United Nations Welcome to the United Nations

Zhengren Li

I graduated from the United Nations Interpreter and Translator Training Course in Beijing in the summer of 1984 and started working for the Organization in New York in September of the same year. My transfer to the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) took place in 1987 and I assumed the function of Chief of Interpretation Service at UNOG on 1 January 2008.

Why work for the United Nations? 

While working as an interpreter for the United Nations, which is governed by the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, I contributed to the Organization’s mission by upholding the principle of multilingualism, which is essential in achieving international cooperation and understanding.  Now, as Chief of the Interpretation Service, I strive to ensure the most efficient use of interpretation capacity in order to provide quality interpretation services to clients both at UNOG and at external meetings.

The United Nations has afforded me the opportunity to grow professionally and acquire new skills during the course of my duties.  I have appreciated working in a multicultural environment and have benefited greatly from the experience of servicing international conferences and meetings both in Geneva and around the world.

Preparing for the United Nations Language Competitive Examination 

Make use of the United Nations Audio Library, which contains archived UN speeches and statements, to practice interpretation skills. To reach UN Audio Library, please click here.

Make use of the impressive collection of UN meetings (dialogues, statements, remarks) available through the UN webcast. Take the time to explore the various recordings.  

UN Radio and the UN RSS feeds and podcasts in your languages are a good source of training material.

To look for a document, you can search this site

More details can be obtained by logging onto this site.

Challenges and rewards of the job 

The career of a United Nations interpreter, working in an international environment where the politics of the entire world are debated, can be both challenging and rewarding.  Difficulties can be encountered when interpreting speakers with a wide range of native tongues, since accents can be heavy or hard to understand, and statements may be delivered at a high speed, resulting in increased pressure on the interpreter.  Extensive preparation and constant practice is required to overcome these challenges, as well as an informed knowledge of social, political and economic events worldwide.

The reward is in the knowledge of a good job done, thereby creating an environment of understanding between nations and making a positive contribution towards international cooperation.

Recommendations to potential candidates for the United Nations Competitive Examination for Interpreters 

Familiarize yourself with United Nations terminology and the issues covered by the various United Nations bodies. The United Nations web site contains a wealth of material for doing this.  The webcast feature at the United Nations News Center site is a particularly useful tool for practising interpretation skills with real speeches. 

The second stage of the examination is the interview.  To prepare, try to think of examples that showcase your experience and your ability to work well as a member of a team. You can familiarize yourself with the core values and competencies that shape the work ethics of United Nations staff.