Nationality

United States

Education

Master’s Degree in German, New York University, New York, United States

Diploma in Translation, Heidelberg University, Germany

Languages

German, English, French, Spanish

I see the United Nations and myself as a natural fit. I did not grow up thinking, “Oh, what I want to do in life is to work at the United Nations.” That desire was an outgrowth of being interested in history and politics, and having been exposed to another culture as a university student, when I spent a year at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. Had I been interested in computers I might have found a job translating manuals for a high-tech corporation but I have always been fascinated by the world of international affairs and the multifaceted activities of the United Nations.

As a translator, working for an international organization is ideal because this is where your work is really needed and appreciated, and a position at the United Nations carries a great deal of prestige. Before joining the United Nations, I taught German at New York University, and served as a translator for a global financial services firm. I enjoy working at the United Nations because I feel proud being part of something larger than myself—an Organization dealing with global affairs.

For the uninitiated, I should clear up a common misconception—translation only involves written documents, as opposed to spoken interpretation. I have spent the past 12 years as a translator and a reviser in the German Translation Section of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, a special division located only in New York, because German is not one of the six official languages of the United Nations. I review resolutions by the General Assembly or the Security Council that have already been translated into German, and make sure everything is correct. How I translate a word or concept into German varies according to context, and finding the right words is often an entertaining challenge. My section’s translations can be seen not only by the German speaking public via our Website, but, ideally, they will also reach academics, politicians and other decision makers. This is certainly of relevance to the world.

Another aspect I love about my job is that the subject matter changes daily and never gets boring. Within a short period of time I have to familiarize myself with the basic issues and terminology of a given field, such as climate change and natural disaster management. I like becoming a “mini-expert” on a wide range of topics.

The United Nations is a place where learning never stops. I have made a point to take advantage of its staff development programme. You can take free classes in any of the six official United Nations languages, so I studied Spanish up to the proficiency exam level—that took me about four years of lunchtime and evening classes.

It has been a tremendously enriching working with, and befriending, people from all corners of the globe who want to create a better world. One memorable document that I took the personal initiative to translate was a declaration to decriminalize homosexuality, read at the General Assembly in December 2008. This is a human rights issue that is close to me, and it felt good to translate it. Some prospective employees might like to know that there is a group called UN GLOBE, which promotes the interests of gay and lesbian staffers.

Because I’m from a provincial town in Germany, it is a privilege to work in such a diverse environment as the United Nations, and I love New York’s cosmopolitanism and rich cultural offerings—there is nothing else like it.

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