Normally, translation agencies have lots of resources to translate within various language pairs, especially those languages that are most commonly spoken or are most important for its business. However, on occasion, challenges arise that seem difficult to resolve. One of them, for example, is how to translate texts from or to rare languages. I am not necessarily talking about rare languages, dialects or languages of Asian or African regions, which are the first that come to mind when talking about difficulty in getting reliable resources. The same can also happen with languages that, a priori, are known but that, when combined with others, become “lethal”.
Consider, for example, language pairs such as Portuguese-German or French-Danish, even Russian-Chinese. The list goes on. We just have to think of the most disparate combinations that may exist to give us an idea of how difficult it can be to assign a project of translating a complex language pair.
For these cases, agencies use a process commonly known as “relay” (or “back translation”). The word relay here means “transmission” (used in the area of electronics and mechanics), or it can refer to a take over (of people). In short, a “relay” is a transmission or a take over of a source language to another destination.
A “relay” then, is a process that seeks a translator who can take the source text and translate it into English (or other languages, but this is the most universal of all). To put it in a better way, think of the above cases to give an example: for the German-Portuguese, the agency must find a resource that translate the version from Portuguese into English and then look for resource that can translate from English into German. Following the same premise, for French-Danish one person would need to translate from French into English and then another from English into Danish. In this way we can guarantee a translation of these complicated language pairs.
This is a fairly common process within agencies, although it is always necessary to take the appropriate precautions. For the translation of the source text into English, it is necessary to complete the steps of translation, editing and proofreading with highly skilled resources, since this is how the agency ensures that the translation is absolutely faithful to the source text.
(Versión en español: ¿Qué es el relay?)