Bruce Granger, Translator/Reviser (English) in Conference & Publications Department
Why did you join ITU?
I have always been a fan of clear and constructive communication, and when I was offered employment by the UN agency whose prime mission is to enable all the world’s inhabitants to communicate, irrespective of distance or location, I knew this was going to be the right place for me.
What is your profession and what is your academic background?
I am a translator by profession. From the age of eleven, I attended a grammar school on the edge of London, where my best subjects were English, French, Latin and Ancient Greek. My schooling should have continued until I was eighteen, but by sixteen I had had enough, and left. The following nine years were a combination of travel and assorted jobs, including darkroom assistant, vehicle licensing clerk, postroom clerk, school groundsman, factory store room assistant, motorcycle messenger, shop assistant and theatre usher, punctuated by a two-year spell of working and studying at the Krishnamurti international residential school in southern England, where I obtained a pre-university qualification (A-level) in French.
The summer of 1980 found me working as a counter clerk in a travel agency in London’s Leicester Square. One day, after I had been calling hotels in France and Spain on behalf of customers, my supervisor, Fred, told me I had a gift for languages and should resume my education. I decided he was right, and arranged interviews with four London colleges. That September, I began a four-year BA course in Spanish and Russian at Ealing College in West London. After completing that, I went on to do a one-year postgraduate course in Translation and Interpretation at the University of Bath. This included a one-month internship in an international organization, which in my case turned out to be the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The month went well, and a few weeks later my career in the United Nations common system had begun.
After six years in Vienna, for a variety of personal reasons, I moved to Switzerland, working first as a freelance translator for three years and ultimately signing a fixed-term contract with ITU in September 1994.
Can you describe your work and the competencies required?
My job title is Translator/Reviser (English), and the bulk of my time is spent translating documents into English on a self-revised basis. My main source languages are French, Russian and Spanish, and occasionally I also work from Portuguese and German. Although ITU is a technical organization, the experts carry out much of their work in English, so although I do sometimes translate technical texts, most of what I handle is of an administrative, financial, legal or journalistic nature.
The reviser function entails the checking of translations done by short-term staff and external collaborators, provision of training and feedback to new translators, and editing of texts written in English, often by authors of a different mother tongue.
An infrequent but vital function is provision of support to the editorial committee at ITU’s treaty-making conferences. This is where teams of delegates and translators work together to align the texts of what will become the final acts in the six official languages. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially at three o’clock in the morning on the last day of the conference, when everyone is exhausted and the final acts have to be assembled and issued.
A far more relaxed part of the job is when colleagues from other parts of the Union telephone or drop in to ask for advice on points of English style. It is also a pleasure to assist translators from the other language sections when the English they have in front of them doesn’t seem to make any sense. At best, we are able to work out what it means, while at the very least we can confirm that... yes, you’re quite right: it makes no sense whatsoever!
What are you most proud of in your work?
Here in the English section, we sometimes talk about a “warm feeling” that comes when a job has been well done and everyone concerned is happy with the result. Translators are generally quite invisible in the overall scheme of things, but their work enables all the participants in a given organization’s work to understand each other’s written contributions. It is from this that the warm feeling - a combination of pride and personal satisfaction - comes.
What motivates you to continuously contribute to ITU’s mission?
As I drive to and from work I listen to radio stations from all over the world on my mobile phone. If I want to catch something on TV, I can stop the car and watch it on the same device. Then I can call a friend on the other side of the planet and have a video conversation. At home, I can use internet or satellite TV to watch programmes from other continents. And, if I wanted to become an overnight sensation, I could film myself singing a song and post it online...
The myriad benefits of telecommunications, already so familiar in this part of the world, are utterly revolutionary when first experienced by an isolated rural community not even connected to the power grid, and are self-evident in the aftermath of a tsunami, earthquake, flood or hurricane. The motivation comes, then, from knowing that one is playing an invisible but essential role in all this. It comes too from being part of a great team, both here in the section and in ITU as a whole. And, last but not least, it comes from a constant striving for... that warm feeling.
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