Status of Interpreters in India

Status of Interpreters in India

Training non Deaf people Basic Indian Sign Language began in India in 2001. We can rightly say that the foundation of Indian Sign Language training and the concept to have trained and certified interpreters in India was here in 2001 in Mumbai. With the passage of time the number of hearing people, families of Deaf and people out of curiosity enrolled themselves to the Indian Sign Language Interpreters training program. This encouraged the institute to spread the course in various states. This again was appreciated. This opened new doors to a career specially hearing family members of Deaf. Since the inception till date we should have a substantial number of trained and certified interpreters. However the facts are not too pleasing. We in India inspite of having the largest Deaf population of almost 18million, we have only around 250 trained / untrained; skilled interpreters. We had expected a marginally good number of interpreters, dreamt of an interpreters agency, availability of specialized interpreters so on and so forth. Unfortunately we have not achieved so much. With two interpreter associations and continued efforts to train interpreters we have not progressed much.

Now with the RPWD Bill being supported by many across the country we have one more demanding question. Where are the interpreters? How can we train interpreters to provide excellent services to the Deaf clients? What should be the skill sets of the interpreters? Who will monitor the service levels of the sign language interpreters?

There was a ray of hope when the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre [ISLRTC] was established and supported by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. However in two years the ISLRTC was closed down. With the hope that it would be reestablished, we realize now that the wait has been too long. It is time now for the government to take heed and re-establish ISLRTC. Somehow we are always in a slow paced mode where we set up something with big fanfare. Gradually after the festivities are over we forget the goals and in time it is all forgotten. Sign language interpreting as a career needs to be nurtured and tended to in India. With just a handful of interpreters and many interpreters who claim to be highly skilled we fall back once again. The question still remains unanswered – where are the skilled interpreters. And if you find them how can you retain them to the field when the field is not lucrative enough.

Written and translated to ISL by Atiya Hajee


National Association of the Deaf
Deaf Enabled Foundation
Bombay Foundation of Deaf Women
Deaf Entertainment
Mook Badhir Mandal
Speaking Hands Institute for the Deaf
LEED, Pune
Yuva Association of the Deaf
Archana Ampoules Pvt. Ltd.

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