say that I know it well, I'm getting the spanish prize for my grade for example, but I know that I can know it better, like learning all the grammar and stuff. Spanish is the only language that I would consider myself competent in- the others I just added as background info, I've always been a quick learner of languages and good at speaking and writing them.
So you're saying that I should major in say Spanish? For interpreting is it only necessary to know 2 (including your first) language? I assumed that the interpreters for the UN and the like know a lot more...?

Thanks for your help Alexandra!


 
hi Nov 21, 2010

Hi i'm 16 years old to. I want to be an UN interpreter to, but I live in America. I plan to major in foreign language and to interpret spanish, arabic, farsi, russian, and french. I'm having the same problem you are having... locating a university that most UN interpreters attend... that's how I fought this website by typing my question into google.

I HOPE YOU CAN HELP ME
KELLI =^^=



demi-loves-you wrote:

I'm currently a 16 year old coming up to my last year of high school in New Zealand and conversations have started to arise about what I will do after I leave school and what I will study for my tertiary education.
I've always had a love for languages, and when I was younger I used to teach myself languages with little phrasebooks from the book store, then when I was older I started taking Maori (national language of NZ), French, Mandarin and Japanese. I continued only French into high school, and then dropped French for Spanish which is what I take now. Everyone who knows me can only see me in an interpreting career, well that or journalism, but I would much rather prefer doing something with languages.
Of course my dream, like so many others, is to work for the UN but to be honest I would be happy with any sort of interpreting as long as it is a stable job and I get a steady income. So basically I would just like to know what I need to do? I haven't come across many people where I live who want to be interpreters. Are there specialized interpreting universities?
Any advice would be greatly appreciatedicon_smile.gif

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-11-29 03:51 GMT]


 

Danny21092
Local time: 10:23
What do I need for interpretation in the UK? Nov 17, 2011

hi my names Danny hardy and i just moved back from Greece i spent 7 years there and i can speek, read and write the language fluently but i was wondering what i need to apply for interpretation in the UK ?? do i need to go through university or anything like that because i am in college at the moment doing I.T but i'm still speaking ?? what do i need to do ?? thanxs danny

 

Taña Dalglish
Jamaica
Local time: 04:23
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Working with the UN can be rewarding Nov 17, 2011

I agree with Jonathan that Misha's assessment is extremely short-sighted. How do you know this? Hmm!

The Misha wrote:
The UN is a miserable can of worms that no one in the right mind would want to be associated with. Neither should you.

@ demi-loves-you: Firstly, having worked with the United Nations for over 12 years in several capacities (including as a translator), with two of its leading agencies, the work is extremely rewarding and interesting. My own experience allowed me the opportunity to travel to conferences in several countries (away from my home country), as well as participating in Intergovernmental Meetings and Technical Meetings in my home country. The work is very demanding, but rewarding. The UN language examinations are extremely rigorous and taxing. However, pursue your dream.

Having said that, I would recommend that you continue perfecting your language skills. As others have said, ideally, you should have a very good command of at least three languages (your mother tongue/Spanish/French or Spanish/Russian or other recognized combination (there are 6 recognised languages). You should also continue to pursue at least a first degree of some kind, specializing in languages. Having said that you may also wish to investigate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Interpretation_Service in either New York or Geneva (United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ), New York, US or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Office_at_Geneva) for additional information.

Good luck.


 

Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
English to Belarusian
+ ...
Monterey, UNIGE Nov 17, 2011

Get more info about these institutions at their web pages.

 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
German to English
+ ...
MIIS Nov 17, 2011

For a place in the United States that offers interpreter education, check out the Monterey Institute of International Studies: www.miis.edu

 


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