Tell me more about Interpreters and Translators

What’s the difference between a signer and an interpreter?

Very simply put, a signer is someone who can sign e.g. Deaf BSL users are signers just as non-deaf people are speakers. An interpreter conveys information from one language to another e.g. from BSL to English or from one modality to another e.g. from BSL to written English and vice versa.

What is a Deaf interpreter or Translator?

This is a Deaf person whose first language is a signed language, who interprets between 2 languages such as BSL to ASL (American Sign Language). They also translate in different modalities such as from written English into BSL or another signed language and vice versa. Deaf Interpreters can also perform an additional function in that they provide a cultural bridge between the Deaf Community and mainstream society; as Deaf people themselves they are able to empathize and have a similar view of the world as other Deaf people, which can enhance the communication. This is especially true in situations that may be very unfamiliar and stressful such as legal settings or mental health meetings, etc. If you would like to make a booking enquiry, please complete our online booking form.

When do I need more than one interpreter?

There is no magic formula for calculating the number of LSPs required. This is based upon many factors, not least of which are; the number of people attending who require a service, the type of service required, the length of the event and so on. Aditus will be happy to advise you in this regard; please do contact us to make an enquiry

Will the interpreter help my hearing staff learn a few signs during the break?

No. LSPs are there to provide a contracted service for which they have been trained. The teaching of British Sign Language is a separate profession and is taught by Deaf people, the natural users of the language. Aditus can assist you with bespoke short training courses in a number of topic areas including BSL, please see our Training page for further information.

Why are there so few interpreters?

As an emerging profession the number of interpreters is limited by several factors; the number of non-deaf people wanting to learn the language; the number of language learners wishing to become interpreters, the number of places on interpreter training courses, the lack of funding support from government to enable people to engage in full or part-time study and the length of time it may take for someone to progress from non-signer to interpreter which can be between 6 to 10 years.

Is it true that an interpreter will interpret everything that is being discussed, even if this is something rude about the Deaf person?

Yes, absolutely. It is not the interpreters responsibility to edit or monitor discussions, they are there to provide a service to all the participants both D/deaf and non-deaf therefore everything will be interpreted.

When I’ve had a team of two interpreters I notice that one of them sits watching the one who’s on duty, can this be right?

British Sign Language is a visual-spatial language as opposed to English, which is linear; because of this the propensity for mistakes and miscues is greater therefore the off-duty or support interpreter is watching for this so that they can support their colleague. In situations in which it may not be possible to ask for repetitions, the support interpreter will be feeding any unclear or unheard/unseen remarks.

Why do interpreters interrupt proceedings?

Aditus’ Interpreters primary function is to provide a seamless language service between Deaf and hearing people. For them to provide such a service they need to rely on good sound quality so they can hear what is being said, they also need to be able to advise the Deaf user who is making a contribution. Unfortunately there are times when acoustics are less than desirable and other times when there are undisciplined contributions at meetings, (i.e. people talking over one another); these factors can cause a level of chaos that renders the service inaccessible to the Deaf user and the Interpreter needs to offer a professional interruption to improve the quality of the service. Also, Interpreters can only interpret what they understand, in situations where there is jargon or technical terminology it may be that the Interpreters will need to clarify what some contributions mean, this is where preparation materials can greatly assist in reducing the amount of interruptions required by the interpreters.

In court trials why are there three or more interpreters?

The numbers of interpreters required for any event are based on several factors including the type of event. In court trials it is standard practice to have 3 interpreters on the court team, this means that one interpreter is working with another supporting and the third interpreter is resting. Trials can be extremely difficult environments and oftentimes highly charged. The support interpreter will be working at the same intensity as the active interpreter, therefore a third interpreter is required so that adequate breaks can be taken without disturbing the trial process. In addition to this, if the defendant/s is/are Deaf there will be Defense interpreters booked to assist the Defense team/s to liaise with their client/s. Discussions that take place between Defendants and their lawyers are subject to the rules of privilege, therefore the court Interpreters should not have access to those discussions.

Does government regulate sign language interpreters?

