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Sign language interpreters may look very active with their hands, but in actual fact most of the hard work is going on in their heads
In BSL interpreting, it is the meaning of the message that is interpreted, not each individual word
BSL has its own grammar and structure
Each country has its own sign language
It takes 8-9 years to become a qualifed interpreter
What should I expect when working with an interpreter?
Interpreting is a profession requiring high level skills, developed over many years of training, experience and working practice.
Working with Interpreters
Both deaf and hearing people use interpreters to help communication between them. Here is a list of useful points to remember when working with a BSL interpreter:
The interpreter’s role
The main role of an interpreter is to pass messages from people using BSL into English and vice versa. Interpreters use their skill and knowledge of two different languages and cultures to receive a message given in one language and pass it on in the other.
Sometimes an interpreter may need to interrupt the person speaking or signing to ask them to repeat or explain what they mean, to make it easier to interpret.
The interpreting process
Sign language interpreters may look very active with their hands, but in actual fact most of the hard work is going on in their heads. They have to listen carefully, watch for the message, extract the meaning and then find an appropriate way to express this in the second language.
As with any other interpreted language, every English word doesn’t necessarily have a corresponding sign in BSL and each language has its own grammatical structure. The interpreting process involves expressing the same meaning using a different vocabulary and grammatical structure.
Only ONE message can be interpreted at a time. Therefore, in a meeting it is important that only one person speaks or signs at a time. Otherwise the interpreter may have to stop and request that people speak in turn.
Interpreting requires intense concentration and can be very tiring. At top speed interpreters may be processing up to 20,000 words per hour.
For meetings and events longer than 2 hours, at least two interpreters are necessary
The mental processing takes time and there will be a short delay as the message passes from one language to another.
Other points to be aware of:
Interpreters can not retain much of what they have interpreted, as their full attention is focused on processing the content from one language to another. Therefore, don’t expect an interpreter to ‘fill in’ any deaf people who were not present for the full session.
Watching an interpreter for a long period of time can be very tiring. Hearing people can rest their eyes and still hear what is being said, but if a deaf person stops watching the interpreter they may miss vital information. Because of this deaf people will appreciate breaks in long and intensive programmes.
If you have planned the chance for deaf and hearing people to network during coffee and lunch breaks you may need to book interpreters for these sessions --but remember that interpreters also need time to refresh and relax. Don’t expect them to interpret continuously throughout the day!
In BSL interpreting, it is the meaning of the message that is interpreted, not each individual word. It’s impossible for the interpreter to deal with information they do not fully understand. Therefore it is absolutely essential to send them scripts of speeches, relevant background information and definitions of jargon and technical terms well in advance.