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Practical tips for Speakers and Delegates

  • Statements made in any of the six official languages of the United Nations are interpreted into the other official languages: for written statements, it is essential that the delegations provide interpreters with copies of their texts to the Meetings Servicing Assistant in order to ensure the quality of the interpretation. Speakers are requested to deliver the statement at a speed that is interpretable.
  • In cases where statements are made in a language other than the official languages (rule 53 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly): delegations must provide either an interpreter or a written text of the statement in one of the official languages. The interpretation into the other official languages by United Nations interpreters will be based on the interpretation or written text accepted by the Secretariat as representing the official text of the statement. A “pointer”, a person who knows the language in which the statement is to be delivered and the official language into which it has been translated, should be made available by the delegation, to guide the interpreter throughout the translated text and to ensure synchronization between the speaker and the interpreter.

What speakers and delegates can and should do to help interpreters interpret them optimally:

  • Switch microphone on by pressing button and ensure the light is on before speaking.
  • Speak into the microphone. Do not tap or touch microphone.
  • Speak at a reasonable pace.
  • Speaking is better than reading.
  • If a prepared text is to be read, provide an advance copy to interpreters.
  • Refer to paragraph numbers, not pages in official United Nations documents.
  • Give the paragraph references before quotations, not after.
  • When speaking keep earphone far from the microphone to avoid screeching feedback.
  • Keep mobile phones in “off”, “silent” or “vibrate” mode.

The simultaneous interpretation of proceedings is provided by the United Nations with the purpose of facilitating communication, in light of the fact that there are six official languages of the United Nations. Only the speech or intervention in the original language is authentic and constitutes an authentic record of the proceedings. In case of any inconsistency between the interpretation and the speech or intervention in the original language, the latter shall prevail.

“Read out verbatim” or “check against delivery” should be specified on the first page of the text when delegations provide a written translation of their statement. For written texts provided in more than one official language, delegations should indicate clearly which of these is to be accepted as the official text.

Read out verbatim: Interpreters will follow the translation. Therefore, any deviation from the text on the part of the speaker, including omissions and additions, is unlikely to be reflected in the interpretation.

Check against delivery: Interpreters will follow the speaker and not the translation. If the speaker deviates from the text, delegations should be aware that the interpretation heard by the audience will not necessarily correspond to the translation that they may have distributed to the audience and the press.

Microphones start to operate only when the representative taking the floor has been called upon to speak and the delegate has pushed the button. To ensure the best possible recording and interpretation of the statement, representatives should speak directly and clearly into the microphone, particularly when giving figures, quotations or highly technical material or when reading from a prepared text. Tapping on the microphone to test if it is working, turning pages and making or answering cellular phone calls should be avoided.

Delivering the statement: While delegations are increasingly given a time frame in which to deliver their statements, they are kindly requested to do so at a normal speed if possible, to enable the interpreters to give an accurate and complete rendition of their statements. When statements are delivered at a fast pace to comply with the time limit, the quality of the interpretation may suffer.

Delegations are strongly encouraged to provide the Secretariat with copies of prepared texts of statements to be delivered in the meeting. Such copies will be delivered to the interpreters to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the services offered.