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Reference Assistants

Language reference assistants provide the full range of reference materials to translators, editors and other language professionals to ensure accuracy, consistency and timeliness in the translation of United Nations documents and publications. Their tasks involve verifying all references, terminology and documentation necessary for accurate editing and translation of documents, publications and treaties.

Language reference assistants might be required to work with documents in any of the United Nations official languages. They carry out research by consulting terminology databases, reports, treaties, resolutions, and other documents. They also liaise with various United Nations departments and bodies, as well as with permanent missions of the Member States, non-governmental organizations universities and the media, as necessary.

Language reference assistants are often asked to analyze documents submitted for translation to determine whether all or part of the text has been taken from previously translated sources and identify these sources. They also search for official titles and acronyms of United Nations organs, specialized agencies, international organizations, programmes, funds and non-governmental organizations. They create hotlinks to relevant documents and terminology records, highlighting terms or phrases that are subject to United Nations usage or translation guidelines. This greatly facilitates the work of editors and translators. Language Reference Assistants also pre-treat documents for computer-assisted translation processing and manage translation memories.

Language reference assistants not only use, but also contribute to the maintenance of the central multilingual terminology databases and local terminology databases. The functions of terminologists and reference assistants are combined in some language services.

  • Challenges of being a UN reference assistant: Tight deadlines, frustrating websites, not always knowing exactly what the clients’ needs are.
  • Rewards of being a UN reference assistant: Doing reference research is almost like being a detective. You hunt for clues and use your language abilities to find the answer. Working in a multilingual team, with staff members from all different cultures is hugely rewarding.