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The UN held an exam for staff English language interpreters in 2011; how often are exams for English (or any given language) interpreters usually offered, and will the UN's need for English interpretation likely be increasing or decreasing in the next few years? Will freelancing be replacing staff positions?

asked 16 Feb '12, 06:07

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permfmt
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edited 31 Jan '13, 16:10

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Thanks for the responses. I apparently had not dug deep enough before writing my question--for anyone interested, one of the UN language examination pages says that they are planning to hold another EN interpreter examination (as well as exams for FR and ES interpreters) in April 2013.

(20 Feb '12, 05:17) permfmt

The short answer to your central question is that the UN is likely to have a growing demand for EN booth interpreters in the coming years.

The AIIC Staff Interpreters Committee 2009 "Overview of Organization" pointed out that "newcomers to the profession can look forward to a strong job market, although some legwork may be required to identify which organizations are aggressively hiring particular combinations of languages."

It also called attention to a 2005 study on the aging of staff interpreters in various organization (see La Releve - in FR only), which found that at UN headquarters in NY, "Dans les cabines EN et FR, entre 40% et 50% des interprètes actuellement en poste devront prendre leur retraite dans les 5 prochaines années." It also pointed out that the biggest demand would be for EN and French booth interpreters with Russian in their combination.

This trend probably has something to do with the UN setting up a university outreach program, which includes an internship program for recent graduates. On the linked page you'll also find a link to upcoming competitive exams (right side bar). And you can find more info about interpreting at the UN, including qualifications, by going to on this page.

What I see in all of this is that the UN aims to maintain staffing levels for the foreseeable future.

Edit:

Response to AnaP who commented below. While you are correct in saying that retired UN staff enter the pool of freelance interpreters (or at least those who so desire), that does not automatically mean that the UN system will choose to rely on freelancers and cut staff positions, which was the question posed.

The study I referred to above was carried out by staff interpreters who have insight into the dynamics of their organizations' departments. Moreover, I have seen no evidence to suggest that the main UN bodies (headquarters) will cut back on staff positions. Their university outreach program (unfortunately the link to it in my previous post is now dead - let's hope they fix their site soon) would seem to support the idea that they intend to replace retiring staff interpeters. As they say here: "The Department launched the Universities Outreach Programme in 2007 to address the lack of qualified interpreters and translators as well as to highlight language career opportunities available at the United Nations. . "

Their annual conference of universities who have signed the MoU has the same goal, as its full name indicates: "Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in preparing candidates for the United Nations Language Competitive Examinations (MoU Conference)," the aim of which is "to achieve closer cooperation between the universities that agreed to participate in the rejuvenation of the pool of the United Nations language professionals."

I am as cynical as the next person, but I still think that UN staff positions are likely to be filled for the time being. I believe that the organization still perceives the added value of staff interpreters.

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answered 17 Feb '12, 16:46

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edited 01 Apr '12, 14:49

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Vincent Buck
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I don't mean to be a party-pooper, but saying that "Dans les cabines EN et FR, entre 40% et 50% des interprètes actuellement en poste devront prendre leur retraite dans les 5 prochaines années." doesn't necessarily mean that they will try to fill in for those who are leaving. We all know that most staff interpreters go back to work the day after they retire as freelancers. The chances that a new-comer takes their share are flimsy even in the best case scenario.

(30 Mar '12, 10:26) AnaP

Let's hope Luigi is right then!

(31 Mar '12, 06:52) AnaP

Response to AnaP. While you are correct in saying that retired UN staff enter the pool of freelance interpreters (or at least those who so desire), that does not automatically mean that the UN system will choose to rely on freelancers and cut staff positions, which was the question posed.

