Article in partnership with Day Interpreting. Irish sign language interpreting is a niche subsection of interpreting to and from Irish. Only a few people are qualified in Irish sign language and, according to the Law Society of Ireland, the total number of Irish sign language interpreters who are in the Register of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (RISLI) falls below 100. The Society also compares this situation with Finland, where there are about 500 interpreters to support a similar number of people as in Ireland.
Looking through the information that is available in the public domain, Irish Sign Language can be found both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The language itself and its structure borrows heavily from the French rather than English.
There are many factors for consideration when it comes to qualifying as a sign language interpreter in Irish.
First of all, there’s the aspect of demand.
Then, there are the salary expectations.
Finally, there are the requirements to become qualified and certified.
Irish Sign Language
Irish Sign Language is quite unique as it is quite different from spoken Irish or Gaelic. It also differs considerably from spoken English.
We could say that Irish Sign Language is a proprietary form of communication that Irish deaf people developed over the years.
Irish Sign Language was officially recognised as a separate language in an Act of Parliament in Ireland in 2016. The Irish government also highlighted the need to provide more support to education providers to promote learning.
People Using Irish Sign Language
The Irish Deaf Society, recognised by the United Nations convention as an organisation for disabled persons, states that approximately 5,000 people in Ireland communicate via sign language as their first language, with a wider figure of 40,000 people also knowing Irish Sign Language to communicate with them (for example, these people can include family members and school teachers). However, it is likely that about 100,000 people understand and can use Irish Sign Language in Ireland, out of a total population of just under five million.
The role of Irish Sign Language interpreters is facilitate the access to services to the non-hearing community such as medical consultations, business meetings, volunteering events and more. Interpreting also allows hearing and deaf people to be equal and preventing discrimination. However, a lack of qualified and professional Irish Sign language interpreters is affecting the rights of deaf people, particularly when accessing legal services. Public organisations mention that the cost of hiring professional interpreters is an obstacle.
When interpreters are interacting with vulnerable people and children they need to be vetted by the police (called Garda or Guards in Ireland). It is common for agencies recruiting sign interpreters to request that they are vetted to be considered for interpreting jobs.
Expected Salary for Irish Sign Language Interpreters
According to job sites, Irish Sign Language interpreters can earn about 35,000 euros per year or about 22 euro per hour. However, when digging a bit deeper and comparing different sources, you can see earning potential for interpreters ranging from an entry level salary of around 35,000 euros per year to an average of more than 65,000 euros per year.
In Ireland there is a gap in the education sector as schools are in need of more Irish Sign Language interpreters for their young students. In the past years there has been a recruitment drive in accordance to the National Disability Inclusion Strategy and advertised positions quoted salaries from about 28,000 euros to about 47,000 euros per year.
In the United States this figure with salary expectations for American Sign Language interpreters (not specialising in the Irish language) who can earn on average about 61,000 dollars per year (source: Indeed).
Becoming a Qualified Irish Sign Language Interpreter
The Register of Irish Sign Language Interpreter states that to become a Sign Language Interpreter and to be allowed to join the register the main requirement is to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Deaf Studies, specialising in interpreting. Alternatively, a Level 6 NVQ Diploma is also accepted. Then there is an accreditation process that candidates need to follow. An important requirement is that candidates do not have any criminal charges against them and that they consent to become Garda vetted if needed.
The main organisation that issues Irish Sign Language courses and qualification is based in
Dublin, which can also be an issue for people who want to become interpreters who live outside of Dublin.
Finally, to stay on the Register candidates need to complete regular professional development training.