Interpreters working at the UN are expected to recognize, understand and – in a split second - have a word in another language for any one of a myriad of issues. The range of interpretation subjects is broad, including politics, legal affairs, economic and social issues, human rights, finance and administration. Providing interpretation at meetings is the most visible aspect of their duties; to be able to provide an equivalent of most anything a delegate may say in two or more languages, interpreters spend much of their time maintaining and improving their language skills and awareness of new developments in current affairs.
Interpreters provide simultaneous interpretation from and into the six official languages for the meetings of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council and all their subsidiary bodies. A team for a six-language meeting requires 14 interpreters: three per booth for Arabic and Chinese (because they interpret from and into those languages), and two apiece for English, French, Russian and Spanish.
Perfect command of one official language of the United Nations. English, French, Russian or Spanish interpreters must also possess excellent oral comprehension of two other official languages. Arabic or Chinese interpreters must also possess excellent command of English or French, as required.
For more information visit http://www.unlanguage.org
and see a short feature about interpreters at the United Nations: Interpreting in a Globalised World