Anonymous: If people can register as a BSL interpreter with just a degree, the Deaf community’s doomed

Posted on December 11, 2014

Yesterday, like every day, I read my daily news from The Limping Chicken when I came across Jen Dodds’s article about the National Framework Agreement. I became fearful.


We all know that the standards for BSL interpreters have dropped over the years and with this new National Framework anyone could complete a Level 1 BSL course and say they are an interpreter – heck, even a ten year old could do this too.

Standards are dropping even lower now so we will have to rely on people who have the common sense to know that having BSL level 1-3 doesn’t not make an interpreter and that people with those levels of BSL will need to take on further training to become a BSL interpreter.

So we have to look at the process of how BSL interpreters and CSWs are trained- most of us are aware of the NVQ process they have to go through. But what about degree based courses?

The University of Wolverhampton recently made an announcement (a quiet one, mind you) that BSL interpreting students would be able to register as a sign language interpreter if they graduate with a First Class degree:

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Upon on reading this, I laughed at the absurdity of this- I was not sure if this was a joke so I carefully read this announcement again, again and again. My first thought was ‘the Deaf community is truly doomed’.

Dramatic reaction I know, but my heart sunk because we know that standards of BSL interpreters are slipping and now aspiring interpreters can go to university, get a first class degree, and are unleashed on poor unsuspecting Deaf people as RSLIs.

Why we as a deaf community should be outraged at this.

Let me give you a few examples of why…

Would you let someone with a law degree (3 years full time) represent your legal matters?

Heck no! This is what they also have to do before registering as a solicitor:

  • Legal Practice Course qualification (1 year full time),
  • Period of recognised training incorporating the Professional Skills Course (two years full-time)

They also have extra training for the specialised areas they want to work in.

Would you let someone with a medical degree examine you?

Again no! They have to:

  • Graduate with Level 7 Masters (4 years), which give them the ranks of junior doctors.
  • Foundation programme (2 years) which includes placements in different areas of medicine
  • Specialisations, which includes more exams and further assessments. Life-long as they must do more postgraduate qualifications to be up-to-date in their fields.
  • To be a GP a trainee doctor has to do General Practice Speciality Registrar – (work as a trainee based in a GP practice for 18 months).

A solicitor- 6 years training.

Medical doctor- 6 years training and further more years in their fields.

Let’s look at what it takes to be a modern language interpreter:

  • A modern foreign language degree that includes living abroad in order to engage themselves in all aspects of the language they are doing. (4 years)
  • Post graduate course (1 year)
  • Proficiency tests to assess one’s skills (this is rather an in-depth assessments including a gruelling 3 hour exam).
  • Registering with ITI as a rookie. (ITI membership is available at a number of levels to reflect one’s degree of professional development.)

5 years along with more assessments to check their skills are indeed up to scratch.

So looking at the examples provided- nowhere it does say that a student completing a first class BA degree is a fully qualified registered member of their profession.

So finishing the BSL interpreting course (4 years) with a First Class degree and being automatically registered as a sign language interpreter is unfair to RSLIs who have worked their way up from being a JTI to where they are now.

It takes years of experience and further training to meet the standard that Deaf people deserve but who decides what are the standards these days?

This is also unfair to the deaf people who use BSL daily who may have to work with an unexperienced RSLI who did well in university.

We rely on NRCPD to monitor standards of BSL interpreters to ensure the highest standards are being met…. YET they approved this university course where anyone can go in and come out in FOUR years and walk out with only a First Class BA degree with a RSLI status with no further need for more qualifications. With only a work placement in their final semester of their final year to their name?

So are YOU going to accept this or face an uncertain future not knowing what kind of RSLIs you are getting?

NB: Don’t get me wrong, there have been some truly awesome interpreters over the years from The University of Wolverhampton and I’m sure the students there are lovely.

You can read NRCPD’s official response to this article by clicking here.

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