There are more than 10 million people in the UK suffering with some form of hearing loss, or one in six of the population. By 2031, it is estimated that there will be 14.5 million people with hearing loss in the UK (Statistics courtesy of Action on Hearing Loss, RNID). After a recent search for a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter I became more aware of just how important and popular BSL interpreters are. Whilst they are not quite as scarce as hen’s teeth, their necessity in so many arenas means that these interpreters are in great demand.

BSL interpreters provide simultaneous interpretation of spoken English into British Sign Language. It is not simply a signed version of the English language; it is a distinct language, which in 2003 was recognised by the UK government as a language in its own right.  BSL is often used by those who were born deaf, or suffered hearing loss at an early age. Those who learn it are sometimes in a situation where they are interpreting for relatives and friends, but the training and accreditation process is rigorous. To become a Registered Sign Language Interpreter, you need to demonstrate that you are highly skilled in a signed language like BSL, ISL (Irish Sign Language) or ASL (American Sign Language), as well as a second language (that can be another signed language or a spoken language.) You would need to have achieved one of a list of MA’s or diplomas in Interpreting or Translation Studies, and have gained a high level of qualification in your chosen second language.

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No wonder then that trained experienced and accredited BSL interpreters are booked up for weeks, and more often months in advance. The work is rigorous and taxing, as like all interpreters, they make preparations before an assignment, searching for specialist vocabulary and researching around the subject and people involved. It is an exhausting process, and sometimes the skills involved are not appreciated, and interpreters have been asked very misguided and often downright foolish questions. For example ‘Are you the hand waving lady’ or ‘Do you use mime when you are doing this?’

With a growing recognition of the importance for business, personal and social development that learning a language can bring, perhaps it is relevant that we look at the need for learning even some basic sign language. There are on-line courses, which for a small cost can help you to learn the basics of BSL form the comfort of your own home ( More advanced courses and qualifications can be found at a number of Universities around the UK, but should you need to source a BSL interpreter to support meetings of any size, for one-on-one or large conference events, Lingua Translations can provide you with skilled and experienced BSL interpreters.

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Lingua Translations Ltd is a global leader in translation and interpreting, providing a personal, intelligent and professional service. We guarantee fast turnaround times with experienced and qualified linguists for every occasion: all languages, all sectors. At Lingua Translations we believe in offering a customer-focused, tailor-made service guided by the principles of high quality translation: accuracy and fluency, as well as the use of the right terminology and register. All our translators and interpreters have at least 5 year’s professional experience and are qualified to at least degree level.

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