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Retour Interpreting - What Is It And When It Is Used

Translators USA is happy to answer any questions our clients may have about our interpreting services or interpreting in general. With nearly 20 years of experience in providing interpreting services across the United States and working with some of the best interpreters in the country, we have gained a lot of both practical and theoretical knowledge and we are happy to share it with our clients who want to learn more about the art of converting one language into another. In this blog, we will review a relatively rare type of interpreting, known as retour interpreting.

What is Retour Interpreting?


Retour interpreting is a type of simultaneous interpreting in which the language specialist works into their second rather than first language. Though all professional interpreters know their second language almost as good as their mother tongue, the majority of them works only into their first language rather than in both ways. However, some language specialists understand and speak their second language well enough to be able to interpret into that language from their native and sometimes from other languages as well.

The Position of Professional Interpreters' Associations on Retour Interpreting

The opinions are divided about whether interpreters should work only into their first language or both ways. A research conducted several years ago suggests that working into the second language is more strenuous and tiring because in most cases, interpreters don't express themselves in the second language as well as in their first. The research also found that retour interpreters are more likely to “wear out” and become ineffective.

Some experts disagree with the opponents of retour interpreting. They argue that interpreting from the first into the second language is actually easier because the language specialist doesn't have as many options to choose from. Proponents of this type of interpreting also argue that in order to interpret accurately and effectively, the language specialist first needs to understand and only then, convert what was said into another language.

When Retour Interpreting is Used?

Even though there is no consensus about retour interpreting, the majority of professional interpreters' associations recommend language specialists to work only into their first language and not vice versa. However, retour interpreting can be very useful for rare language combinations and for relay interpreting - interpreting into a language that other interpreters understand in order to be able to provide interpretation for the listeners. Relay interpreting is usually avoided as well because it increases the risk of misinterpretations given that the speech is interpreted twice before reaching the listeners.

Professional Interpreting Services and Advice 7 Days a Week!

Translators USA provides professional interpreting services nationwide and 7 days a week. Our skilled, experienced and knowledgeable interpreters are available for consecutive, simultaneous, whisper and phone interpreting, both large and small venues, and almost any language combination and subject/industry. To hire our interpreters or for an advice on anything related to interpreting, please call 888-790-8872 or contact us through our website.

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018
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