Do's and don'ts of working with British Sign Language interpreters

Do's and don'ts of working with British Sign Language interpreters


Did you know that to become a qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, it takes seven years of training - that's the same length of time it takes to become a doctor! So always ensure you book a BSL interpreter and don't assume that a colleague with basic signing skills or a family member can do the job - our Dave the Signer video explains it perfectly here.

A BSL interpreter's role is to facilitate communication between a deaf BSL user and a hearing person, just the same as a French, German or Italian spoken language interpreter would do. However, the Sign Language Interpreter will also be acting as a cultural mediator as deaf people are part of a cultural and linguistic minority group so it is useful to fully understand how the role of a BSL interpreter works to ensure the deaf person and you, get the most out of the interaction.

Here are some helpful do's and don'ts to consider when working with a BSL interpreter:


  • Prepare - as much information as you can provide to the interpreter and the deaf person, before your meeting, will be a big help
  • Make sure the deaf person is able to see the interpreter clearly during the session
  • Look and speak directly to the deaf person, not the interpreter
  • Don't rush - allow extra time for the interpreter to translate what is being said
  • Remember they can't read information and look at the interpreter at the same time


  • Don't ask the interpreter about their job while they are working
  • Don't distract the interpreter or deaf person by moving around too much
  • Don't ask the interpreter to explain what the deaf person means
  • Don't ask the interpreter to "tell him or her..."

It's important to remember that while the BSL interpreter is there to aid communication, your conversation is directly with the deaf person. Although it can feel strange looking at and speaking to one person, and then hearing the voice of someone else out of view, it is polite and respectful to acknowledge that you are talking to the deaf person and not the interpreter.

Have a look at more do's and don'ts on the image below.

For more information about working with a BSL interpreter or to book a BSL interpreter for your meeting or appointment, please email or call 01452 372999.