Relay interpreting: Complexities of real-time indirect translation

Franz Pöchhacker

The unique features of interpreting as a situated process and performance to enable communication in real time make relay interpreting a particularly complex manifestation of indirect translation and a rich area of investigation. Even so, the great potential of relay interpreting as an object of inquiry in Translation and Interpreting Studies has remained largely untapped. This article seeks to map out the conceptual territory of relay interpreting as indirect translation with reference to relevant factors and features. The analysis highlights the great diversity of scenarios that can be subsumed under the heading of relay interpreting with reference to such key parameters as mode, modality, policy, linguality, multimodality, and technology. The – regrettably modest – state of the art is reviewed with regard to types of research, topics, and methods; and some areas of special interest, such as Deaf relay interpreting and speech-to-text interpreting relying on speech recognition technology, are discussed for their potential to extend the scope of indirect translation to include intralingual and intermodal as well as technology-based manifestations.

Publication history
Table of contents

An article on relay interpreting in a collection on the theme of indirect translation can be seen as serving two contradictory purposes: on the one hand, it may show how relay interpreting is uniquely different from (other forms of) indirect translation; on the other, it can argue that an account of indirect translation would be incomplete without a fuller understanding of relay interpreting. I hope to demonstrate how a detailed analysis of relay interpreting in all its possible manifestations can significantly expand the conceptualization of indirect translation developed to date. It is in this – arguably indirect – way that I envisage giving an answer to the question posed by the editors of this special issue. In other words, by extending and enriching our understanding of what indirect translation can be and what factors and relationships it may involve, we will also have served the interests of Translation Studies as a discipline, broadening its ever more diverse object of study and revealing novel facets and interrelations that can spark further theoretical and empirical development.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Altman, Janet
1990 “What Helps Effective Communication? Some Interpreters’ Views.” The Interpreters’ Newsletter 3, 23–32.Google Scholar
Anderson, R. Bruce W.
1976 “Perspectives On the Role of Interpreter.” In Translation: Applications and Research, edited by Richard W. Brislin, 208–228. New York: Gardner Press.Google Scholar
Assis Rosa, Alexandra, Hanna Pięta, and Rita Bueno Maia
2017 “Theoretical, Methodological and Terminological Issues Regarding Indirect Translation: An Overview.” In Indirect Translation: Theoretical, Methodological and Terminological Issues, edited by Alexandra Assis Rosa, Hanna Pięta, and Rita Bueno Maia, special issue of Translation Studies 10 (2), 113–132.Google Scholar
Biscaye, Elizabeth
1993 “Problems in Interpretation.” Meta 38 (1), 101–103. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Bowen, David, and Margareta Bowen
eds. 1990Interpreting – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Binghamton, NY: State University of New York at Binghamton. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Braun, Sabine
2015 “Remote Interpreting.” In The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting, edited by Holly Mikkelson and Renée Jourdenais, 352–367. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
Čeňková, Ivana
2015 “Relay Interpreting.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies, edited by Franz Pöchhacker, 339–341. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
2019 “Los intérpretes checos en las instituciones europeas a los quince años de la adhesión a la UE [Czech interpreters in the European Instiutions fifteen years after joining the EU].” In Smaller Languages: The Slavic Languages, edited by Miroslava Aurová, Jana Pešková, and José Agustín Torijano Pérez, special issue of CLINA 5 (2), 63–76.Google Scholar
Cerney, Brian E.
2004Relayed Interpretation from English to American Sign Language via a Hearing and a Deaf Interpreter. PhD diss. Union Institute & University Graduate College.
Denissenko, Jurij
1989 “Communicative and Interpretative Linguistics.” In The Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Teaching Conference Interpretation: First International Symposium on Conference Interpreting at the University of Trieste, edited by Laura Gran and John Dodds, 155–158. Udine: Campanotto.Google Scholar
Díaz del Castillo, Bernal
(1568) 1976Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España [The true history of the conquest of New Spain]. México: Porrúa.Google Scholar
Dollerup, Cay
2000 “ ‘Relay’ and ‘Support’ Translations.” In Translation in Context: Selected Contributions from the EST Congress, Granada 1998, edited by Andrew Chesterman, Natividad Gallardo San Salvador, and Yves Gambier, 17–26. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2014 “Relay in Translation.” In Cross-Linguistic Interaction: Translation, Contrastive and Cognitive Studies, edited by Diana Yankova, 21–32. Sofia: St. Kliment Ohridski University Press.Google Scholar
