What does a sign language interpreter do?

A sign language interpreter facilitates communication between Deaf and hearing people by interpreting between New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and spoken language. The interpreter's role is to convey meaning between spoken and signed language, not to become involved in the interpreted event in a substantive way. The interpreter will not offer advice or opinions on the situation, other than to assist participants to work effectively with the interpreter when necessary. The interpreter will keep the interpreted interaction confidential.

What does it mean if a Sign Language (SL) interpreter is a member of SLIANZ?

SLIANZ registered interpreters have a qualification recognised in New Zealand and adhere to the Code of Ethics. Interpreters who are members of SLIANZ have chosen to join New Zealand’s only professional body for sign language interpreters. By joining SLIANZ, they have demonstrated a commitment to upholding the SLIANZ Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct that guide their work with Deaf and hearing consumers. These Codes help to protect the rights of consumers of interpreting services. (read the Code of Ethics)

What do I do if I have a complaint about an interpreter?

All qualified interpreters listed in the SLIANZ Directory of Sign Language Interpreters, as well as associate members (if they undertake interpreting work) are expected to follow the Association’s Code of Ethics and Code of Practice. If a consumer feels a SLIANZ member has broken their Code of Ethics, a complaint may be made. You will find our Complaints procedure here.

How do I work with an interpreter?

Speak and look directly to the person you need to talk to, not the interpreter. There is no need to say “tell him…” or “ask her…” The Deaf individual will be looking to the interpreter to receive the message. Speak at your natural pace. The interpreter will ask you to slow down if it is too fast. You are not required to pause mid-sentence to wait for the interpreter. There may be small delay before the interpretation starts. This is because they need to interpret the whole concept or sentence.

The interpreter may ask the speaker to clarify a concept/word or to repeat a sentence, they will usually say something like “the interpreter would like to clarify, is that ….?”. This is in order to be clear that it is the interpreter asking for clarification and not the Deaf/hearing participant. When either participant is talking the interpreter will use “I….” and “we…”, facilitating a more natural interaction and rapport between participants.

Interpreters are required to interpret everything they hear/see in a setting, this includes environmental sounds such as telephones, conversations etc. Private conversations you don’t wish to be interpreted should be conducted outside of the setting. The interpreter is present only to facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing participants. Please do not ask the interpreter questions or ask the interpreter to be involved in any way other than interpreting.

Seating needs to be arranged so the Deaf person has a clear view of the interpreter and of the person or people speaking. Ideally the interpreter will be well lit and in front of a plain background. Avoid placing the interpreter in front of a bright window or busy backdrop; these settings make it harder for the Deaf person to see the interpreted message clearly. Please note, if the room will be dimmed, or lights turned off, the interpreter still needs to be visible otherwise the Deaf individual will no longer be able to access the information being interpreted.

Go to top