Relay-Intralingual Interpreting: What are the challenges?

Article from NRCPD Newsletter for EFSLI, September 2022, page 3/4


Earlier this year, Ezio Savva became the UK’s first ever fully qualified and registered Relay-Intralingual Interpreter (RSLI). The NRCPD registers had expanded its Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI) and Trainee Sign Language Interpreter (TSLI) categories in 2021 to include the new specialism ‘Relay-Intralingual’.

RSLI Relay – Intralingual sign language interpreters are Deaf professionals who work with Deaf people with specific or complex language needs, such as a learning disability, mental health condition, idiosyncratic or non-standardised sign language use, or limited language development.

A Relay-Intralingual Interpreter will work intralingually within British Sign Language and broker communication between the hearing British Sign Language/English Interpreter and the Deaf client, in order to ensure that the Deaf client understands the message being communicated. They adapt what the hearing BSL/English interpreter is signing, into a native variation of British Sign Language for the Deaf client, together with the Deaf client’s response for the hearing Interpreter.

Due to failures in the deaf education system, some Deaf people have missed some understanding of basic concepts and general knowledge, and so a Relay-Intralingual Interpreter can help broker communication to mitigate these gaps in world knowledge.


Relay-Intralingual Interpreting

Since Ezio Savva joined the registers, NRCPD has since welcomed thirty more professionals in the Relay-Intralingual specialism. One of these is Jessica Maryan, a Regulated Trainee Relay-Intralingual Interpreter from Northampton.

According to Jessica, one of the main challenges that she comes across in her practice is that there is a lack of awareness of the role that Relay-Intralingual Interpreters play. She adds that: ‘Clients are not sure why they need to pay for both a BSL/English Interpreter and a Relay-Intralingual Interpreter. They assume that a BSL/English Interpreter is capable of this role. I have had a few clients say they need a Relay-Intralingual interpreter while the BSL/English Interpreter is present. Some BSL Interpreters become defensive, it is not because they are not interpreting well. I completely understand the interpreter, it is the content and information that the deaf client does not understand, regardless of how well the interpreter is signing. In addition, some BSL Interpreters do not have the confidence to stop the booking and state that this client needs a relay-intralingual interpreter.’’

‘‘Whilst my first language is English, I became fluent in BSL at the age of 18 after becoming very involved in the Deaf community. This gave me the experience to understand the jargon, cultural awareness and metaphors within BSL.’’

Jessica has been an advocate of relay-intralingual interpreting for over ten years and has seen many Deaf clients struggle with communication when solely working with BSL/English interpreters: ‘‘I have often had to clarify with clients to ensure they do understand what has been said. So, over the past few years I enquired about becoming a Relay-Intralingual Interpreter, but there were no specific courses that deaf professionals could take until fairly recently.”

Jay Thomas-Morton, from Birmingham, is another professional on the NRCPD registers who is also a Regulated Trainee in the Relay-Intralingual Specialism. He echoes Jessica’s sentiments about the challenges in Relay-Intralingual Interpreting: ”The biggest challenge for me is when I am co-working with English/BSL interpreters. We need to have a brief discussion beforehand about our roles and how the interpreting will take place between the speaker, BSL Interpreter, Relay-Intralingual Interpreter and the Deaf client. Often the speaker and the Deaf client wonder why it requires *two* interpreters instead of *one* and they ask me if I am there to support the interpreter to make sure everything is done correctly?”

”Fortunately, I work for an agency which has twenty in-house interpreters and most of them are trained to co-work with a deaf interpreter.”

Jay further adds that: ”It’s a completely different role to BSL Teaching/Assessing, as you are working in a professional team with a BSL/English interpreter, facilitating communication between the speaker and the Deaf client. It is vital to have a strong knowledge of the NRCPD Code of Conduct, and to understand interpreting theories and be able to justify your professional decisions. For example, simultaneous or consecutive interpreting – which mode was chosen and why?”

”Throughout your registration, you are continuously developing professionally until you retire. You will be reflecting every time you complete an assignment as this is part of your professionalism which reflects on your reputation as a professional registered with the NRCPD.”

Jay has been working in the Deaf community for over fifteen years and is looking forward to qualifying as RSLI and RSLT in 2023.

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