Me – a professional BSL interpreter?

Ok, so that’s definitely not true but I try. Although he often has interpreters coming into the office, I regularly act as a backup interpreter for Ben for small meetings etc. The other day however, his interpreter had an accident and Ben was supposed to be giving a talk in the auditorium at Hursley where we work. Can you guess what happened next? πŸ™‚

So I stood up to the challenge and tried to interpret Ben’s talk to the audience. It was a very strange experience as I’d never really interpreted from BSL to English apart from in small groups, or even seen it done very often – most interpreters I see are from English to BSL for Ben’s benefit. I wasn’t sure how well it went as knew I didn’t manage to get everything across, my language was quite simple compared to what Ben was trying to articulate, and I did swap from the 1st person (the correct method where I pretend to be Ben) to the 3rd a couple of times. However, a few people (including Ben himself) were extremely generous with their praise which was fantastic to hear (e.g. here, here, here and here).

Following that talk I was full of confidence and so then happily interpreted for Ben at the next one (someone else on stage, English to BSL). Definitely got a rush that day, very exciting. Maybe I’ll do more of this in the future…

P.S. I know I’ve done more signed versions of BSL-related posts in the past but I’m finding it quite hard to find the time to do it. Writing is much quicker for me and to then translate I need to get a camera, work out what I want so sign, how to translate etc. Maybe it would be better to start with a BSL version and translate that to English instead. I’ll have a think about it and see what I can do.

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23 thoughts on “Me – a professional BSL interpreter?

  1. hey,i love reading your blog! i've just started my level 2 in bsl and after learning AUSLAN for over 10 years it's difficult moving on to BSL. I find your blog and links are really helping me with my level 2 course.i have some homework this week i'm hoping you can help me with..it's all about sentence structure. sounds easy to you probably because you've done it all before but it's not so easy for me! so if you think, or are interested in helping me please could you send me a quick email? my address is redcanadahat@hotmail.co.uk or you can find me on facebook: Beth hale :-)Thanks x

  2. hey,i love reading your blog! i've just started my level 2 in bsl and after learning AUSLAN for over 10 years it's difficult moving on to BSL. I find your blog and links are really helping me with my level 2 course.i have some homework this week i'm hoping you can help me with..it's all about sentence structure. sounds easy to you probably because you've done it all before but it's not so easy for me! so if you think, or are interested in helping me please could you send me a quick email? my address is redcanadahat@hotmail.co.uk or you can find me on facebook: Beth hale :-)Thanks x

  3. Hi Beth,Sorry it's taken so long to reply but I've been on holiday for a while. Glad you find the blog interesting and useful πŸ™‚ I'm guessing I'm way too late for your homework but let me know if there's anything else I can help with in future. Not that I'm necessarily the best person to ask but I can try…

  4. Hi Beth,Sorry it's taken so long to reply but I've been on holiday for a while. Glad you find the blog interesting and useful πŸ™‚ I'm guessing I'm way too late for your homework but let me know if there's anything else I can help with in future. Not that I'm necessarily the best person to ask but I can try…

  5. I'm not sure I understand the reasons behind this technique or the associated keyboard entry method. What are the benefits over finger-spelling in existing sign languages such as BSL and ASL, or using existing text entry techniques for mobile devices?

  6. I'm not sure I understand the reasons behind this technique or the associated keyboard entry method. What are the benefits over finger-spelling in existing sign languages such as BSL and ASL, or using existing text entry techniques for mobile devices?

  7. Hi there,I'm re-doing my level 2 again, as I failed on 201, but passed on 202 and 203, yes I know what your thinking, Its been said to me by many, anyway I've decided to re-take level 2 again in the hope of helping to build up my confidence again, an have too come acoss your site, which may I add am finding very interesting and helpful, as my latest homework is on compound signs! which your site has very kindly explained. Anyway just thought I would comment on the alternative to fingerspelling which I really don't understand, even though I've done level 2 already I'm still a bit slow on my fingerspelling and also reading finger spellings, and thought the alternative would of helped, but unfortunatley it has'nt, I just don't get it???Anyway any tips you can give on brushing up on my fingerspelling reading? Unfortunatley I don't know any deaf people 😦 and have logged onto loads of sites but have found nothing really helpful yet!

