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Tips for working with an interpreter

It is important to understand how to work with an interpreter to provide the best experience for the Deaf person.  Below are some tips to guide you and a more comprehensive guide is attached.

Type of interpreting assignment

ISL/English interpreters work in a variety of formal and informal settings such as medical, legal, education, on television, and for specific conferences. 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 on the content in advance.  Some interpreters will have more experience in specific settings e.g. in a courtroom or hospital setting.

When to book a single interpreter to work alone

Interpreters work primarily on their own. Assignments lasting less than one hour can be carried out using one interpreter, each situation should be assessed to identify the requirements.

When to book more than one or a team of Interpreters

For assignments expected to last longer than one hour, a team of two interpreters will be required in to maintain high-quality standards, interpreters take turns every 20-30 minutes depending on the assignment.

When to book a Deaf and hearing interpreting team

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 additional needs, it is advised to book both a Deaf and hearing interpreter to ensure high quality working standards and to ensure the Deaf person’s needs are met.

Duration of the assignment

In Ireland, interpreters and agencies generally distinguish between half-day (3 hours) and full-day (over 3 hours) assignments.

Additional charges

If additional charges for expenses such as travel and accommodation are needed, this 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. It is best for the interpreter to position themselves beside the speaker where the Deaf person can see both.

The interpreter and the organiser should agree the best setting or placement taking lighting and other factors that need to be considered.  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.

Tips for working with an interpreter provides further guidance on how to find, engage and work with a sign language interpreter. For additional information, please click on the link below Guidelines for Working with Interpreters (June 2021)