British Sign Language

  • 04/03/2019
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Within Britain the most common form of Sign Language is called British Sign Language (BSL). BSL has its own grammatical structure and syntax, as a language it is not dependant nor is it strongly related to spoken English.

Sign Language is a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language. Sign Language is used mainly by people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments.

We caught up with Manda one of our BSL interpreters.

When did you first start as a BSL interpreter?


 Why did you become an interpreter?

I went to Art College to study fashion but found it very competitive which left me feeling uncomfortable so I dropped out. The unexpected free time lead me to start travelling - I became an au pair in Germany - finding German fairly easy to learn. I followed this with living in Barcelona for a while and picked up Spanish. In the end I could speak 4 languages to varying degrees, and looking for a career to replace the fashion, I decided that being good with my hands and good with languages that I might be good at sign language. When I went to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People to get advice about careers they told me it would take me 7 years to become an interpreter! Well, that seemed way too long so I resigned myself to working in care with young deaf people in south London. My employer paid for my training, and after 3 years I moved to working for a deaf services team in Surrey Social Services. Again I was provided with further training and a lot of career development which took me from social work into interpreting (as a trainee) 6 years later. These roles gave me such a wealth of experience with deaf people from all sorts of walks of life - and allowed my language skills to flourish. Without this experience I would not have been the community interpreter that I am today.

 What has been your most memorable experience so far as an interpreter?

I have interpreted inside Buckingham Palace, when a deaf man got an OBE, at No.10 Downing Street, for David Miliband. I particularly love the bookings that take you behind the scenes, including cremations, surgical procedures under general anaesthetic and ghost tours! One funny experience I had was when a GP asked me if I wanted her to check my breasts for lumps, as she was checking my client’s anyway!

 What is your typical routine as a freelance professional?

My diary is my sacred book! I don't like to use an electronic diary - I like the feel of the paper! I work 5 days a week but occasionally do half days which is nice when you get a lie in. I have 2 and a half days of regular work and fill in the rest with adhoc work which keeps things varied and interesting. However, I also like to do the regular days as it gives me the opportunity to work closer with other professionals and be part of a team which I would miss otherwise. Of course I’m checking my phone regularly for suitable assignments and read any preparation material when I get some down time. I do my invoicing in the evening while I’m watching TV. Assignments can be health appointments, mental health therapies, job interviews, training courses, magistrates court, office support, probation interviews and child protection, weddings, etc. I’ve even been flown to Jersey for a 2 hour meeting as there are no BSL interpreters there!

I am also part of a support group of other BSL Interpreters. We communicate mostly via our google group email and will post dilemmas, advice, co-working and training opportunities - as well as to look for emergency cover if one of us is ill. We meet up at someone's house every 2 months and always have a meal together at Christmas. Last year we ran in the Colour Run! Most of my work is in Brighton or within 30 miles and I rarely get home later than 5.30pm. I can even walk to some of my bookings!


Do you know someone who would benefit from a BSL interpreter? Or want to find out how to make the most of our services? Please contact one of our representatives on 01273 473986 or email           


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