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Legal Interpreting

Our service offers case management and tracking to ensure that from the initial Garda interview to solicitor-client consultations, potential court hearings, and subsequent appeals the arrangement of interpreters takes into account issues such as duration of the case, confidentiality and contamination.

Organisation and arrangement of interpreters working at court

An interpreter working at a court hearing should not in any way be privy to discussions between the defendant and his legal representative.  This should remain in the domain of privileged information to safeguard against any possible contamination of evidence.

Ideally, depending on the expected duration of a hearing, 10 minutes, 1 day, 3 days it may be appropriate to have two interpreters and one cultural/community information consultant booked by the Court Service to interpret for the hearing only.  This is necessary to maintain an acceptable standard of performance and to make known to the court any cultural differences that may be significant in the courts ability to fully interpret or understand the information before them.  Health and Safety guidelines (EFSLI) indicate that due to the highly demanding task of simultaneous interpretation an interpreter should not work alone in excess of 2 hours.  Short breaks are required periodically within the two hour period.

The defence may book their own interpreter(s) to assist them in client consultations in preparation for a defence.  That interpreter may monitor the interpretations of the Court interpreter and advise the solicitor on accuracy, possible mis-interpretation, nuances, etc.  Similarly, the DPP may wish to engage their own interpreter for the taking of statements, interviews, making an arrest and informing on rights and so forth.

Although interpreters are impartial actors, either side (defence or prosecution) may object to the other using the one interpreter as both have their own interests to consider.  It is impossible for prior knowledge not to impact on the interpreted renditions in some way.

Soon interpreting ISL Video

Quality Control

At CSL Studies, we strive to excel through high performance standards in the services we provide.  We will only appoint interpreters with appropriate training and skills who are registered as category R1 to facilitate communication in legal settings.  It is important to be vigilant and avoid serious errors by engaging assistance from family members or friends who have limited knowledge of sign language, or from students of sign language who have only studied the language at beginner levels in courses designed to teach social conversational skills.  90% of deaf people are the only deaf member of their families.  This creates a different home-language than that of bilingual families with two spoken languages.  Children may grow up with a foreign language as the home language and English as the language they use in education and subsequent employment.  Deaf children have traditionally acquired their signing skills at schools for the deaf and other deaf friends.  Their families may not know sign language and may study a very basic level course giving them rudimentary skills.  Deaf people should be provided with competent practitioners who will have the skills to convey messages between legal professionals and a deaf client with efficiency and accuracy.

Professional Interpreting

The role of the interpreter is complex; the interpreter as a professional language service practitioner must advocate for appropriate arrangements to access in any given environment.  The language service provider informs on best practice and how best to utilize the service in a particular context.  However, while on-site and functioning as an ‘interpreter’, the practitioner must function as an impartial actor.

1. Interpreting services facilitate communication between people using English and Irish Sign Language (ISL), where Deaf and hearing people interact but do not share a common language or mode of communication.

2. Interpreters are impartial agents who in general do not give their own opinions or views – merely facilitate the communication of others expressing theirs.  Information will not be deleted or abbreviated, although an element of ‘cultural adjustment’ may be present when trying to translate a word, phrase or concept into the other language.  Interpreters deal with a wide variety of variation in both the English language and Irish Sign Language. (IASLI, 2007)

3. Interpreters follow a Code of Ethics compelling them to confidentiality, impartiality and other ethical issues such as continuous professional development of knowledge and skills.  You may be confident that our team of experienced professionals are ever vigilant in their care of sensitive information, and documentation is treated with respect.  Interpreters may not utilise privileged information for personal gain.

Interpreting Modes

The mode most frequently used to interpret is the simultaneous mode.  An interpreter may judge it best to utilise a variety of modes such as the simultaneous whispering mode, consecutive mode using notes, summary mode, and may have to be flexible and work across styles as appropriate; literal, faithful, semantic, adaptation, and to approach the task from a conduit, socio-cultural, interpretative, interactive perspective as appropriate to the participants and setting, etc.  If the interpreter needs to address the defendant/interviewee/client/patient with a question for clarification, this question and the answer must also be interpreted so that the proceedings are transparent for all parties involved.  If an accurate interpretation necessitates the interpreter explaining a cultural concept, please provide this explanation in both languages.

Video Link via web cam

Interpretation may happen via video-link.  At this early stage in the development and usage of video-link interpreting, CSL remain open minded to its potential but are cautious about its usage in order to ensure ‘safe and accurate’ working environments.  At this point we recommend that the video-link be used only to reassure the deaf client at a police station of what is going on in terms of procedure and to confirm for them that arrangements are being made to send an interpreter on site to interpret the taking of statements, et cetera locally.  We will monitor the progression of video-link cautiously.

Irish Sign Language is Different to English!

The vocabulary and grammatical structure of Irish Sign Language is very different to that of the English language.  ISL is not a manual gestural representation of English.  ISL has a relatively small number of ‘fixed’ items of vocabulary but utilises a facility called ‘productive’ lexicon to extend its vocabulary.  This means that ISL is a high context language, the manual form representing a concept is produced with a finite set of handshapes and a range of movement rules are applied to mark for grammatical functions such as manner and aspectual information. The Irish Deaf Community identifies themselves as a linguistic community with a culture and heritage of their own.  ‘Culture and communication are inseparable because culture not only dictates who talks to whom, about what, and how the communication proceeds, but it also helps determine how people encode messages, the meanings they have for messages, and the conditions and circumstances under which various messages may or may not be sent, noticed or interpreted.’ Samovar and Porter 1982:32 in