BSL/English Interpreters translate between British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English.
BSL/English Interpreters are required to undertake extensive training at Level 6 of the National Occupational Standards (equivalent to undergraduate level). They are certified and regulated by the National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD), the professional regulatory body for BSL/English Interpreters (and other communication professionals) in the UK.
The role of the BSL/English Interpreter is similar to a spoken language interpreter. They facilitate communication between an English speaker and a deaf person whose native language is BSL. Signed language interpreters work mostly in simultaneous mode, even in liaison interpreting situations, although they may also use consecutive mode.
What is British Sign Language (BSL)?
BSL is the indigenous signed language of the British Isles (used in England, Wales, Scotland and certain parts of Northern Ireland). In 2003, the UK government recognised BSL as a language in its own right, following decades of research into the linguistic structure of BSL. BSL has its own vocabulary and grammar distinct to those of English. In this respect, BSL is just like any spoken language and is not a 'signed' form of English.
The British Deaf Association (2018) estimates that there are 150,000 native users of BSL in the UK and who rely on BSL/English Interpreters to access public services, such as healthcare, education and community services. This figure does not include non-native users of BSL (people who use BSL as a second language).
There is a huge diversity of signed languages across the world with different countries having their own native signed languages. Many deaf people have moved to the UK from Europe. They do not know BSL but they are fluent in their own native signed languages, e.g. Polish Sign Language. In these cases, international sign interpreting services should be sought.
National Register of Communication Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)
BSL/English Interpreters should be registered with the NRCPD, which means National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People.
NRCPD is the professional regulatory body for sign language interpreters and sign language translators in the UK. NRCPD registration means that deaf people who use BSL/English interpreters can make a complaint about the interpreter if they are not happy with the interpreting service.
There are two categories of NRCPD registration for sign language interpreters:
Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI)
Registered Sign Language Interpreters (RSLI) have completed a Level 6 qualification in British Sign Language and a Level 6 qualification in sign language interpreting.
The Level 6 qualification is mapped against the National Occupational Standards, which means RSLIs have been assessed against nationally recognised criteria.
Trainee Sign Language Interpreter (TSLI)
Trainee Sign Language Interpreters (TSLI) are undergoing training towards RSLI level. TSLIs have skills in British Sign Language and in sign language interpreting at Level 4, and are working towards the Level 6 qualifications.
This lower skill level means that TSLIs must not be booked for assignments where there is a significant risk to the parties involved, or where a high level of language and interpreting skill is required. For example, TSLIs should not be booked for:
Mental health assessments
Face-to-Face Interpreting Services
Face-to-face interpreting services require the interpreter to travel to a venue in order to carry out the interpreting services. For example: a GP appointment, conference or council appointment.
We provide face-to-face interpreting services across London and the South East
Remote interpreting services are performed from a remote location (usually the interpreter’s home). The interpreter will connect to the meeting using an online videoconferencing platform.
All interpreters are equipped with a green or blue screen background, a HD camera, microphone and headset and adjustable lighting to ensure a high quality of service.
We provide remote interpreting services for the whole of the UK and abroad, including for public live streams and webinars.
Areas of Expertise
BSL/English Interpreters work in a wide variety of settings and may have specialisms in certain domains. Some of the most common domains are:
Health (GP appointments, dentist, hospital appointments)
Employment (job interviews, staff meetings, office support)
Performance (theatre, festivals, shows)
Community (community forums, council services, home visits)
Education (schools, colleges, universities)
Legal (solicitor appointments, police dealings, court hearings)
Live streams and online conferences
Telephone and conference calls