Church and Christian settings

We specialise in providing BSL/English interpretation within Christian settings. I work in churches, chapels, and cathedrals, at Christian festivals, in crematoriums, and in theological colleges.

The Church has its own set of terms, turns of phrase, and rituals which need to be interpreted in specific ways. Using an interpreter with an excellent understanding of liturgy, Church hierarchy, Christian idioms, Biblical narrative, and Church vernacular is vital when in Christian settings in order to ensure that an accurate interpretation is delivered.

But in addition to booking an appropriately experienced and knowledgeable interpreter there are lots of way in which you can assist the interpreter to deliver the very best interpretation.

The first thing to remember is that the interpreter you book is not just the Deaf person’s/people’s interpreter. Communication is a two way street; the interpreter is there for everyone, they’re there to support communication between both parties.

Some of the following tips may be very relevant in your scenario, others may not be, but if you’d like to understand how best to support the interpreting process the follow may may help your thinking:

Do you need one, two, or more interpreters? With plenty of preparation material provided an interpreter might consider working without a co-worker for up to 45 minutes, however, interpreters ideally work in pairs; in order to provide their best work, to work safely, and in line with best practice, interpreters co-work. This allows the interpreters to swap from producing to monitoring every 15 to 20 minutes which changes the type of processing load on the brain, provides a person monitor the interpreter who’s producing to help ensure accurate production, and to act as a reference interpreter to provide missed cues or meaning.‌ A single church service of 45 minutes with lots of preparation material provided well in advance might only require one interpreter, a theological lecture will require at least two per session, a festival is likely to require a team. Feel free to drop us a message to discuss the assignment you have in mind, and we can discuss how many interpreters you might need.

Supplying ‘prep’, as interpreters call it, as far in advance of the assignment as possible; copies of talks, readings, poems, songs etc in advance of the service means that the interpreters can prepare. Preparation is so important, sending an order of service, talk/sermon notes/scripts, presentations, Bible references, song/hymns lists, eulogies, videos, interviews, testimonies, etc as far in advance of the service as possible is so useful. It’s also great if you can ask those leading and speaking at a service to make time before the start of the service to talk with the interpreters to discuss the service briefly. Tell the interpreters what they’re planning, what’s God been leading them to say that day, warn the interpreters of any surprises. Tell the interpreters the punch lines of their anecdotes and jokes, if they want the interpreters to convey the humour they’ll need to let them in on the joke beforehand so they can ensure they deliver it correctly. During the service, while the interpreter is working, avoid joking with, talking with, referencing the interpreter – they’re working hard processing one language to another; each has entirely different linguistics, grammar, humour. The interpreter may well be a sentence or two behind the speaker as the interpreter needs to take the whole sentence, or phrase, or even paragraph, process the meaning from the source language to the target language, then produce it. There’s a lot going on, the processing load in the brain is high, and sadly banter between the speaker and the interpreter breaks the flow and stops the language getting interpreted which means the Deaf members of the congregation miss out.

If you’re using projectors or televisions it’s likely that the interpreter will have their back to the screens. Consider providing a monitor screen facing the interpreter so they can see what is on the main screens. As well as using this as a reference for what is happening on the screens and on stage the interpreter can also use this to follow the words to songs and readings allowing them to stay more connected to the Deaf people.

Your interpreter will likely have their back to the PA speakers, or even be behind the speakers. Both of these positions can be it surprisingly difficult to clearly hear spoken word. You might like to consider providing an in-ears monitor (IEM) for the interpreter or personal monitor/fold-back speaker at the foot of the interpreter, through which you feed vocal and spoken word mics, and media clips.

BSL is a visual language, try to ensure the interpreter is lit clearly from at least the waist up to arm’s length above the head, but preferably from the feet up to an arm’s length above the head. Take into account that the interpreter may sometimes be seated and sometimes be standing, and this may change throughout the service.

When you’re laying out the chairs, don’t forget to provide a chair for the interpreter facing the congregation and a chair for the co-worker. If there are only a few Deaf members of the congregation it may be appropriate for the interpreter to sit when the congregation is sat and stand when the congregation is stood
Over time, keep an open dialogue with the Deaf and hard of hearing people to find out what more could be done, and keep an open dialogue with the interpreters too.

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