Deaf Relay Interpreting

Deaf Relay Interpreting

DEAF RELAY INTERPRETING

Deaf Relay Interpreters translate between British Sign Language (BSL) and a modified form of BSL.

Deaf Relay 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 signed language interpreters and translators in the UK.

Deaf Relay Interpreters are deaf people with lived experience of deafness who are able to work with a hearing BSL/English interpreter to modify language and meaning in a way that makes sense to a deaf person. Often, the service user is a deaf person who has limited or minimal language (due to language deprivation) or who has a mental or physical health condition that affects their use of language. Deaf Relay Interpreters will mostly work consecutively, but may also work simultaneously in one-way interpreting scenarios.

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)

Deaf Relay 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 a sign language interpreter or translator can make a complaint about the professional if they are not happy with the service received.

There are two categories of NRCPD registration for deaf relay interpreters:

Registered Sign Language Interpreter (Relay-Intralingual) (RSLI)

Registered Sign Language Interpreters (Relay-Intralingual) (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 (Relay-Intralingual) (TSLI)

Trainee Sign Language Interpreters (Relay-Intralingual) (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
Legal and court cases
Conferences
Child protection
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