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Sign Language Interpreter

 Language Learning Forum : Languages & Work Post Reply
Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3399 days ago

157 posts - 214 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German

 Message 1 of 5
16 May 2014 at 8:19pm | IP Logged 
I saw a documentary a few weeks ago about how deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK
are having real problems accessing equitable healthcare and legal assistance. There's
apparently a chronic lack of BSL interpreters and the stories have stayed with me. So
I've casually looked into learning BSL and the general training up to trainee
interpreter here in the UK, it goes like this:

Intro to BSL (6 months), Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 6 (2 years to roughly
graduate standard) then the equivalent of a 1 year MSc in Interpretation- usually 2
years part time when I believe you can be working as an Interpreter but certain areas
such as law are prohibited.

Thus, the process allegedly takes at least 6 academic years for language proficiency, 8
years to get full qualification and the usual professional lifetime of CPD. The
training costs about £10,000 ($15,000) in total (which I don't have even in part). The
daily work would be appear to be a good fit.

However, the above timeline seems extremely unrealistic to get to the standard required
in a spoken language if you're not in a total immersion environment.

If anyone has experience of learning a sign language at any level, how does the
workload compare to learning a verbal language? I do not have any personal experience
of BSL right now.

Harsh reality check sought to bring me back to Earth with a bump.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 5256 days ago

625 posts - 1009 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English
Studies: Latin, German, Mandarin

 Message 2 of 5
16 May 2014 at 10:09pm | IP Logged 
In Sweden it seems like the education is 3-4 years depending on what programme you choose to follow. Most sign
language education is not even academic, i.e. something one could get a degree in, but more like a craft.

I do know that the interpreters that work at the university for the sake of death students and professors work in
pairs, and interpret 15 minute each, on and on.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3606 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 3 of 5
17 May 2014 at 11:39am | IP Logged 
Hampie wrote:
for the sake of death students
:-D thanks, Hampie! I'd like to study that degree. Handling the scythe (1 semester), riding extremely underfed horses (2 semesters), keeping up with the paperwork (1 semester), being extremely unbiased (3 semesters) and so on. And you'll be sure to find a job in your field!

Back to the topic. A friend of mine is studying the Czech sign language at university as a part of Communication with people with hearing condition (or something like that) degree. The standard degree takes 3 years to complete and I think you can continue the follow up for two more years.

It is surely a great path to take but perhaps, as you want to know the reality, it might be the best to take a short free course somewhere first. I don't know the situation in the UK, but we've got a few non profit organisations here who teach for free or very cheaply and you can take the basics of the sign language at university as well. So, I'd recommend you to look around and take a few weeks long course to find out whether the sign language is for you, how hard it is, compared to other languages, and how long is the path really gonna be.

From what I know from the small bits learnt at university or from my friend I've mentioned above, the sign languages tend to be grammatically easier (signing declinations is nonsense, even though there have been such attempts) and the language is surely affected by the "original" language since many members of the community use sign languge and read lips and they are, of course, literate in the "original" language. But you have much fewer methods of learning and reviewing compared to spoken/writen languages. No simple wordlists, even images are of limited help. You have videos and, most importantly, live classes.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3248 days ago

518 posts - 636 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, EnglishB2, Spanish
Studies: German, Sign Language, Tok Pisin, Arabic (Yemeni), Old English

 Message 4 of 5
17 May 2014 at 12:33pm | IP Logged 
The overlap between spoken and sign is usually limited to vocabulary, as grammar can differ wildly.

The Czech Republic is unique (next to the US) in offering a degree on matters related to hearing-impairment and the Deaf culture.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3399 days ago

157 posts - 214 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German

 Message 5 of 5
18 May 2014 at 1:58am | IP Logged 
Thanks everyone. So it's not an unrealistic time frame at all? That's really
encouraging. :)

I've since emailed a semi-local organisation who've run training courses in the past
and they're running a 2 hour taster session next week which I'll try my hardest to get

FYI: Heriott-Watt University in Scotland have recently begun a 4 year British Sign
Language degree for hearing students called British Sign Language (Interpreting,
Translating and Applied Language Studies). This, too, seems to start at the beginner's

BSL degree

1 person has voted this message useful

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