Sign language interpreters

A sign language interpreter facilitates communication between Deaf and hearing people by interpreting between New Zealand Sign Language and spoken language.

The interpreter's role is to convey meaning between spoken and signed language, not to become involved in the interpreted event in a substantive way.

The interpreter will keep the interpreted interaction confidential. Interpreters are qualified professionals who follow a strict Code of Ethics.

They will interpret the full content of lectures, tutorials or other events into New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). They will also interpret NZSL into English for those that are hearing.

In order for interpreters to carry out their work effectively, you may need to make some adjustments to the environment and the way you teach or present.

You can assist the interpreter by:

  • providing access to class content as far in advance as possible—course outlines, key concepts and terms, preview of visual and audio aids for presentation, examples, graphs and jokes. They also require access to key readings and handouts
  • being clear when you are referring to visual aids: use less of 'this' and 'that' and 'over here'—identify what you mean verbally
  • organising the room accordingly. The interpreter needs to sit or stand facing the student, so the student can see the presenter, visual aids and the interpreter
  • use appropriate lighting that is sufficient for the student to see the interpreter without strain (including during slides and video when interpreters continue signing)
  • addressing the Deaf person directly. Hearing staff and students should address the Deaf student and not the interpreter. The interpreter will automatically interpret whatever is said/signed
  • include rest breaks. If a session is longer than one hour the interpreter must have a break—this is an occupational health and safety preventative measure.