Job spotlight: FSL interpreter

18 Nov 2015 | Language, Resources

Two weeks ago, we helped you get acquainted with French Sign Language or FSL, a language in its own right, signed in France by 100,000 or more deaf or speaking-impaired people. Unfortunately, this language is only rarely used outside the deaf community. In the French administration, in corporations, in the private sphere- few people use it.

To allow deaf and speaking-impaired people to understand and express themselves, intrepreters are necessary. It’s like two people not speaking the same language- they need an interpreter too.

FSL Interpreter: a new and upcoming job

The FSL interpreter allows two linguistic communities, people who can hear and deaf people, to communicate, each in their own language. Historically, family members of a deaf person act as interpreters. It’s still the case today – you can see it in the film La Famille Bélier.

After the end of censorship imposed on sign langauges and interpreting schools being created, the job of FSL interpreter is on the rise after some 20 years. FSL interpreter training is very specific, it includes notions of linguistics and intrepreting, and it requires great mental focus. Just like interpreters of oral languages, the FSL interpreter is a language professional.

Not everyone who knows sign language can call themselves a sign language interpreter, far from it. So it’s very important that the job of interpreter be protected and acknowledged.

At this moment, 400 FSL interpreters have graduated in France. The number of interpreters would need to rise to 3000 to cover the current needs.

What studies are required to become a FSL interpreter?

To become a FSL interpreter, you need to graduate from a FSL interpreting school. AFILS (The Association for Translators and Interpreters of Sign Language) recognises 5 degrees, 5 masters (Paris 3 and Paris 8, Rouen, Lille 3 and Toulouse).

These masters are accessible to anyone who has a license (the French equivalent of a BA degree), is cultured, and has an excellent command of French and of FSL. During the training, the students don’t learn FSL but they do learn interpreting techniques, especially consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. A selection is made to verify that each candidate knows how to use sign language; so it’s primordial to learn FSL beforehand. After obtaining the degree, the FSL interpreter can work as an employee or independently.

Please look froward to reading our interview with Stéphan Barrère, a FSL interpreter. We will learn more about the role of interpreters and the way they work.