Do you know what relay interpreting is?

There are many different types of interpretation. Situations such as public events (for example a press conference or a round table), are more likely to attract people of different nationalities and the ideal scenario is to have an interpreter for each language combination. Nevertheless, relay interpreting is often the technique that’s chosen and implemented. Would you like to know what relay interpreting is? Imagine a sort of linguistic filter that pivots between the source language and the target language.

The relay technique

The word “relay” comes from its French counterpart “relais”, which means “replacement” or “transmitter”. “Relay” is a word commonly used in the field of communications, most specifically within the spectrum of simultaneous translation.
Therefore, the figure of the “transmitter” refers to the bridge that unites two interpreters whose work is done in conjunction. Thus, “relay” is a technique that is based on linking a source language to another through a third person; a third simultaneous interpreter who acts as “filter”. In this way, while a person delivers a speech in language X, an interpreter translates it into language Y and another professional interpreting from another booth translates language Y into language Z. To make it happen, it is necessary to count with soundproof booths, microphones, wireless headphones, a sound system and a sound technician to oversee any technical issues.

When is it used?

Sometimes, the language combination that is required is not provided by the interpreters hired. Let’s imagine the following scenario: a press conference in which Mariano Rajoy, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are the participants. The Russian president is giving a speech in his language and it has to be translated into different target languages, including English. The trouble of not having an interpreter working directly from Russian to Spanish can be solved thanks to the English-Spanish combination booth. In this way, Mariano Rajoy can get a version of Putin’s speech in his language.
Relay interpreting is in fact nothing less than interpreting from one language to another using a third language as auxiliary support. Following the previous example, the simultaneous interpreter in charge of transmitting the information to Rajoy will not translate from Russian, but from the English version that arrives through the interpreter assigned to Trump. The intermediate language that acts as mediator, in this case English, is called a “pivot“. (Obviously, conferences at state level usually have better means; this is just an illustrative example.)
Double interpretation obviously involves a delay in the final result, so this technique requires experienced professionals who are prepared to perform their duties with great skill and promptness. Any small change could hinder the whole meaning of a sentence. Thus, it is essential to train thoroughly under the supervision of the best experts.
In addition, it is a procedure that can be, in spite of its complexity, relatively economical. By reducing the number of simultaneous interpreters, fewer professionals are needed to provide translations in several languages. It is very difficult to find interpreters of certain language pairs that can translate a speech simultaneously to the language of interest for a specific event. Yet, if achieved, the price could be exorbitant given the low offer. However, languages as widely spoken as English and Spanish can always be implemented as the pivot, since they simplify the process and save costs. Likewise, the relay technique allows for the reduction of soundproof booths and, consequently, the total cost of the service.
If you are interested in this technique for a conference, fair or event, you should look for competent professionals with experience in the field. At BBLTranslation, we offer the best services for this practice. We have been doing this kind of work for years and we know how to manage the delay inherent to this method in the most efficient and subtle way. Contact us!