Gambier, Yves
2003 “Working with Relay: An Old Story and a New Challenge.” In Speaking in Tongues: Language across Contexts and Users, edited by Luis Pérez González, 47–66. València: Universitat de València.Google Scholar
Giambagli, Anna
1993 “L’interprétation en relais: une perte d’information? Un essai expérimental [Relay interpreting: A loss of information? An experimental study].” The Interpreters’ Newsletter 5, 81–93.Google Scholar
Hung, Eva
2014 “Translation in China – An Analytical Survey: First Century B.C.E. to Early Twentieth Century.” In Asian Translation Traditions, edited by Eva Hung and Judy Wakabayashi, 67–108. Abingdon: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Kade, Otto
1968Zufall und Gesetzmäßigkeit in der Übersetzung [Coincidence and regularity in translation]. Leipzig: Enzyklopädie.Google Scholar
Kurz, Ingrid, and Liese Katschinka
1988 “Live Subtitling – A First Experiment on Austrian TV.” In Translation, Our Future: Proceedings of the XIth World Congress of FIT, edited by Paul Nekeman, 479–483. Maastricht: Euroterm.Google Scholar
Lim, Hyang-Ok
2002 “Relay Interpretation: A Necessary Evil?Interpretation and Translation 4 (2), 149–171.Google Scholar
Mackintosh, Jennifer
1983Relay Interpretation: An Exploratory Study. MA thesis. University of London.
Maricou, Jozefien
2018L’interprétation en relais: Étude comparative de la qualité d’interprétations directes et indirectes sur la base d’un corpus [Relay interpreting: A corpus-based comparative study on the quality of direct and indirect interpretations]. MA thesis. Ghent University.
2020 “Relay.” Accessed August 15, 2020. https://​www​.merriam​-webster​.com​/dictionary​/relay
Mikkelson, Holly
1999 “Relay Interpreting: A Solution for Languages of Limited Diffusion?The Translator 5 (2), 361–380. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Millner, Julia
2016Inkonsistenter visueller Input beim Relaisdolmetschen [Inconsistent visual input in relay interpreting]. MA thesis. University of Vienna.
Moravcová, Helena
2012Relaisdolmetschen von PowerPoint-Präsentationen: Eine Fallstudie [Relay interpreting of PowerPoint presentations: A case study]. MA thesis. University of Vienna.
Pięta, Hanna
2019 “Indirect Translation: Main Trends in Practice and Research.” Baltic Accent 10 (1), 21–36. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Pihkala, Tuula
1998 “Die Kompetenz des Dolmetschers auf die Probe gestellt: Relaisdolmetschen ohne Dolmetschanlage im Rahmen eines internationalen Bauprojekts [Interpreting competence put to the test: Relay interpreting without interpreting facilities as part of an international construction project].” textcontext 12 (2), 129–147.Google Scholar
Pöchhacker, Franz
2022Introducing Interpreting Studies. 3rd ed. Abingdon: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2019 “Moving Boundaries in Interpreting.” In Moving Boundaries in Translation Studies, edited by Helle V. Dam, Matilde Nisbeth Brøgger, and Karen Korning Zethsen, 45–63. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
2020 “ ‘Going Video’: Mediality and Multimodality in Interpreting.” In Linking Up with Video: Perspectives on Interpreting Practice and Research, edited by Heidi Salaets and Geert Brône, 13–45. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Pym, Anthony
2011 “Translation Research Terms: A Tentative Glossary for Moments of Perplexity and Dispute.” In Translation Research Projects 3, edited by Anthony Pym, 75–100. Tarragona: Intercultural Studies Group.Google Scholar
Romero-Fresco, Pablo
2011Subtitling through Speech Recognition: Respeaking. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
Romero-Fresco, Pablo, and Franz Pöchhacker
2017 “Quality Assessment in Interlingual Live Subtitling: The NTR Model.” In Translator Quality – Translation Quality: Empirical Approaches to Assessment and Evaluation, edited by Geoffrey S. Kolby and Isabel Lacruz, special issue of Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series: Themes in Translation Studies 16, 149–167.Google Scholar
Sakalidis, Theodoros
2021Interlinguale Live-Untertitel: Direkt vs. relaisgestützt [Interlingual live subtitles: Direct vs. relay-based]. MA thesis. University of Vienna.
Seleskovitch, Danica, and Marianne Lederer
1989Pédagogie raisonnée de l’interprétation [A systematic approach to teaching interpretation]. Paris: Didier Érudition & Bruxelles: OPOCE.Google Scholar
Shlesinger, Miriam
2010 “Relay Interpreting.” In Handbook of Translation Studies, vol. 1, edited by Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer, 276–278. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Song, Shuxian, and Andrew K. F. Cheung
2019 “Disfluency in Relay and Non-Relay Simultaneous Interpretation: An Initial Exploration.” Forum 17 (1), 1–19. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
St. André, James
2020Relay. In Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, 3rd ed., edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha, 470–473. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
Wadensjö, Cecilia
1998Interpreting as Interaction. London: Longman.Google Scholar