What is a BSL Interpreter?

British Sign Language (BSL) is the sign language used in the UK, and is the first or preferred language of some deaf people. BSL was recognised by the Government as a language in its own right in March 2003. BSL is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 Deaf people in the UK. BSL is a visual-gestural language, with its own grammar and principles, which are completely different from the grammatical structure of English. Our director Lesley Weatherson is a qualified BSL Interpreter.

BSL video version of the page

BSL & Lipspeaker video versions of the page​

Becoming a BSL / English Interpreter

Sign language interpreters transfer meaning from one spoken or signed language into another signed or spoken language. Interpreters will use their skill and knowledge of the two languages, and their understanding cultural differences between those for whom they are interpreting, to transfer a message in one language into the other language.

Photo credit: Emma Dawber RSLI

Standards

BSL Interpreters must hold a DBS check, must have an advanced knowledge of English and BSL and must be able to process information quickly and accurately.

BSL Interpreters can apply to become a “Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters” (MRSLI). This status allows an interpreter to work in all settings. Even once MRSLI status is achieved, however, an interpreter is required to undertake Continuous Professional Development and when available, specialist training to work in specific domains.

The Association of Sign Language Interpreters www.asli.org.uk and Visual Language Professionals www.vlp.org.uk provide a network of regional groups, professional development opportunities and mentoring schemes. They represent the sign language interpreting profession in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sitting on advisory committees and having strong links with the NRCPD.

NRCPD Registered

BSL Interpreters are qualified and registered with either the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) or the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and DeafBlind people (NRCPD). They follow a Code of Conduct, have an up to date Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), hold Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) and are subject to a complaints procedure.

Need to book a BSL Interpreter?

Top Tips for working with a BSL Interpreter

When making a booking please provide the following:

  • Dates and times of the event
  • The full address and meeting point at the place where you need the interpreter.
  • The purpose of the booking such as office support or a meeting.
  • The name of the deaf person and any other people involved in the event.
  • Preferences of the deaf person if known such as BSL or signed supported English.
  • Any paperwork to prepare the interpreter is essential:
    • Agenda
    • Participants
    • Powerpoint slides
    • Previous minutes
  • Ensure only one person contributes at any one time to allow a successful interpretation.
  • For assignments over 1 hour in length, two interpreters will be required.
  • Trainee Sign Language Interpreters (TSLI) can cover some bookings but not within the legal or mental health setting. Medical bookings and those within the social care setting may not be suitable for a trainee.
  • All of our BSL Interpreters are NRCPD/SASLI registered and badges must be carried with them at all times.
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