A crash course / blog on how to work with a British Sign Language/English Interpreter

Quite a few times I have arrived at an assignment and I can see from the expressions on the hearing person’s face and sometimes the deaf person – apprehension. This may be because they have never worked with a Sign Language Interpreter (SLI) before or perhaps they have had a bad experience in the past (of course there could be many reasons but these are just a couple which spring to mind). Whilst they may be aware of the purpose of an interpreter – isn’t that why I was booked?  – to facilitate communication between the hearing and deaf person(s) (please look at my blog https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/04/08/british-sign-language-bsl-english-interpreters-what-do-they-do-2/ for more detail on this) they still might be unsure of what to expect – hence, this blog…

I will always be wearing, or at least have in my bag, my NRCPD badge. This shows I am a registered interpreter and have been approved to work with the public as a BSL/English interpreter. If you don’t see this on me  – then please do ask me about it (I should be always wearing it!)

I am present at a booking (whatever the reason, e.g. meetings, interviews, a doctor’s appointment) to facilitate communication for both the hearing and deaf person(s). You may notice I recognise the deaf person(s) through a previous assignment and that’s  just because the deaf community is a small world, but please remember I am impartial and must be in accordance with my code of ethics to which I adhere.

I will sign everything that is said and voice everything that is signed throughout the assignment.

Please speak or sign one at a time. I cannot interpret what is being signed or said by more than one person at the same time. It is also difficult for me to look at more than one deaf person at a time and decipher what they are individually signing.

I will usually voice over what the deaf person is signing in the first person. As an interpreter it is usual that I do not take part in the discourse between the hearing and deaf person(s).   This does not mean I am a robot and so if you ask me a question directly, I will of course answer – but it can become confusing if I am talking in first person interpreting what the deaf person is signing.

If you are hearing and having discourse with a deaf person, please look at the deaf person you are having the discourse with. I know it will be alien to a hearing person who isn’t used to working with an interpreter not to look at where the sound is coming from, but you are having the conversation/presentation/diagnosis/etc with the deaf person (not me!) However, the deaf person will need to look at me to see what I am signing.

It is not a great idea to use me as an example in your discussions – again, because I am usually talking in first person so it becomes confusing who is speaking.  Interpreters don’t tend to take part in group work because this could affect their ability to interpret if their concentration is torn between processing the information and trying to be part of a group. Of course, I am flexible and I have been part of some groups where it was necessary, but as a standard rule – probably best you don’t include me.

The interpreter and the deaf person will try to sit away from a window being behind us. Otherwise, the light will make a person’s face very dark and hard to see what the person is signing.

The mental process of interpreting can take time so there may be a small delay in the message being processed from one language to another. Please remember, interpreting into BSL is not a case of replacing the English words with signs.

It is always good to have plenty of light on me (but remember, no light behind me).

It can depend on the assignment, but most of the time I will need to sit opposite the deaf person for them to see what I am signing and vice versa. For presentations and conferences I am best sat as close to the presenter and near to any visual aids so that the deaf person(s) in the audience can see both quickly and easily. Sitting close to the person who is talking also means I can hear easier.

Sensitive and confidential information can often be signed and spoken in a wide range of different assignments. Please rest assured that I am bound to keep everything I hear and see in an assignment absolutely  confidential.

Of course, I am not a machine, and so although the above points are good practice, an interpreter is flexible  and will always hold in mind what is best for the deaf and hearing person(s) in that particular assignment. This could mean that on some occasions the above tips are more or less appropriate. I hope they will be of some help!

 

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