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How to become a BSL/English Interpreter

bsl/english interpreter careers

What does a BSL/English Interpreter do?

British Sign Language (BSL) / English interpreters facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people in a variety of settings such as health and social services, religious services, legal, police and court (criminal & civil), employment, further and higher education, arts, theatre and television.British Sign Language / English interpreters have high-level skills in two languages, English and BSL, which is now recognised as a language in its own right. Interpreters are trained in theoretical knowledge, language and practical interpreting.

Interpreting involves listening carefully to, or watching the message, extracting the meaning and finding an appropriate way to express the message in the second language.

Interpreters may have to prepare any papers relevant to an assignment in advance. This allows them to search for specialist vocabulary and to familiarise themselves with the subject and the people involved,including, for example, minutes, agendas and summaries of speeches.

They must maintain confidentiality and impartiality, interpret everything that is said or signed, and will only give advice if it specifically relates to improving the communication process.

What's the working environment like working as a BSL/English Interpreter?

Hours are not fixed, but employed interpreters normally work a 35-hour week. However, due to the varied nature of the work, interpreters may be expected to work at night and at weekends.

Places of work vary greatly and interpreters work with a variety of people in many different situations. Locations may include schools, colleges or universities, health centres, residential homes, housing associations and voluntary organisations. Public service interpreting may also involve working in local government offices, hospitals, immigration centres, law courts, and prisons. Some posts may involve travelling and require a driving licence.

Advances in technology and the increasing use of video-telephony mean that Deaf people may be able to contact a BSL/English interpreter and access their services online, and at much shorter notice. Such advancements enable the interpreter to cover more assignments each day: for example, they can be booked for short meetings or consultations. Travelling is considerably reduced and interpreters may work from home or an office.

What does it take to become a BSL/English Interpreter?

To be a BSL/English interpreter you should:

  • have a good knowledge of the Deaf Community
  • enjoy working with a range of clients
  • enjoy working as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • have excellent spoken communication skills
  • have excellent BSL skills
  • have confidence when speaking in public
  • be able to maintain intense concentration and think rapidly
  • have integrity and a sense of responsibility.

BSL/English Interpreter Career Opportunities

There is an increasing demand for BSL/English interpreters, particularly in such areas as further and higher education, employment, health and law.

People with relevant qualifications might work in organisations for Deaf people, or within social services departments, or they may be self-employed or work through an agency. Some interpreters enter careers in research.

The government has taken action to improve access to BSL, for example, by identifying and funding situations where it might be reasonable for employers and service providers to engage the services of a BSL/English interpreter.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about BSL/English Interpreter that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP)
Durham University Science Park
Block 4
Stockton Road
Tel: 0191 383 1155
Textphone: 0191 383 7915

Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI)
PO Box 32152
N4 2YZ
Tel: 0871 474 0522
Textphone: 0871 474 0522

The Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI)
Donaldson's College
West Coates
EH12 5JJ
Tel/textphone: 0131 347 5601

CILT, the National Centre for Languages
20 Bedfordbury
Tel: 020 7379 5101

Royal Association for Deaf People
Walsingham Road
Tel: 01206 509509
Fax: 01206 769755
Text: 01206 711260

British Deaf Association
1-3 Worship Street
Textphone: 0800 652 2965
Voice phone: 0870 770 3300
Video phone: 020 7496 9539