What’s the role of a BSL Interpreter?

There are around 11m Deaf or Hard of Hearing people in the UK who all rely on various methods of communication. British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language of more than 150,000 people in the UK.

BSL/English interpreters provide the crucial service of facilitating communication between Deaf and hearing people.

Becoming a fully qualified BSL interpreter is a specialist profession. It takes around seven years of training to master the language and the signs and techniques required to practice it effectively. While friends or colleagues with basic signing skills can help you get by, a professional BSL interpreter can add so much more value.

Their role is to facilitate effective communication by simultaneously interpreting spoken English into a signed language and vice-versa to ensure all Deaf and hearing parties can understand each other. This is the same for all language interpreters facilitating speakers of different languages such as German, Italian, or French.

However, a BSL interpreter also acts as a ‘cultural mediator’ between hearing and Deaf people. They can ensure that any subtle linguistic or contextual differences – such as dialects and metaphors – are communicated in a way that helps everyone get the most out of the interaction.

A BSL interpreter is fluent in two or more languages and works in real time, usually simultaneously interpreting the language that is both signed and spoken by each party.

They are essential not only for events with Deaf audience members, but also as a workplace resource if you have Deaf employees, customers, or service users.

Why should businesses hire a Sign Language professional?

Having a BSL Interpreter, whether it’s for an interview process, large event, or business meeting, is a sure way to overcome any communication barriers between hearing and Deaf people.

It can help your business develop better relationships with colleagues, leadership and management, customers, service users and other stakeholders. It can also help create a diverse and inclusive culture that engages everyone and doesn’t discriminate.

Regularly using BSL interpreters or translators within your business will send out a clear message that you take inclusion and accessibility seriously, care about all your staff and customers, and strive to treat them all with the same level of respect.

Key skills and roles of a BSL Interpreter

As we said above, it takes around seven years of training to become a qualified BSL interpreter – around the same time it would take to become a doctor or lawyer.  

BSL interpreters play a crucial role in making the interaction between Deaf BSL users and non-BSL users possible. They help to convey information in a way that written communications can’t, as written communications are not as direct as signed conversations and can often lack the nuance that a professional BSL interpreter can bring.

Most BSL users are more comfortable and confident expressing themselves using BSL than written or spoken English.

This is where a BSL interpreter is vital in helping organisations engage with Deaf staff, customers, and service users.

Some of the skills that a good BSL interpreter should possess include:

Preparation

Although BSL Interpreters work in real time, often preparation is still required in case of any specialist vocabulary that’s going to be used. For example, in a courtroom or at an industry-specific event or expo.

Concentration

Sign language interpreting is usually done simultaneously, meaning that interpreters must constantly listen, understand, translate, and produce all at the same time. High levels of concentration and stamina are needed for a successful interpretation.

Patience

Coping under pressure and in highly stressful environments are key for a BSL Interpreter. Keeping cool means they’ll be able to effectively interpret spoken and signed language, even if the atmosphere becomes tense.

Where can I find a BSL Interpreter?

We provide BSL interpreting and translation services in-person or online, plus expert consultancy, to help ensure your organisation is as accessible as possible. All the skilled BSL interpreters we work with are DBS-checked and NRCPD registered and provide a high-quality service to Deaf people across the UK.

We can also provide a range of accredited communication professionals for Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing users in various sectors, from education and community to legal and healthcare.

To find out more, and for expert advice on which type of communication support will meet your needs, give us a call on 0843 178 0773, email bookings@signsolutions.uk.com or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.