  8. I didn't understand the point of the fingerspelling alternative and unfortunately Brad didn't provide any extra information. As for fingerspelling practise, the productive stuff you can do by just fingerspelling words in a book or on TV or something. The receptive stuff is a bit harder but Signature provide a few videos you can watch which will contain a variety of fingerspelling (http://www.signature.org.uk/shop.php). There must be a few other content producers too but probably best to go with the official ones! Other than that, you could try searching for BSL videos on YouTube – there might be some stuff people have created that happen to contain fingerspelling. All good practise to see real people signing, particularly those who are fluent obviously.

  9. Hi, I know this blog is 4 years old but as a registered and qualified interpreter with the NRCPD I am filled with horror by it contents!! A difference between registered interpreters and people who are not yet qualified enough to be registered is that registered interpreters are subject to a very strict code of conduct. The code of conduct includes confidentiality and integrity and if you really had been a registered interpreter, Gareth, you would have just been disciplined for globally revealing the name of the deaf person and where they work. I have never met Ben but the deaf community is a small one and I am sure plenty of us could identify him from the information given on this blog. Did Ben actually know that you gave out details of his assignment so publicly Gareth?

    Another difference is that registered interpreters have BSL qualifications 2 levels higher than holders of a Level 2 qualification and they have interpreter training in addition to this. It took me 10 years (including a degree in interpreting) to be qualified enough to join the register. At that point, NRCPD stipulate that interpreters are considered to be at the ‘minimum level of competence’ – so Level 2 cannot ever be enough to work as an interpreter. There is no interpreter training before level 6 BSL – qualifications are language qualifications only. Being a good ‘signer’ is not the same thing as being a trained, qualified and registered interpreter. They are poles apart so I am not sure why you are now ‘filled with confidence’ as you have not been trained to know whether you did a good job – that’s a false confidence and probably more about having the nuts to stand up and have a go. You commented yourself that you ‘don’t know if you did a good job’ and even admit that what you produced was a more ‘simple version’.

    I don’t mean to be unkind to you Gareth because I understand that you stepped in to help out, which is admirable, but by putting this on your blog you are giving the impression that anyone with a BSL qualification can do the job but this would be to the detriment of all users of interpreters (whether deaf or hearing) . We already have a problem with untrained people undertaking ‘interpreting’ work that they are not qualified or insured to carry out – particularly as a result of government cuts and poor decisions made regarding contracting for interpreting services so the interpreting profession have to react to accounts like this to maintain a high standard of service for users. You do appear to be suggesting that no one needs to worry about training and qualifying to work as an interpreter. Interpreters are now trade marked under the NRCPD Sign Safe scheme and anyone without the Yellow RSLI or Blue TSLI ID badges could find themselves facing a challenge from Trading Standards for a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act. Maybe this is not such an issue for you in assisting Ben in the work place – this is a message to your followers that might be encouraged by your blog to have a go in other environments. There is only one way to be an interpreter and that is to put the years of training in and foot the expense that goes with it so that you can register with the NRCPD (or alternative).

    I do not think it is likely that any of your colleagues would really know whether you did a good job either- can they sign? Are they qualified as interpreters to be able to evaluate your performance and accuracy? Thinking logically – Ben is deaf so he can’t hear your interpretation to know whether you voiced him accurately. I have no idea what your job is but I wouldn’t assume that I could do your job without the appropriate training and qualifications and I would be grateful if you would not encourage others to think that Level 2 is enough to be an interpreter. I don’t think your commenters quanzou and Xiarman can really be interpreters either (not BSL interpreters anyway) given that they are also encouraging you to interpret before reaching the minimum level of competence. If they were interpreters then they would have written a more realistic and honest posting like this one to you, which is not just for your information but also for your followers who may have something of a wrong impression about when the NRCPD say that you can start working as an interpreter.

    I am certain that you are a very nice person and that you are learning and that you mean no harm but you really do need to be a bit more careful about what you offer to do and what you then choose to publish so publicly.

    • Hi Colette, thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you that a professional interpreter should have the appropriate qualifications and regulatory approval, and I certainly didn’t intend to give that impression in my post. I tried to make it very clear that I didn’t do as good a job as a professional interpreter and I think it’s unfortunate that you responded in the way you did, especially to someone volunteering to help out a member of the deaf community that you work so closely with. Ben asked me to help him out of a difficult situation and I was more than happy to do so. I am very sympathetic to your frustrations with government cuts and untrained interpreters, but I would suggest there are more effective ways for you to raise awareness and gain support.

