There are competitive examinations for:

  • Copy preparers/proofreaders/production editors

  • Editors

  • Interpreters

  • Translators and translators/précis-writers

  • Verbatim reporters


Translators and précis-writers translate documents from two or more official languages into their main language. Translators strive to make the United Nations documents faithful to the original, respect established terminology (when it exists), and be readily understood by a reader of the language from any part of the world. The documents they translate cover a broad range of technical, political, scientific, social, economic and legal issues.

Translators use various electronic tools for their trade, including voice recognition software and computer assisted translation (CAT) applications, but must also rely on their extensive language skills to produce documents that are clear and coherent.

The importance of translated information goes far beyond the conference room.  Translations of major documents are often cited by the media, quoted in statements and incorporated into legislation.

Translator’s other major activity, précis-writing, or preparing summary records for all the bodies, affords an opportunity to attend meetings and experience the proceedings of inter-governmental bodies.  Précis-writers work in teams; they need to have excellent oral comprehension skills, versatility, and an ability to stay calm under pressure and complete their work within prescribed deadlines.

Translators normally spend their first six months to two years being trained at United Nations Headquarters; after successfully completing their training period, they may transfer to the translation services of the other main duty stations, United Nations Office at Geneva, United Nations Office at Vienna and United Nations Office at Nairobi, or one of the regional commissions in Asia, Africa or Latin America.  

Language Requirements: Perfect command of one relevant official language of the United Nations; this is considered the candidate’s main language. Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish translators must have excellent knowledge of at least two other official languages, as tested by the relevant United Nations competitive examination. English translators must also have excellent knowledge of at least two other official languages, as tested by the relevant United Nations competitive examination, one of which must be French. Chinese translators must have excellent knowledge of English; knowledge of an additional official language is desirable.

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