Sign Language InterpretingSign Language Interpreting

A sign language interpreter provides a vital and confidential service in facilitating effective communication between hearing and Deaf people.

Sign language interpreters translate from one language to another. In Ireland, this is usually from Irish Sign Language (ISL) to spoken or written English and vice versa. In Northern Ireland, interpreters may also use British Sign Language (BSL).

When would you use a Sign Language Interpreter?

There are many circumstances when interpreters are required. Examples include hospital appointments, social welfare interviews, Garda interviews, work meetings, job interviews, educational settings, religious occasions etc.

Are Sign Language Interpreters registered?

Most ISL interpreters have been formally accredited or have attended an interpreter training programme and are awaiting independent accreditation. A national register of accredited Sign Language Interpreters has been established.
To become an accredited ISL interpreter, one must have a high standard of fluency in ISL (Level 4) and undergo stringent training via a recognised course, such as that provided by the Centre for Deaf Studies, in Trinity College, Dublin.

Are Sign Language Interpreters bound by confidentiality?

Accredited interpreters are members of the professional interpreting bodies IASLI (Irish Association of Sign Language Interpreters) and/or ITIA (Irish Translators and Interpreters Association) and are bound by their Code of Ethics.

Who pays for a Sign Language Interpreter?

The responsibility for the booking of and payment for, the interpretation is usually borne by the organisers or the service providers, although there are some grants available via FÁS for employers of Deaf people.
For more information on the Job Interview Interpreter grant, contact your local FÁS office or your local DeafHear Resource Centre.

How far in advance do I need to book an Interpreter?

As there is a shortage of interpreters, especially outside the Dublin area, you will need to book as far in advance as you can to ensure availability.

What information do I need to have ready when booking an Interpreter?

Before booking a sign language interpreter, you will need to have the following information available.

  • Date, time and venue of the event/meeting
  • What sort of event is it? (sometimes two or more interpreters will be required to maintain efficient continuity)
  • Duration and content of the event: note that an interpreter needs regular breaks, as interpreting is a highly demanding task.

As a general rule, an interpreter should never work alone if the assignment is more than two hours long; two interpreters should be booked for events lasting more than two hours.

Advance copies of any papers or materials allow the interpreter to prepare properly and familiarise themselves with the vocabulary being used. These are kept confidential and will be returned/destroyed as soon as the assignment ends.

Some tips for working with an Interpreter:

  • The interpreter should be clearly seen by Deaf participants, therefore lights need to remain switched on and there should be no obstruction between the interpreter and the participants.
  • An interpreter can only interpret one speaker at a time.
  • Speak directly and look to the Deaf person when addressing them. Do not look towards the interpreter.
  • If it is a long meeting, take regular breaks (every 30 minutes) as the Deaf person and the interpreter will require an eye break.

Further information:

If you have never used a sign language interpreter before, or have more questions, then you may find our factsheets "Alphabet" and "Tips for working with an interpreter useful.

Contact details of the main sign language interpreting agencies are as follows:

Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS)

Deaf Village Ireland, Ratoath Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, Ireland.

  • Tel: (+353) 0761 07 8440
  • Mobile: 087 980 6996
  • Fax: 01 838 0243
  • Email:

Bridge Interpreting

CSL Centre for Sign Language Studies

more...Approximately 3,000 Deaf people are Irish Sign language users.


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