The study I referred to above was carried out by staff interpreters who have insight into the dynamics of their organizations' departments. Moreover, I have seen no evidence to suggest that the main UN bodies (headquarters) will cut back on staff positions. Their university outreach program (unfortunately the link to it in my previous post is now dead - let's hope they fix their site soon) would seem to support the idea that they intend to replace retiring staff interpeters. As they say here: "The Department launched the Universities Outreach Programme in 2007 to address the lack of qualified interpreters and translators as well as to highlight language career opportunities available at the United Nations. . "

Their annual conference of universities who have signed the MoU has the same goal, as its full name indicates: "Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in preparing candidates for the United Nations Language Competitive Examinations (MoU Conference)," the aim of which is "to achieve closer cooperation between the universities that agreed to participate in the rejuvenation of the pool of the United Nations language professionals."

I am as cynical as the next person, but I still think that UN staff positions are likely to be filled for the time being. I believe that the organization still perceives the added value of staff interpreters.

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answered 30 Mar '12, 15:52

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Luigi
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edited 31 Mar '12, 07:07

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Vincent Buck
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I would also point out that the UN specialized agencies do not generally have staff interpreters, and thus will depend on freelance interpreters for all of their meetings with interpretation.

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answered 21 Feb '12, 11:38

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As far as I know, the exams for the different languages are posted on the UN website in the Linguistic services section. I have heard, quite often, that there will be great need of English interpreters, basically because the 'old guard' is nearing retirement and there are not enough replacements. So, I believe that the need will increase in the next few years and, if they are not able to source all the staff positions, the UN will have to resort to freelancers, though I'm sure that they'll do their utmost not to be in that situation.

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answered 17 Feb '12, 13:31

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Vicky Massa
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How come decades ago interpreters were hired straight out of interpreting school and now you have to be on roster for at least a year? For example, Teresa Heinz-Kerry,John Kerry's wife, went to work for the UN in New York right after her graduation from ETI.

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answered 15 Dec '13, 14:49

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Myra45
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edited 15 Feb '14, 23:42

Possibles facteurs (autant d'hypothèses):

1) Baisse du niveau en sortie d'école. 2) Augmentation du niveau attendu à l'intégration d'une O.I. 3) Augmentation du nombre de diplômés ès interprétation (et baisse statistique proportionnelle de la part de diplômés recrutés). 4) Fluctuations périodiques des besoins de recrutement des services.

Le point 3) s'applique à toutes les études universitaires. Pourquoi suffisait-il dans les années '50 d'avoir fini l'enseignement secondaire pour pouvoir espérer travailler comme cadre dans une banque ; et pourquoi aujourd'hui avec un master en poche, le début de carrière passe presque toujours par la précarité des stages non-rémunérés ? Parce que l'accès aux études s'est démocratisé et que se démarquer est devenu moins facile.

Sur l'affirmation de fond, je ne peux pas juger si elle est exacte et représnetative. J'ai le cas d'un étudiant en tête qui a très rapidement décroché et réussi un concours... dont il a refusé le bénéfice, parce qu'il a pour le moment d'autres projets.

Et puis, deux concours en l'espace de deux ans, c'est pas mal pour une profession de niche, non ? Côté bruxellois en cabine française, il s'est écoulé six ans depuis le dernier.

(15 Dec '13, 15:28) Gaspar ♦♦
1

The percentage of high school graduates was roughly 50% in 1950 versus 90% today in the US. In the sixties, 45% of high-school graduates went to university. Nowadays, 65% do.

You have more people qualified who could potentially get pie, and you won't have a piece until you can prove that you deserve pie more than the next man. Plus, since there's the late 2000s pie crisis, there's less pie to give away.

The changes in educational attainment, employment and economy have impacted all white collar jobs similarly in the last decades. There were times when having a high-school diploma would allow you to get a job which people can't get nowadays despite their masters degree.

Maria Teresa Thierstein Simões Ferreira had five languages. Even nowadays, anyone with four C languages and having a degree from FTI Geneva has decent chances to find work within one year after graduation.

(16 Feb '14, 06:48) Gaspar ♦♦
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question asked: 16 Feb '12, 06:07

question was seen: 7,503 times

last updated: 16 Feb '14, 06:56

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