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I'm just starting an interpreting program and I've heard about relay interpreting. Some say it's more difficult than normal interpreting, and I'm thinking it might be a good specialization to have when I graduate. Can someone explain what it involves? My program doesn't seem to offer any courses in it, so I would appreciate any advice about how to study it on my own.

asked 17 Jan '12, 17:49

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edited 18 Aug '12, 14:21

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The question has been closed for the following reason "The question is answered, right answer was accepted" by Luigi 08 Apr '12, 17:37

You'll find a good explanation of relay interpreting in this video (United Nations Geneva):

This is a screenshot from the video:

alt text

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answered 20 Jan '12, 06:13

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awarded points for the screen shot and the link.

(03 Feb '12, 18:27) Luigi

Methinks we're letting semantics have the upper-hand: yes, it's just simultaneous, but interpreters (pivots all, potentially) should have drummed into them that all tenets apply with a vengeance when one is a pivot, i.e.:

  • identifying speakers (colleagues taking relay don't necessarily cotton on to the fact that speakers have changed and may therefore even continue to needlessly take relay when they actually have the language being spoken by the new speaker)
  • enunciate extra-carefully to ensure colleagues (not necessarily native speakers of your language, particularly when working into English these days, so many of your listeners in the hall aren't either) get you, particularly names and figures
  • etc, etc :-)

And thank you very much for your extra care, if I ever relay off you! :-)

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answered 20 Jan '12, 04:26

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edited 24 Jan '12, 07:34

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“Relay interpreting” will become your “specialisation” only if you speak a rare/exotic language.

Relay interpreting is just plain conference interpreting with an added twist.

Normally each interpreter listens to the FLOOR i.e. the current speaker in the meeting and interprets into his/her mother tongue.

With some languages it's simply not feasible. Very very few native French or English ( or Danish!!) speaker can understand well enough languages like Hungarian, Albanian or Serbian. So if the speaker is "beyond the reach" of most interpreters they are forced to use a two-steps approach.

Those few interpreters (or sometime the only one) who can understand the speaker do the interpreting into usually English or French, and all other interpreters listen to the "pivot" instead of the speaker as "source".

Those who are often "pivots" for "relay interpreting" are also often in position to do what's normally not done - a "retour" i.e. interpreting from your mother tongue to a foreign language. Although, almost all people doing decent "retour" I know of have for all practical purposes TWO mother tongues, so strictly speaking they are working from one mother tongue to another.

Being A “pivot”, or even THE “pivot” is no more nor less stressful than usual conference interpreting.

If you are not able to focus on the speaker and your interpreting, and forget how important are those listening, or how many of them there are (in the meeting, or live on air!), interpreting is not for you.

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answered 24 Jan '12, 15:28

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Sería útil contar con formación para la interpretación relay.

Ejemplo: En el Parlamento Europeo, con sus 23 lenguas, no podemos evitar el relay. Coincido con Vicky que no hace falta formar al intérprete "pivot" que tendrá que hacer su trabajo normal (con algo más de estrés). Pero los intérpretes que usamos su relay, tenemos que aprender

  • a acabar la última frase más rápidamente para que no haya pausas muy largas cuando haya terminado el orador
  • a interpretar la comunicacion no verbal del orador (gestos...) con un cierto retraso porque estará desfasada en relación con la voz del intérprete que escuchamos
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answered 19 Jan '12, 18:41

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I recently saw a call for tenders where the client had realized that relay interpreting had a number of drawbacks (additional time lags, which may be a problem when describing a picture on the screen, and risk of multiplying inadequacies or errors, if the first interpreter makes a mistake, among other problems). So, they issued a call for tenders for a meeting in 10 languages (some pretty exotic), specifying that they wanted 2 interpreters per booth and… no relay!! This is simply impossible to manage with the human resources available at this stage. It is one thing to minimize the use of relay and quite something else to prohibit it all together while limiting the number of possible “pivots” (i.e. interpreters working directly from the source language).

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answered 08 Apr '12, 07:20

Danielle's gravatar image



I would imagine that no school would readily include a course on relay interpreting because it is something that comes up when the situation calls for it. Let me explain:

Suppose that there are four working languages and that there are no interpreters for one specific one. Then the interpreters for that language will work into that language and into another of the working languages, and the rest of the team will take their interpretation and translate into their own languages. Therefore, the booth that will be producing the interpreted message will be the 'pivot' and the rest will take 'relay' from that booth. The difficulty of being pivot is that you carry all the responsibility on your back. Your colleagues are depending on you to produce a cogent message that they, in turn, will interpret into their own languages.

So, in a nutshell, yes, being a pivot is difficult and stressing and, no, you cannot learn relay interpreting anywhere... just plain old simultaneous interpretation which is quite difficult as it is.

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answered 18 Jan '12, 08:26

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Vicky Massa

edited 24 Jan '12, 07:43

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-1 because I have trouble understanding the answer. You say, "there are no interpreters for one specific (language)", then follow with "the interpreters for that language will work into that language and into another of the working languages." This seems contradictory.

(22 Jan '12, 13:44) Luigi

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question asked: 17 Jan '12, 17:49

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