What is a British Sign Language Interpreter?

What do they do, and how do they work?


British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters enable communication between deaf and hearing people. This is crucial for those people who use BSL as their first or preferred language.

British Sign Language was recognised as an official language back in 2003.  It has its own grammatical structure and syntax.

An Interpreter conveys information from one language to another.  They work simultaneously without adding or omitting any meaning and with full respect for confidentiality.

An Interpreter is not there to be involved in the interaction or offer advice.  They can guide the participants on the practicalities surrounding the interpreting job.  Everything that is said will be interpreted, including any side comments or questions.

Interpreters can also interpret the written text to BSL.  For example, in a written exam or on medical consent forms.


Registration and qualifications


terptree work with BSL Interpreters who are registered with NRCPD (The National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people) or RBSLI (The Regulatory Body for Sign Language Interpreters and Translators).

Registered Interpreters:

  • Have Professional Indemnity Insurance
  • Have a DBS Clearance
  • Undertake continual professional development each year
  • They have a Code of Conduct and Complaints procedure.


What to expect?


This means that interpreters have received high-quality professional training and have studied for around 7 years to get to this point.

They are fluent in both English and British Sign Language and are able to interpret a whole range of subjects.

BSL Interpreters work whenever and wherever they are needed, including at doctors’ and hospital appointments, at work or interviews, at law courts and police stations, schools and in further education.  They basically enable communication between deaf and hearing people and would interpret anything that may happen in life.


Who would use this service?


Deaf people who use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language.  Sometimes, deaf people have a preference for Signed Supported English (SSE), which is signing in an English word order.  BSL Interpreters can deliver interpreting in this way, but make it clear that this is needed when booking the Interpreter so that the most suitable professional is booked.

Deaf people with Ushers syndrome may also require a BSL Interpreter.  Always check that the deaf person is happy with this and does not require any hands-on signing.  And also, make sure that the BSL Interpreter has had experience working with deaf people with Ushers syndrome before.

We would always recommend you ask the deaf person what service they would prefer, as this could change depending on the setting.