Is it your FIRST time?

First time working with a BSL interpreter of course! It may even be your first time meeting a deaf person. You may be feeling a bit nervous – don’t panic, this is totally normal. That’s why we’re here!

So grab yourself a cuppa and a biscuit, and find out how to work with a BSL/English Interpreter. You’ll be an expert before you know it!

Let’s start with when you book the interpreter. Does your booking have an agenda, schedule, or specific terminology? Let us know in good time and we will send this on to your Interpreter so they can prepare. Anything you can give us will help the booking go as smoothly as possible.

If you need some reassurance about how the situation will work, then ask them. Interpreters know how to make everything perfect for your booking. You will need to be prepared to adjust your environment to make it as accessible as possible.

Another thing to consider is how the Interpreter will clarify when necessary during the booking. In some environments where this is not preferable, but if you’re okay with that, then let the interpreter know that’s okay.

When the Deaf client joins the conversation, the role of the interpreter will change. From that moment on, the interpreter represents the client, and everything that they say will be the information they get from the client.

When this happens, you must look at the Deaf client. Now this may seem weird, or rude, to not be looking at the person who is speaking but I promise you it is the exact opposite. Whilst you may want to look at the interpreter, they are only verbalising what the client is saying, and so that is where you should direct your attention. Of course when you are speaking and the interpreter is signing everything you say, the Deaf client will be looking at the interpreter. But your focus should remain on the client.

I promise you there’s not much more to go – we just want to make sure you’re completely ready for this situation, as we can often not be entirely sure how to behave in new situations.

Remember what I said about being flexible? The interpreter needs to be opposite the Deaf client with the ability to see each other perfectly so a chair shuffle may be necessary. Similarly, if there’s beautiful sunlight streaming in behind either one of them then sorry sunshine, we’ve got to shut you out, or no-one will see anything!

It’s important to consider the language you use when speaking to a Deaf client. I don’t mean that you should start speaking French (you’ll need an entirely different interpreter for that!). Don’t say “please can you tell him..” “can you ask her..” but speak as you would to anyone who is hearing.

This includes speaking at a normal pace! You don’t need…to break up…what you’re saying…so that the interpreter…can catch up. It’s not necessary! The interpreters will be listening, translating, and signing at the same time- meaning that there will be a delay in the information given/received, so allow time for that.

Given the fact that these interpreters are doing three things at once, it’s important to consider that BSL interpreting can be physically and mentally draining. Interpreters need breaks! So ensure that there’s time for them to re-charge, even if it’s just for ten minutes.

If you need to book an interpreter for longer than an hour, consider having two interpreters that will co-work together. They will alternate between interpreting and resting- usually for 20 minute intervals. If this is the case, then don’t be thrown when the voice changes, because they will swap as inconspicuously as possible.

Lastly, and possibly one of the most important things you can remember is this: interpreters will interpret EVERYTHING they hear, unless requested by the client to do otherwise. There have been many horror stories of people talking about the Deaf client close enough for the interpreter to hear it. Think of it this way: if a hearing person would hear it, a Deaf person will see it. We just want to save you from an awkward situation. You’re welcome.

I hope this has been useful for you, lovely reader. I have now consumed an entire packet of biscuits, because four never really is enough is it? If you want any more advice, then do contact us here at terptree, we are very willing to help!