Seamless Interpreting Ramblings 1

Seamless Interpreting Ramblings 1


What’s it all about, this ‘Interpreting’ thing we do? We’d like to say it’s about communication and being human. At times, it seems this has been lost sight of.


This is the first in a series of interpreting related blogs – we aim to produce one a month in 2018 to get people thinking and talking.


Firstly, introductions –

We are Tracey Kelsall and Sarah Gatford.

BookendsTracey is a BSL/English Interpreter with a wealth of training and practical experience. She was external verifier for CACDP back in the day and now works predominantly in education.

Sarah is a Consultant, Trainer and BSL/English Interpreter with a specialism in theatre interpreting which she blames Tracey for! We regularly work together, developing accessible theatre productions, running workshops and generally sharing our knowledge with other Interpreters, both formally and informally – mostly informally!


Between us, we have many years experience (more than we care to freely admit!) and want to share our knowledge, which may challenge some areas of current thinking about how interpreting works.


Interpreting is so much more than the ability to sign. Surprising that eh?! That’s the bit people see and, more often than not, remember. There are even interpreters out there who forget that interpreting (or communication) is a two way process. This means being as competent, if not more so, in English, as we are in BSL. Scarily, I was recently contacted by an organisation that wanted to book an interpreter who is good at voice over. Why is this scary?? If we are interpreters, we should be comfortable to voice over to a good standard shouldn’t we? Yes, there are issues of knowing the Deaf person, the subject and the terminology – much of this also applies when interpreting into BSL. How often are people asked how good they are at BSL Interpreting? – NOT the ability to sign in BSL – these are two different things.


We like this:

Everyone should have a super power!

Everyone should have a super power!



Do we really do this though? Our job is as much about having good people skills as it is about the ability to interpret (both ways!). We need to be able to communicate not only with the Deaf client(s), we need to not get the backs up of all those other people we come into contact with in the course of our work.


Communication is not only what we say (in English or BSL) it’s so much more than that. It’s being aware of how the first impression we make with our body language and general approach makes an impact. Those phone calls and emails we answer to respond to a booking, the way we approach asking for preparation material, these are all parts of the communication process. The way we behave and deal with situations and interactions sends ripples out. Those ripples create either good or bad feeling about not only us, but our profession and the Deaf Community at large. We need to be radiators of good practice and establishing good relationships to enable future interactions to work well.


We see focusing on the task in hand as being more important than our individual personality or ego (there it is, we dared to use the word!). Our view of team-work has no competitive edge. Thinking about the sign for ‘Infinity’ like the Virgin TV loop, you know? If we make the wrong professional judgement for the right reason, we get on with it, then do it again to repair the interaction i.e. it never stops, we just do it all again and don’t get a stick out and beat ourselves up for doing so!

This comes to us being human. There is nothing wrong, in our eyes, with having a cuppa and a chat about life in general with people – this is normal human behaviour. It’s the knowing where to draw the line that causes issues. We want everyone to feel comfortable throughout the whole process. By being present, dynamics change, so we can help people settle into the reason why we’re all there (or we can make it difficult!). By naturally working together with the same goal in-mind, we’ve found it helps, surprisingly! Experience matters, not just experience as an Interpreter but life experience. This informs us about how we behave when dealing with a huge variety of people. Think about how you felt the last time you arrived at a Reception Desk and you were greeted with a grunt and a point in the general direction of the signing in book – we as Interpreters could be viewed as being like this if we don’t freely recognise that we are still human beings, despite being there to interpret. When we’re greeted with a smile and a possible, ‘Did you manage to park OK?’ or, ‘Good morning, it’s a bit nippy this morning isn’t it?’ It enhances our feeling about the place we’re working in so why don’t we be slightly more human and make others feel more relaxed about working with us by being present in the environment, being pleasant and behaving more naturally?


So as well as being good at our job:



So, you get the idea. This is the sort of stuff we’ll be blogging about. The day to day, ‘how to’ stuff. The waving about of the hands is the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much more to it!


Until next month,

Tracey and Sarah