Tips for working with BSL interpreters in medical settings

There are almost 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss; Action on Hearing Loss estimates that the figure will be over 15 million by 2035 – that’s one person in five. 

BSL/English interpreters communicate between deaf British Sign Language users and hearing people. The interpreter will help make communication easy by switching from spoken english to signing. Deaf people have the legal right to request a fully qualified British Sign Language interpreter to assist them for any healthcare appointments such as GP, hospital, and dentist visits.

We listed a few things to  keep in mind when working with a sign language interpreter. This will help ensure a smooth communication with a deaf person.


Mannerisms and how to act during interpretation with a BSL Interpreter:

  • Remember that you are talking to the deaf person and not the interpreter. Make sure that you face the deaf person and address them rather than the interpreter.
  • The interpreter will voice out what the deaf person will sign. Listen to the voice but look at the deaf person signing even if it is more natural to look at the person who’s talking.
  • Make sure the interpreter sits/stands near you since the deaf person needs to look at the interpreter while you’re speaking.
  • Speak at a normal pace although it wouldn’t hurt to pause occasionally after each sentence or after giving a chunk of information.  A sign language interpreter does not interpret word-for-word. They usually wait until they get a good amount of information before they relay the message.
  • If you need to quote something from a written document, give the interpreter some extra time. This is needed because grammar in writing is different from grammar used when conversing, meaning the interpreter has to do more effort in rendering the translation.

The key role of a BSL interpreter is to ensure that the message is communicated across all parties effectively.  They are not there to provide an opinion nor contribute to the conversation. At Language Direct, you can be sure that we have the best team of professional interpreters.  Contact us now if you need a sign language interpreter.