How a Government Interpreter Helps Keep the Peace in a Chaotic World

 

Effective communication is critical to diplomacy. However, clear communication becomes even more important to diplomatic affairs when the parties involved do not speak the same language. Enter the conference interpreting services of the U.N. Interpretation Service. Born during the 1946 Nuremberg Trials when the sheer number of Nazi war criminals required efficient legal translation services to quickly move the proceedings forward, the interpretation services of the U.N. play a critical role in the perilous realm of global affairs. In a world dominated by major nuclear powers such as the U.S. and China, translation errors can lead to misunderstandings that increase tensions. One notable error occurred during the Cold War when a line from a speech by Nikita Khrushchev was literally interpreted by Western translators as “we will bury you” rather than the more figurative “we will outlast you”. Thus, the U.N. goes to great lengths to find the best government interpreter candidates for their Interpretation Service.

 

Becoming a UN Government Interpreter

 

Becoming a U.N. government interpreter requires calm under pressure, speed, and fluency in at least three of the six official languages of the U.N. (Mandarin, French, Russian, English, Arabic and Spanish). To ensure fast and accurate translation, interpreters use a relay system to quickly transform a speaker’s remarks into each of the official languages of the U.N. Under this system, 12 interpreters in 6 booths (for each official language) work in tandem, taking breaks in 20 minute intervals due to the taxing nature of the job. For instance, if a U.N. delegate is delivering a speech in Arabic, a government interpreter fluent in Arabic will translate the speech into English or French for other interpreters who specialize in the other official languages of the U.N.  These interpreters will then transmit to the delegates on the floor. This task can prove difficult for even the most experienced translators, especially when world leaders fail to speak in one of the official languages.  During one notable meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi spoke for over an hour and a half in a Libyan dialect of Arabic, causing his personal translator to collapse from exhaustion.

 

Interpreter Shortages

 

Understandably, the U.N. Interpretation Service is highly selective when it comes to hiring new interpreters; in 2009, only 10 out of 1,800 candidates for Chinese interpretation passed the U.N. language examination. In spite of the Service’s selectivity, in recent years, the U.N. has introduced new hiring initiatives to find interpreters fluent in critical languages such as Arabic, as many long-time U.N. interpreters have reached retirement age. Currently, the U.N. Interpretation Service employs 120 interpreters out of its total staff of 460 people.  This staff also includes professional linguists, who translate documents related to U.N. activities. Clearly, the U.N. Interpretation Service provides a crucial function for humanity by demonstrating the importance of global translation services to maintaining civil international relations between countries.

About Language Connections:

Language Connections is one of the top language service companies in the US. Over the last 30 years, we’ve focused on providing the best business translation services, interpreting services, as well as interpreter training and customized language training programs. In addition to top-tier corporate language training, we offer certified corporate interpreters and professional business translation services in 200+ languages. Our network includes linguists with backgrounds in all major industries. They’re ready to meet your needs, whether they’re for technical translation services, legal translation, government translation services, international development translation services, education translation services, life sciences translation, or something else. Reach out to us today for a free quote on our cost-efficient and timely translation services, interpreters, or other linguistic services.

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Language Connections Inc.
2001 Beacon Street, Suite 105,
Boston, MA 02135
Phone: +1-617-731-3510
Email: service@languageconnections.com

Language Training in the World of Intelligence

 

On August 25th, 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta delivered a landmark speech at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). Yet instead of extolling the military capabilities of the United States and the virtues of diplomatic action, Panetta praised an important yet unsung aspect of American power: foreign language training. As a former congressman during the Carter administration for the Presidio of Monterey, home to the DLIFLC, Panetta recognized the importance of language and global translation services to national security early on in his career as a public servant and worked hard to secure funds for the DLIFLC, a critical part of the Marine installation at Monterey. As Defense Secretary during the Obama administration, Panetta continued his work in Congress by introducing new language initiatives to increase the number of government interpreter jobs within the State Department and raising salaries for those with language skills. Clearly, the United States has made language training a major priority in recent years.

Inside The DLIFLC

The U.S government offers a variety of language training programs for members of its intelligence community. However, the program at the DLIFLC is perhaps the largest. Founded in 1963, the DLIFLC offers language training services for members of the military and intelligence communities. At the center, students are required to study over 30 hours in the classroom and at home every week in preparation for the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT). The duration of the program depends on the difficulty of the language. In order to classify languages by difficulty, the center separates languages into groups, with Group I languages being the easiest to learn and Group IV languages being the most difficult. According to the center, Group I languages like Spanish require 780 hours of instruction and practice to master while Group IV languages like Arabic require about 1,950 hours.

A Lucrative Career in Language Training

Despite the rigor of the coursework at DLIFLC, the program provides an indispensable service for the U.S. intelligence community by training language professionals to carry out U.S. foreign policy objectives. Students at the DLIFLC work in virtually every intelligence-related agency from the NSA to the CIA. Yet not all work as clandestine officers; in fact, many students end up working as open source officers who specialize in analyzing public media in foreign countries or as instructors at private language service companies. The NSA also hires many students of the center to provide government translation services, as much of its work involves combing the Internet for suspicious activity on American soil and abroad. Careers in this line of work can be very lucrative. For instance, the CIA offers a bonus of $35,000 for new hires; a figure that any professional translator would envy.

About Language Connections:

Language Connections is one of the top language service companies in the US. Over the last 30 years, we’ve focused on providing the best business translation services, interpreting services, as well as interpreter training and customized language training programs. In addition to top-tier corporate language training, we offer certified corporate interpreters and professional business translation services in 200+ languages. Our network includes linguists with backgrounds in all major industries. They’re ready to meet your needs, whether they’re for technical translation services, legal translation, government translation services, international development translation services, education translation services, life sciences translation, or something else. Reach out to us today for a free quote on our cost-efficient and timely translation services, interpreters, or other linguistic services.

Language Connections Logo

Language Connections Inc.
2001 Beacon Street, Suite 105,
Boston, MA 02135
Phone: +1-617-731-3510
Email: service@languageconnections.com

Facts You Can Learn about State Interpreters from Trump and Putin’s Private Meeting

State interpreters help bridge the language gap during meetings, summits or conferences. But presidential interpreters not only facilitate communication between languages—they also serve important roles. They act as confidants, record keepers, de facto diplomats and fact-checkers! Certified interpreters like them also witness and take part in pivotal moments of history. This was the case for Marina Gross, a veteran State Department interpreter, who interpreted Vladimir Putin’s Russian for President Trump during a private conversation in Helsinki, Finland. Shortly after, Democrats began to suggest that it would be necessary to bring Gross in for a hearing, and even passed a motion for a subpoena so she’d be required to tell the public what transpired. The event sparked a discussion about the role of interpreters that has gained traction until today. Read more about Trump-Putin’s meeting and the high-pressure work of state interpreters!

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NAFTA, Mexico & Medical Devices

On January 1, 1994, NAFTA was put into effect, eliminating trade barriers including tariffs on more than one-half of Mexico’s exports to the U.S and more than one-third of U.S. exports to Mexico. With the recent election of President Donald Trump, we are anticipating changes in U.S. trade policies with Mexico, including imports in medical devices industry.

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