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Relay Interpreting as a Tool for Conference Interpreting Training

Fanny Chouc, José María Conde
Heriot-Watt University 
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The purpose of this article is to explore the pedagogical benefits of experiencing and practicing relay interpreting for conference interpreting trainees. Relay interpreting was defined by Shlesinger (2010) as “the practice of interpreting from one language to another through a third language”. This activity is occasionally featured de facto in the learning experience of conference interpreting trainees, but it has not yet been studied extensively as a deliberate tool for the training of conference interpreters. This article focuses on students’ experience and practice of relay interpreting as part of mini-conferences, a pedagogical activity built into interpreting students’ curriculum. We draw on theories of situated and experiential learning by Lave and Wenger (1991), Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989), Kolb (1984) and Kolb and Kolb (2005). A study was carried out with Heriot-Watt University students on the Honors and Master Conference Interpreting programs. All students experience relay interpreting during weekly simulations of multilingual conferences, in which students may take relay from their peers to interpret into one of their working languages when the speaker’s language is not part of their combination. Alternatively, students may themselves play the part of pivot, defined by Seleskovitch and Lederer (1989, p. 199) as “the interpreters who produced the first version relay those who interpret next”: They know that some of their peers depend upon them to relay the initial message into their working language. Providing and depending upon relay enables students to approach a range of key interpreting skills from a different angle, such as monitoring, as raised by Sawyer (1994) and Gile (2009). Relay interpreting creates a set-up conducive to the learning strategies highlighted by Boud, Cohen, and Sampson (2001), based on active observation of techniques. The mixed-method approach used for this study focuses on students’ perceptions of the activity, as well as of the impact of relay interpreting on their own practice as users and providers of relay.
Keywords: Conference Interpreting training, relay interpreting, multilingual conferences, situated learning.