British Sign Language/English Interpreting

The video above was produced by the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) UK and BSL Bridge. ASLI is the professional association of sign language interpreters in the UK, its remit is to encourage good practice among interpreter practitioners. ASLI’s remit includes raising the profile of the profession and educating public services about the importance of booking a professionally trained interpreter to facilitate communication with members of the sign language community.

A registered BSL/English interpreter is a trained professional who has met National Occupational Standards and completed the training required to undertake work as an interpreter. There is much more to interpreting than the process of transferring the words or signs expressed in one language into those of another. Interpreting is an interpersonal service. When facilitating communication, the interpreter will consider:

  • how much cultural and contextual brokering is required,
  • offering assistance with how to communicate via an interpreter,
  • taking steps to manage the interaction and turn taking,
  • requesting assistance to understand unfamiliar concepts/terms.

The above demonstrates that interpreting is a collaborative task and, in some cases, the interpreter will co-construct an interpretation with their client to ensure accuracy is retained. This description also demonstrates that interpreting is a life-long learning process. Generally speaking, a more experienced interpreter will have garnered higher functional linguistic abilities, subject-specific knowledge, cultural awareness, general communication skills and people management skills. All of these traits are necessary to assist the interpreter in their daily work.

Some of the more experienced interpreters may specialise in areas such as interpreting in mental health settings, legal settings, conference settings or academic settings, to name a few. These specialist fields require particular consideration to be given to what defines an interpreter and what the expectations of an interpreter might be within the unique constraints of these settings.

To maintain a benchmark in the quality of interpreting services it is necessary for interpreters to register with a recognised governing body. A registered interpreter is then expected to abide by a professional code of conduct, which will typically include:

  • confidentiality – to respect clients’ right to privacy; not to disclose any personal information acquired during an assignment unless permission is explicitly given
  • impartiality – to represent all parties faithfully
  • integrity – only to accept assignments which lie within one’s competence
  • a commitment to continuing professional development (CPD)
  • to disclose any conflicts of interest
  • to respect the ethics and the working practices of other professions
  • to preserve the reputation of the interpreting profession

For more information about interpreting, visit the ASLI website.