What is an interpreter?

An interpreter is a qualified professional who assists with communication between two or more people who do not use the same language. The interpreter receives and understands a message from one person expressed in a particular language. The interpreter then converts the message into another language and transmits this message to the other party. Interpreting can take place consecutively (alternating chunks of information) or simultaneously (receiving and delivering both languages at the same time).

Potential interpreters need a combination of educational and professional qualifications and personal qualities. Auslan/English interpreters must be fluent in both Auslan and English so that they can facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people. They also need to know the social and cultural aspects of the Deaf community and must follow a Code of Ethics.

What skills do I need?

  1. Fluency in Auslan and English and an understanding of the Deaf community
    The Deaf Education Network (DEN) offers Introductory Auslan classes at certain evening colleges throughout NSW. These are not sufficient for fluency in Auslan, but are a good introduction to the language. DEN also provides certificate courses in Auslan up to the Diploma of Auslan. These courses require more time and commitment and can assist you in becoming fluent in Auslan. Some TAFE courses also offer certificate courses in Auslan. This includes the Auslan Bridging Course which aims to increase students' Auslan and English vocabularies and preparing them to meet the entry standard of an interpreting course.
  2. An understanding of and an ability to manage the interpreting process
    The interpreting process is a separate skill to fluency in a language. To learn about the interpreting process, ASLIA (NSW) recommends a training course. In NSW, the only course offered is a one year Diploma of Interpreting (Auslan) held at Petersham TAFE. This course is only offered every second year. Petersham TAFE also occasionally offers a one-semester NAATI Paraprofessional preparation course.
  3. Other skills required
    Many other skills are necessary for interpreters including:
    • Broad general knowledge, including current affairs
    • Good interpersonal skills
    • The ability to maintain confidentiality and behave in a professional manner
    • Good powers of concentration and high memory retention

What is NAATI?

“The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) is the national standards and accreditation body for translators and interpreters in Australia. The company is owned jointly by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and is governed by a board of directors who are appointed by the owners.” There are various levels of accreditation. Currently, NAATI tests in Auslan only in Paraprofessional Interpreter Level (formerly Level 2) and Professional Interpreter Level (formerly Level 3). However, it is expected that in the future, testing for Auslan interpreters will be available at higher levels. ASLIA (NSW) does not recommend the use of interpreters who are not accredited by NAATI.

How do I become a Paraprofessional Auslan/English interpreter?

To become a Paraprofessional Auslan/English interpreter, you must possess accreditation from NAATI. There are two ways to gain accreditation:

  1. Pass an examination with NAATI
  2. Successfully complete a TAFE or university course accredited by NAATI

ASLIA (NSW) believes that interpreters should be trained professionals, and therefore strongly recommends the completion of a NAATI-accredited course. Currently in NSW, the only accredited course offered is the Diploma of Interpreting (Auslan) at Petersham TAFE. This is usually offered every second year.

How do I become a Professional Auslan/English Interpreter?

For many spoken languages, Professional Interpreter Level accreditation is the minimum accreditation accepted. For Auslan interpreters, ASLIA (NSW) strongly encourages all members to work towards Professional Interpreter Level accreditation. There are currently two paths available:

  1. Pass an examination with NAATI
  2. Successfully complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Auslan/English Interpreting at Macquarie University

Ongoing Professional Development

Interpreters at all levels of accreditation are encouraged to develop their skills and knowledge by attending interpreting related courses, workshops and conferences. ASLIA (NSW) runs regular professional development. For details of upcoming events and workshops, click here.