US Secretary of State Praises Interpreting Service as Vital for Diplomacy

Antony Blinken Interpreting Visit

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, met an “absolutely vital member” of the State Department team recently, when he sat down with Yun-hyang Lee.

Lee is the Director of the Office of Language Services at the US Department of State.

In a YouTube video posted by the State Department on September 21, 2022, Secretary Blinken praised Lee and her team of interpreters for being “the most amazing team, [without whom] we could not do our work.”

Lee explained that the Office of Language Services, which was established over 200 years ago by Thomas Jefferson, provides services to US leaders including the President, Vice President, and the Secretary of State. She said, “We have 60-some full-time staff in the office, but what’s also unique is that we have about 1,000 contract translators and interpreters because it’s a huge operation.”

“It’s a remarkable skill, and I can tell you we can’t do our diplomacy without it” — Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State

Secretary Blinken, who has used interpreters for around 30 years, lauded their work, saying, “What I found remarkable about the interpreters is you’re somehow actually able to capture not just the words themselves, but the feeling, the meaning, the emphasis behind them.”

When Lee showed Secretary Blinken around an interpreting booth and demoed interpreting a speech from English into Korean, he remarked, “It’s amazing how you’re able to, quite literally, do it simultaneously. It’s a remarkable skill, and I can tell you we can’t do our diplomacy without it.”

The two also issued a call for interpreters and translators to sign up for work at the State Department. “We need more people to come into doing interpretation,” Secretary Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Lee invited translators and interpreters for all languages to sit for the exam and join the team. “It is a difficult job, but it is never boring,” she said.

Read up on all things interpreting with Slator’s brand new report, the Slator Interpreting Services and Technology Report.

Hat tip to UEPO, which first covered the story (in German).