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Working with an Interpreter

Type of interpreting assignment

Irish Sign Language (ISL)/English interpreters work in a variety of formal and informal settings such as medical, legal, education, on television, conferences etc. Interpreters also work with people in everyday work and personal settings.  The context and the nature of each assignment varies and requires a specific approach and preparation in advance.  Some interpreters will have more experience in specific settings e.g. court or hospital.

Book in advance 

There is currently a shortage of interpreters in Ireland. Best to book interpreters well in advance.

Booking One Interpreter

Assignments lasting less than one hour can usually be carried out by one interpreter. However, each situation should be assessed to identify the requirements.

Booking Two Interpreters

For assignments that are over one hour, a team of two interpreters will be required. To maintain high-quality standards, the interpreters will take turns every 20-30 minutes depending on the assignment.

Booking a Deaf Interpreter

For some assignments, a Deaf interpreter and a hearing interpreter will be required. In cases where the Deaf person has limited or no English or special needs, it is advised to book both a Deaf and a hearing interpreter. This is to ensure high-quality working standards and to ensure the Deaf person’s needs are met.

What is the difference between a hearing ISL Interpreter and a deaf ISL Interpreter? And why would someone need both?

Around 5000 deaf people in Ireland have Irish Sign Language as their indigenous language. They communicate primarily and preferable through ISL, which is a distinct language of its own with its own grammar and lexicon. Whereas English is also used and known by deaf people in Ireland it may not be their first language.

In Ireland we have interpreters who work between a signed (ISL) and spoken (English) language. Mostly these will be hearing people who have learned ISL and are qualified ISL – English interpreters.
We also have deaf interpreters, these are deaf people who are qualified to interpret between ISL and other signed languages, or to work in a team with a hearing interpreter.

Because of the specific nature of a situation, or a deaf person’s language requirements it might be the case that only a team of a deaf and a hearing interpreter can provide adequate interpreting services. In these cases both interpreters are a vital part of the interpretation team. The hearing interpreter is necessary to relay communication clearly to and from another hearing person, who cannot use ISL. If the deaf interpreter works without a hearing colleague,  communication issues and communication breakdown between all participants might arise. This is why in these situations a team of both a deaf and hearing interpreter is needed. 


Interpreters and agencies usually have a half day rate (up to 3 hours) and a full day rate (over 3 hours). There are additional costs for assignments that require high-skilled interpreters, such as in medical or legal settings. Additional charges, such as travel and accommodation expenses, should be clarified in advance with the interpreter or agency.

Preparation material

It is important an interpreter receives preparatory materials prior to an assignment.  This allows the interpreter to familiarise themselves with the subject or situation.


ISL is a visual language, the positioning of all parties involved is extremely important.

The interpreter and the organiser should agree the best setting or placement taking lighting and other factors into consideration. In case of video/audio recording or livestreaming, the agreement of the interpreter is required in advance for recording and sharing of any filming.


Interpreting is a demanding cognitive task, therefore, to provide and maintain a high-quality standard, interpreters need regular breaks throughout the interpreting assignment which can be agreed in advance.

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