Before taking the United Nations Language Competitive Examination in 2004 and joining the United Nations, first as a freelancer in 2007 and then as a staff interpreter in 2009, I had been working as a freelance interpreter based in Beijing, China for 15 years. I developed experience in interpreting on virtually all topics, except medical science.
Why work for the United Nations?
I wanted to have a stable job.
Preparing for the United Nations Language Competitive Examination
I enrolled in the United Nations Language Training Programme that prepared me for the examination. The programme itself is very competitive. I prepared thoroughly to be accepted by reading extensively in English, focusing on the most reputable magazines, such as Time, Newsweek and The Economist. In the course of our studies the students practised their interpretation skills with authentic United Nations General Assembly speeches. I studied as much after class as I did during class. It was helpful to analyse the recordings of my interpretation and identify areas that needed improvement. After identifying weaknesses in my interpretation, I corrected them and tried to record the interpretation of the same speech again.
Challenges and rewards of the job
The most challenging aspect of my work is the need to familiarize myself, in a very limited time, with the subject matter of the speeches that I have to interpret. Sometimes it is challenging to follow speakers' logic. And yet, it is very rewarding to have a sense of belonging to a group, a feeling that most freelance language professionals are lacking. Working in a team is very beneficial, as you can always learn from your colleagues.
Recommendations to potential candidates for the United Nations Competitive Examination for Interpreters
Previous experience in interpreting is highly desirable. If you are an experienced interpreter, you can be very confident in your ability to perform well. Think of the examination as an ordinary meeting you are assigned to interpret. Relax and do your best. In both the actual interpretation and the interview the most important thing is to demonstrate a high degree of professionalism. Before going into the exam, try to familiarize yourself with United Nations terminology.