  10. I disagree Gareth, this is the right forum to gain support against Government cuts because there are several related aspects and one of the impacts of the cuts is BSL learners being offered and accepting interpreting work before they are trained to do so. It happens because they can’t command the same fees as interpreters and because BSL learners do want to help – but this willing nature is often taken advantage of. However if people really want to help the deaf community then we need them to get behind saying no to working before they are qualified to.

    I did comment that I wasn’t attacking you for helping out but your blog does unwittingly give the impression that it is ok for people with BSL qualifications to take on interpreting work. In your case the deaf person was consulted and accepted your help but that is rare. It is all too common that deaf people are not consulted and that this is imposed upon them – quite a different matter and one we are keen to prevent.

    Actually, I disagree with you again, I think we do have the same cause at heart, you call it ‘helping out a member of the deaf community’ and interpreters would refer to it as ‘maintaining high levels of access’. Its true that I do work closely with this community (and the hearing community too as interpreting is 2 way) and I care a lot about deaf people getting appropriate access so i have to speak up and point it out when I see something that might further encourage BSL learners to have a go at interpreting.

    Interpreting is not just about being good at BSL though – a very commonly held misunderstanding. We have a whole code of conduct that we are trained to adhere to that shapes the role. Confidentiality is a massively important part of the code. As hearing people we don’t have to tell anyone what we are doing and where – deaf people are at the mercy of interpreters, whether registered or not (so bound by the code of not) so we should not disclose their identity and where they work on a global platform – you never know what might be of interest to others.

    • Hi Colette, I don’t think we’re in disagreement about anything. I think your message may have been more effective if it had put more emphasis on the fundamental problems than on my scenario, but these are all very important issues and I’m glad there are people like you working hard to raise awareness.

  11. Hi Gareth,

    This isn’t an attack and I am not looking to argue with you – we simply have different perspectives because of our differing levels of qualification and experience and this is a healthy debate to be having in a forum seen by BSL learners.

    I think my message is another valuable perspective for your readers to consider if they are learning BSL to go into interpreting or if they are already being approached and offered work. Your audience are at a level where they may be being approached with interpreting work and it is difficult to resist it when their usual motivation is a want to help. Some of your audience are also the same people that organisations like the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) are appealing to, to help BSL learners to understand why it is not a good idea to accept interpreting work ahead of training and registering as an interpreter. Although no one has commented here about whether they feel encouraged to accept work as a result of this posting it doesn’t mean that the blog doesn’t have passive readers out there who are taking away messages other than the one that you may have intended – that’s why I’m appealing to you to be a bit more careful about what you put on the blog. I understand that you are primarily talking about learning BSL on the blog but interpreting is a very different matter.

    I am commenting on your scenario because it is one of many examples out there that contributes towards the fundamental problem so, from my perspective as an interpreter, I do see it as relevant. It also serves as a good illustration of the differences between being qualified to converse in BSL and being qualified to work as an interpreter and that is something that people have difficulty distinguishing between. I am more interested in helping BSL learners to understand what their level of BSL qualification will allow them to do work wise. Not just to ensure high standards for users of interpreters but also to protect themselves so that they get themselves to qualified status unscathed.

    I accept that your colleague was in agreement for you to help out in the absence of their regular registered interpreter – it’s not a perfect solution but that isn’t what really what concerns me about the contents of this particular posting. That agreement was between you and your deaf colleague and that is where it should have stayed. By telling the world about it via the internet, it says to people who are not trained interpreters that it is 1) acceptable to undertake interpreting work without training and 2) that it is ok to broadcast confidential details so publicly. I would be struck off for that.

    I think the majority of people have supporting the deaf community at heart but it is vital to be clear about the right way to help and to consider whether any actions may in fact do more harm and contribute to the wider problem. I would like there to still be a profession for future interpreters to join and for there still to be fees that are worthy of the years of training and skill involved, and in order for us to maintain that one of the ways that BSL learners can really help is to be clear that a BSL qualification does not qualify someone to work as an interpreter and to say no to offers of work.

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