Emotional impact of interpreting

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Emotional impact of interpreting

Most people think interpreting is just translating orally or into sign language the words of a person speaking a different language. Of course this is true in the most basic sense, but there is so much more to the skillset of an interpreter.

I was interested to listen to the BBC’s See Hear programme about a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter who had to interpret for a deaf close friend with a serious illness. With little to no support available, the programme discussed whether the emotional trauma of interpreting difficult situations is causing interpreters to quit the profession and whether anything can be done about it.

It is not just sign language interpreters who are exposed on a daily basis to emotional and potentially upsetting situations. While of course there are obvious exceptions – business meetings, conferences etc – people often only need an interpreter when they are in trouble.

Covering over 150 languages, we send our interpreters to courts, hospitals, police stations, immigration centres, prisons and solicitors’ offices across the UK. Perhaps one of the most emotionally challenging contracts we hold is to provide interpreting support in multiple languages for hospices. As a company, we try and offer as much support as possible to our interpreters faced with communicating often traumatic and emotionally difficult information. Although part of an interpreter’s initial training will cover how to deal with such situations, as we found out when one of our Polish interpreters came away from a particularly difficult assignment, there does not appear to be an official support group for traumatised interpreters to turn to. Definitely something for our industry to tackle.

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If you would be interested in learning more about our British Sign Language interpreting service or our other interpreting services, do please get into touch


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