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Practical tips for Speakers and Delegates

This guidance is geared towards in-person meeting participation. To see our tips for remote participation, please visit our page on best practices for remote simultaneous interpretation. 

  • 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.
  • 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 in advance via the Meetings Servicing Assistant. Interpreters will then check against delivery. Speakers are requested to deliver the statement at a speed that is interpretable.
  • When delegations provide a written translation of their statement, either “Read out verbatim” or “check against delivery” should be specified, as appropriate, on the first page of the text. 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.
  • 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. In the case of a written text, 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) must be made available by the delegation, to guide the interpreter throughout the translated text and to ensure synchronization between the speaker and the interpreter.

Microphones start to operate only when the representative taking the floor has been called upon to speak and the delegate has pushed the right button and the microphone light has turned red. To ensure the best possible recording and interpretation of the statement, representatives should speak directly and clearly into the microphone at all times. Tapping on the microphone to test if it is working, turning pages near the microphone and placing earphones or mobile phones near the microphone must be avoided.

Delivering the statement: While delegations are increasingly given a limited time frame in which to deliver their statements, they are kindly requested to do so at a moderate pace, 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.

What can speakers and delegates do to help interpreters interpret them optimally:
•    Switch microphone on by pressing button and ensure the light is red before speaking.
•    Speak into the microphone, bringing it close to the mouth. Do not tap or touch microphone.
•    Speak at a reasonable pace.
•    Speaking spontaneously is better than reading.
•    If a prepared text is to be read, provide an advance copy to interpreters via the Meeting Service Assistants.
•    Refer to paragraph numbers, not pages in official United Nations documents, when quoting.
•    Give the paragraph references before quotations, not after.
•    When speaking keep earphone far from the microphone to avoid feedback.
•    Keep mobile phones in “off”, “silent” or “vibrate” mode and away from the microphone to avoid feedback and interference.