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How does one get into professional interpreting, and what are some of the larger employers?

I'm looking to go to school for International Relations in New York. I am looking into interpreting as a career after college, and was wondering what the best track through college would be, and what some of the major interpreting employers might be for internship opportunities. #college #international #interpretation #relations

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Nikolai,

I'll use as an example (of employer) the interpreters program of the United Nations:

  • At United Nations meetings and conferences, participants may speak in any of the six official languages of the United Nations. Their words are simultaneously rendered into the other five languages by United Nations conference interpreters, who generally interpret only into their main language. Arabic and Chinese interpreters, however, work both from and into their main language.

  • Because the United Nations has only six official languages, many delegates must speak in a language other than their main language, and this poses a special challenge. Interpreters must be able to comprehend every imaginable accent, in addition to coping with issues of speed and style. Moreover, interpreters must find proper cultural equivalents and take cultural context into account. A thorough knowledge of both language and culture is thus required.

  • Normally, interpreters are assigned to interpret seven or eight three-hour meetings per week. They work in teams of two or three and usually switch every 20-30 minutes. On occasion, interpreters are expected to travel to service meetings held away from their duty station.

  • Challenges of being a UN Interpreter: the level of accuracy required the political nuances of statements the range of topics and meetings coping with the speed of delivery, different speaking styles and accents performing consistently often in politically-charged and high-profile meetings keeping abreast of the news keeping up to date on evolving subjects, vocabulary and acronyms.

  • Rewards of being a UN Interpreter: opportunity to gain insight into world affairs and international diplomacy being part of and witnessing the intergovernmental process in action learning about a wide range of subjects working in high-profile meetings working as a member of a team learning other official UN languages travelling on mission to other countries.

Language Requirements: Perfect command of one official language of the United Nations. English, French, Russian or Spanish interpreters must also possess excellent oral comprehension of two other official languages. Arabic or Chinese interpreters must also possess excellent command of English or French, as required.

English language internships at the United Nations Secretariat:

  • The English language services of the United Nations Secretariat provide translation, interpretation, verbatim reporting, précis-writing, editing, terminology and referencing services at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the United Nations Offices at Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna and the Regional Commissions in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, and Santiago.

  • Many of the services offer internships to university students and recent graduates with the right language combinations and academic backgrounds to expose them to the work of United Nations language professionals and offer them the opportunity to enhance their skills through practical experience. Language internships usually last two months and, like all United Nations internships are not paid.

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I wish for you much success!!!!

Thank you comment icon I had a friend in college that was an Army brat. She was fluent in 9 languages. She majored in foreign language and received a teaching certificate. She never taught. She actually went to work in the financial district in Dallas selling stamps and gold to international buyers for a securities firm. Kelly Reed