To become a UN translator, you have to take some mandatory tests. First, you have to translate an English text into Spanish, and this is eliminatory. Second, you get a specialized text, legal, scientific, technical or economic. Third, you translate a text into a third language, in her case French. So you do have to speak at least two other languages of the official six to work in the UN.
Of course, all of this pays of when you start working for the UN. Apart from priceless experience, you also get to meet some famous politicians. One time, Sabela was in a Security Council meeting with Condoleezza Rice which is impressive regardless of what you think of her policy. She has also had the honors of meeting the Spanish prime minister.
Unfortunately no, she doesn’t know where they keep the black helicopters.
But how did she get here?
Usually, Sabela’s day starts around 8 AM. The first thing she does is check the news to see if something major has happened as it could affect her work that day. She then gets to the office, and work is assigned to her. What she will work on that day mostly depends on the Security Council. If there’s a meeting, she gets in and waits for the English transcript. She stays there until it’s done with five other reporters and two revisers. After work she either goes home, or meets some friends for drinks in the Delegates’ Lounge.
Although some might presume that she comes from a family of sophisticated multilinguals, this is not the case. Her family are all monolinguals that speak Spanish. They are hardworking people who were smart enough to send their daughter to English lessons when she was six, Sabela jokes.
She wanted to improve her proficiency in English, so getting a Master’s degree in Translation seemed like the logical way to go. She says that she could have stayed in Europe, and went to England or Ireland, but California was really appealing to her. Of course, the fact that Monterey Institute is renowned for its education also played a role. Monterey helped a lot when it comes to her English, but interestingly enough, it also helped with her mother tongue, Spanish. In Spain, she had only been exposed to Castilian Spanish, so California broadened her horizons - she was now hearing Mexican Spanish, Argentinian Spanish, Colombian Spanish.
When asked about the qualities a good translator should possess, she lists curiosity as the most important. A good translator has to be willing to learn and absorb as much information as possible as it helps a lot. S/he need not be afraid of taking opportunities and going on adventures, even overseas.
You can check out the full interview bellow.
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