Interpreting FAQs

(Nearly) Everything you wanted to know about sign language interpreting, but didn’t know where to ask...

  • Who are you?
  • Do we really need an interpreter?
  • What about lipreading or writing things down?
  • But there is no law about it, is there?
  • What does “a qualified interpreter” mean?
  • I have been told we need more than one interpreter, why?
  • What is a Deaf interpreter?
  • What is the situation with parent-teacher meetings?

Who are you? is not an agency; we are a group of professionally trained sign language interpreters with many years’ experience of working with the Deaf community . Each of us is self-employed, but we have come together to pool resources and refer work to each other to ensure the best possible coverage for Cork city and county.

Do we really need an interpreter? An interpreter bridges the language gap that exists when people do not understand each other because they use different languages. Members of the Deaf community use Irish Sign Language (ISL). For many, it is their preferred and first language. These are some of the reasons why a Deaf person may request an interpreter. But you may also have identified the need for better communication with a Deaf person who uses your service. Using an interpreter brings many benefits including saving time, clear communication and fewer misunderstandings.

What about lipreading or writing things down? It is said that only about 30% of sounds produced in English are visible as lip patterns. Therefore, lipreading can be very inaccurate. Many factors, such as lighting, facial hair, the pace of information, etc. can affect the reliability of lipreading. Lipreading in a group setting, e.g. a meeting or training, is even more challenging, as it requires following the conversation as it moves from person to person.

Writing things down can be useful at times, for example as a temporary measure in an emergency or for short exchanges of a non-critical nature. But as English is a second language for many Deaf people, understanding and writing English can be challenging.

We all know what communicating in a second language is like: think of the difficulties we have when ordering food on holidays! In some situations misunderstandings can have serious consequences. By using a qualified interpreter you can ensure that communication between all parties is clear and precise.

But there is no law about it, is there? We are not legal experts, so this information is not intended as legal advice. Nonetheless, please note there are several Irish laws that pertain to ISL, including the Irish Sign Language Act 2017, which was signed into law at the end of 2017. The Act recognises Irish Sign Language (ISL) as the native language of the Deaf community in Ireland. It places clear responsibilities on public bodies to ensure their services are accessible to Deaf ISL users.

Furthermore, the principle of equality is enshrined in Irish law and there is legislation covering access to public and private services, employment and access to information, as well as making statements in Garda stations.  Many public bodies, including Dept. of Social Protection, HSE, Intreo, etc., have access policies and procedures covering the provision of sign language interpretation. For more information see Right To An Interpreter

What does “a qualified interpreter” mean? A qualified interpreter is someone who can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialised vocabulary. As the interpreter is usually the only person present with access to both languages, and therefore is the only person aware of mistakes or misunderstandings, it is essential that their skills and abilities are independently verified.

The Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) BA in ISL/English Interpreting (previously Diploma), and the Irish Signlink/SLIS accreditation process are well recognised ways of becoming a sign language interpreter in Ireland. All of the interpreters listed on this website have a CDS qualification and/or Irish Signlink/SLIS accreditation.

I have been told we need more than one interpreter, why? There are many reasons that interpreters work in a team: to maintain the quality of the interpretation, which can diminish when an interpreter works alone for long periods; to ensure the interpretation is sustained and accurate in situations where the volume and pace of the information would be challenging for a sole interpreter, e.g. at conference lectures or meetings with many participants; and to provide physical breaks thereby avoiding repetitive strain and other injuries which are common among sign language interpreters due to the constant motion required.

A team of a Deaf and hearing interpreter may be required in situations that present particular communication challenges. See the next question.

What is a Deaf interpreter? A Deaf interpreter is a language specialist who is Deaf or hard of hearing. In addition to having excellent general communication skills, a Deaf interpreter has linguistic and cultural knowledge, experience and training, bringing expertise to routine and sensitive interpreting situations such as legal settings, mental health settings, Deafblind interpreting, the use of a foreign sign language, or the use of signs particular to a given group (due to age, gender, etc.) or individual (intellectual disability, non-standard ISL, etc.). See Interpreters>Susan O’Callaghan

What is the situation with parent-teacher meetings? Deaf people are no different to other parents/guardians: they want to know how their children are doing at school and if there is anything they can do to make the educational experience better for them. Parent-teacher meetings are vital because parents/guardians and teachers can discuss all of this and more.

As well as taking into consideration equality and disability legislation, many schools see the benefits of booking an interpreter to meet with Deaf parents. According to the Minister for Education (2007) the capitation grant scheme “affords schools considerable flexibility… [which] allows schools to engage interpreters to facilitate interaction with deaf parents where necessary” (see Right To An Interpreter).

The positive effects of clear communication cannot be underestimated. However, we do understand that schools are under financial constraint, so please contact us to discuss fees, payment options and funding possibilities.

One thought on “Interpreting FAQs”

  1. Hi
    I am currently sourcing for British Sign Language interpreters for jobs in NI. I work for Capita Translation and Interpreting based in the UK.
    We currently have several jobs going unfilled due to not having access to enough BSL interpreters.
    If you are BSL qualified and you are interested in carrying out this work please email me.
    Kind regards
    Diane Ormerod
    Service Delivery Co-ordinator

Comments are closed.

Quality Professional Interpreting for Deaf and Hearing Clients

%d bloggers like this: