I met with Oscar Tena, a Freelance BSL Interpreter, to gossip over brunch in a Clapham pub about his journey, from Interpreting for Deaf clubbers to keeping up with future technology.
Hi Oscar, could tell me about how you came to be a BSL interpreter?
I’m from Northern Spain, Basque Country but I moved to London at 21. I've been working within the Deaf community for 18 years. I used to love clubbing in London. One night, when out in Farringdon in the 90’s, I met some Deaf people. We became friends and I always felt inclined to ask “How do you say this?” and “How do you say that?” I enjoyed it. Maybe learning English opened up my mind to learning other things.
From there I started building on my signing, until one night they said…
“We love you, but we’re here to have fun, not to teach. So please go ahead and enroll on a course.”
So, with that advice I started my Level One training.
What do you like about interpreting?
The whole human factor of the job is the most enjoyable part of it. In essence (without wanting to sound big headed) you're helping people. When you go to a booking, you're enabling people to access something that is helping them to improve their quality of life and you're helping them to achieve that.
What do you wish more people knew about interpreting?
We're facilitating communication between two parties but we're still human beings, we are approachable and we're not pretending to know more than anybody else. Be open minded about engaging with us. Luckily, it tends to be mostly positive experiences.
In the news recently there's been lots of concern about budget changes, are you worried this could affect the interpreters place?
I only worry about things that I have control over. It's gonna happen if it has to happen.
Regarding the cuts - it's been on the cards for six or seven years. But after doing market research, they had to acknowledge that the fees we're charging are justified. And luckily the Access to Work cap has been raised.
Do you think the role of an Interpreter could change with the new technology that's being developed?
Currently it is changing, the technology is there and the use of VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) is growing. It’s already proven to be morepractical than traditional on-site interpretingfor certain situations.
Saying that,further research shows there are circumstances where being face to face with someone enables you to access much more information. Signing is clearer, body language is visible and the interpreter is aware of the full environment.
Technology is fantastic and I love it. But we all know that the moment you really, really need it, Wi-Fi will cut out or the camera will freeze and suddenly it looks like you're break-dancing on video-chat. Who knows, maybe in 20 years and we’ll all be holograms!
What are your plans for the future?
Well if as you say, in 20 year’s time we'll be holograms, I'll be in the Caribbean somewhere, on a permanent holiday, sending my 27-year-old-looking interpreter hologram out in the world. I'm looking forward to it!
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