It requires a special skill set to be able to be an interpreter for the United Nations. Interpreters who work at the United Nations are required to be able to instantly hear a phrase or a term in a number of languages and be able to simultaneously translate and then interpret that term to another person.
What makes the work that the interpreter at the United Nations does so spectacular is that there’s no way to determine in advance which subjects are going to be covered. In one second, they could be discussing something about politics. In the next second, they may be discussing cooking their favorite meal. Interpreters have to be able to explain complicated issues, such as economic and social issues alongside finance and administrative issues.
It is understandable that interpreters who work for the United Nations spend a good portion of their life learning about languages. They are at meetings day in and day out where they are required to provide the equivalent of almost anything that comes out of the mouth of a delegate, and they need to be able to do this in at least two, if not more, languages. This means that an interpreter needs to stay up on current affairs. They need to know new terms and new phrases as they become popular in a multitude of languages.
There are six official languages that are used at the General Assembly and the Security Council. Fourteen interpreters are used and must be able to communicate with each other. The interpreters who work at the United Nations have a perfect command of at least one of the official languages used in the United Nations and must have a superb verbal comprehension of at least two others.
In addition to interpreting, which is done verbally, much of the work done at the UN involves translation, which is in written form. It is understandable that simultaneous translation equipment is an invaluable part of the work performed by the United Nations. If something is translated poorly, the potential for disaster is indescribable. For this reason, interpreters and translators who work at the UN are of the highest order.