Translators often work for lawyers and other legal clients, assisting with matters pertaining to immigration, criminal law, and other issues where one or more of the parties involved doesn't speak English. Some translators get a chance to work on a much larger scale, however: United Nations or courts of international law. These courts, which include the War Crimes Tribunals of The Hague, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Court of Justice, try cases that have international consequences and which literally have followers from around the world. It goes without saying that fast and accurate translation is an absolute necessity for these courts.
Reputation’s the Thing
Cases being tried in international courts require the best of the best when it comes to translators. This means that potential translators not only need to be exceptionally skilled, but they also need the credentials and references to prove it. Beginners and those with limited real-world experience aren’t going to get a second glance because there’s simply too much at stake for everyone involved. If you hope to work on cases being tried in a world-famous international court, you need to start building a great reputation as early as possible.
Interpreter for the United Nations
The testing requirements to become a UN interpreter are well known to be extremely difficult. In this article, Helen Reynolds-Brown, a Russian and French interpreter who works for the UN and other international organizations, shares her journey and insights on working as a translator and interpreter. Read How I became a UN Interpreter.
United Nations Inspiration
If you have not yet seen this performance from United Nations Humanitarian Day, it’s well worth a watch, particularly to see amazing and incredible images with brilliant vocals by Beyoncé singing “I was Here”.
Fast and Accurate
To be an interpreter for the United Nations or for courts of international law you must be able to manage in a very stressful environment. Any interpreter who works on cases with the United Nations will be expected to provide flawless interpretations in real time. Too much hesitation or an inability to provide accurate interpretation under pressure simply won’t cut it. It takes a lot of practice to develop skills on a par with what the United Nations requires, so hopefuls need to push their skills to the limit and work on increasing both speed and accuracy on a regular basis.
Finding a Way in
Of course, even if you have the skills required to work on international law cases for the United Nations, you still need to find a way in. One way to do this is to work your way up the ladder and offer your services to lawyers who are known to try cases in the international courts. Start with lesser cases, building a client list of lawyers and others in the legal profession to show that you’re familiar with the needs of the legal profession when it comes to translation or interpreting services. As you take on more translation or interpreting assignments, for lawyers or translation agencies, you’ll be able to offer your services to more prestigious firms that take on more high-profile cases. It may take some time to reach the point where you’re ready to approach lawyers who try cases of international law. While waiting for these desired assignments, at least you’ll be building a solid reputation and making a decent living while you wait.
If at First You Don’t Succeed...
You may not be taken on the first time you offer your services to a lawyer who tries cases of international law. Perhaps it takes you several attempts to pass the United Nations qualifying exam. The more you make yourself available, the more likely it is that you’ll be taken on to translate for one of these lawyers. Even if your first case isn’t an international matter, you’ll have a chance to make a good impression on a very influential lawyer. This could very well lead to additional work in international courts down the road. If at first you don’t succeed, keep at it by practicing and visualizing passing the exam and landing that dream job. By practicing and doing, you will accomplish greatness!