Unfortunately not at this time. There are currently 3 self regulatory bodies:

RBSLI – The Regulatory Body for Sign Language Interpreters and Translators

SASLI – In Scotland, the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters, (SASLI), is the registering and regulating body.

NRCPD – The National Register of Communication Professionals with Deaf and Deaf-Blind People administers a number of registers for all catagories of LSP.

Aditus would like to see legislation enacted, which would regulate ALL Interpreters and other LSPs in the same way as the CQC, Care Quality Commission, now regulates Social Workers and healthcare professionals.

I need an interpreter service to work in a conference crèche where we have a Deaf child. Will Aditus ensure only interpreters who are Disclosure and Barring Service checked are used?

All the regulatory bodies require DBS checking by its Regisrants and Aditus fully agrees with this stance. We ask all our LSPs to be Advanced DBS checked and will certainly ensure that this is the case whenever they are working with children or vulnerable adults.

What professional bodies support British Sign Language Interpreters?

ASLI – The Association of Sign Language Interpreters is one of the professional bodies BSL/Englsh Interpreters may join, it covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

VLP – The Assocation of Visual Language Professionals who have similar aims and objectives, more information can be found at

SASLI  – The Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters is the professional membership body and holds the interpreting register for Interpreters in Scotland, further information on SASLI can be found at

Why do Interpreters need preparation materials?

The interpreting process is the conveyance of meaning from one language to another. Therefore, the Interpreter needs to understand the meaning of what is being conveyed in language 1 so that they can find the equivalent meaning in language 2. If the interpreter does not understand the meaning then they are not able to interpret. This becomes most crucial when the information is particularly difficult, dense or technical; jargon is a perfect example. You and your colleagues may be very familiar with the jargon used in your organization or field, but the interpreter is not necessarily au fait with this, therefore preparation before the event will make the job easier for the interpreter and more successful for the participants. The more the interpreter knows the better the interpretation can be, even everyday subjects can be problematic so it is important to give the interpreter as much information as possible before the event. It is good practice to give preparation to any LSP, as it is always easier to work in an environment where they are familiar with what may be discussed.

Why do interpreters need to have information about resources such as DVD’s, PowerPoint and other visual aids being used in presentations?

Again the more the LSPs know before the event the better. With visual aids it is important that the Interpreters have sight of these beforehand, as it may be the case that the Deaf people miss visual information because they are concentrating on the Interpreter. The Interpreter can make decisions about how they will pace the interpretation in order to allow the users time to view the visual content. The Interpreters will also discuss this with the presenter so that they can work together to ensure that the Deaf people can access both the interpretation and the visual media optimally.

Why are environmental factors such as lighting, acoustics and decor important to the interpreting process?

They are not particularly relevant to the interpreting process itself but more for the comfort and ease of access to the service. If the LSP cannot hear the speakers or the D/deaf users cannot see the service then it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the service to be provided. Our Terms and Conditions of Business do stipulate working conditions for a variety of LSP services; we suggest you use these as a baseline when arranging your venue. Similarly, if the decor is particularly confused or garish then this may be a major distraction; it is always important to be aware of the environmental factors when booking LSPs and to liaise with your LSPs and D/deaf clients as to the best seating arrangements.

Why are there different qualifications for sign language interpreters?

BSL/English interpreting has been labeled the emerging profession by academics in the past. By this definition it means that the route to becoming a qualified professional Interpreter has had many incarnations, the most recent of which has been the use of National Vocational Qualifications for assessment of both BSL /English fluency and Interpreting competency. The majority of interpreter training courses, however, are academic and either full or part time study is required at one of a number of Universities around the UK in order to attain a BSL/English Interpreting qualification; these range from BA through to Masters and PhD.

Tell me more about British Sign Language?

Please click here for more information about BSL.

Tell me more about SSE?

Sign Supported English is signs in an English word order. Unlike BSL, SSE is not a language in its own right, as it does not have its own grammatical structure or vocabulary; the sign vocabulary is borrowed from BSL and the grammar from English. SSE transliteration is usually provided by BSL/English Interpreters on request; this is not actually a separate category of LSP at this current time.