Are you thinking about using a BSL interpreter and don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you’ve booked an interpreter and want to know how to prepare?
Whether you’re new to the world of interpreting or you’ve used services before, we understand that working with an interpreter can be daunting and we want to help.
We’ve put together 5 tips for using a sign language interpreter, from how to book, to checking their skills and preparing for your session.
Remember, an interpreter is there to support you and your needs, and help remove barriers in education, employment and beyond. You have a legal right to an interpreter under the Equality Act in the UK, and the ADA in the US.
And, an interpreter isn’t just for the deaf person, they can help everyone involved ensure accurate and fair communication.
So, before you start booking: here’s 5 tips for using a BSL interpreter.
1. How to book
Booking an interpreter is easier than you might think.
You can book through databases like the NRCPD or the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) who store many interpreters’ details. Or you might be able to find an interpreter through recommendations from other deaf individuals.
There are also agencies who can help you find an interpreter, but they usually charge a fee.
It’s important to be open minded when it comes to finding an interpreter, as they have different styles, skill sets and ways of working. The most important thing is to find an interpreter who you feel comfortable working with, which may take a few tries.
If you are going to need an interpreter regularly, it’s best to find a few you like working with, and create a list so you have someone to call on in case your first option is not available.
2. Check their skills and qualifications
Interpreters have different skill sets which vary from person to person. They may be more comfortable or more competent with certain types of interpreting over others.
Find out what your interpreter’s strengths are, and check if they match the skills you require.
For example, if you attend a lot of conferences, you’ll need an interpreter who feels comfortable and competent in the conference arena. Or someone who has undergone advanced training in intense, high-level situations.
Next, check if your interpreter is registered with a regulatory body. This guarantees that they are qualified, have insurance and are working to a code of conduct.
Remember, not all interpreters decide to register, so if yours is unregistered it does not mean they are not qualified, but means it’s your responsibility to check they have the right level of skill, and are insured to work with you.
3. Be upfront about your budget
Staying on top of your finances is important, and the cost of interpreters can mount up.
Be upfront with your interpreter about your budget from the start. Together you can agree on a fair rate per hour, session or time frame.
The fee will depend on the context where you are using the interpreter. Working in the evening work, being filmed, or working alone are likely to have an effect on the cost.
If you pay an interpreter’s fee upfront, ensure you don’t overspend or under spend by tracking your hours as you go.
Need help paying for an interpreter? Visit the Deaf Access to Work website for advice, or consider using a Trainee Sign Language Interpreter (TSLI) who may have lower cost options.
4. Prepare useful information
Starting with a new interpreter? Make the process as smooth as possible by preparing some key information to help the interpreter understand your specific needs.
For example, if you’re using an interpreter for employment purposes, you could provide them with an outline of your job description, responsibilities, regular daily tasks, team structure, jargon and any meetings or training you’ll need them to interpret.
5. Be fair and professional
Your interpreter is providing a service to support you, so it’s important to treat them with respect.
Be fair and professional in your working relationship, and make sure you give the interpreter regular breaks.
Interpreters must also follow a code of conduct, which gives them certain rules and regulations to abide by such as confidentiality.
If you feel an interpreter is not acting professionally or has breached your confidentiality, you can make a formal complaint via the regulatory board they are registered with.
3 Key Takeaways:
- Find an interpreter that matches your needs using databases or through a recommendation. Make sure to check the interpreter’s skill set and qualifications.
- Be prepared – help your interpreter understand you and your needs by preparing key information before the session.
- Be fair and professional – be upfront with your needs and your budget, and always treat your interpreter as a respected colleague.
Planning on interpreting online or using Zoom? Take a look at our tips for using BSL interpreters on Zoom here.