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18 November 2020
Paul Belmonte has been registered with the NRCPD as a fully qualified British Sign Language/English Interpreter since 2013, and has practised since 2005. He began learning British Sign Language in 2001; two years later, a Deaf BSL teacher encouraged him to become an interpreter. Paul says: "I lacked the confidence and thought I couldn't do it, but the teacher physically put the application forms into my hands and within a few weeks, I was on the interpreting course at Heriot-Watt University."
In 2005, he graduated from Heriot-Watt and registered with SASLI (now SRLPDC) as a Trainee Sign Language Interpreter. The route to becoming a fully qualified RSLI took Paul another three years. Paul spent five years as a RSLI with SASLI, before moving onto NRCPD registration. He says: "I saw the benefit of a UK national register. The yellow badge was fast becoming the most recognised symbol of being safe to practice as an interpreter, so I decided to register with NRCPD." Working as a registered professional with the NRCPD also comes with a compulsory CPD requirement in order to renew your registration and Paul feels that because of this, he has improved his practice ten-fold.
As his career progressed, he became a mentor to student and trainee interpreters, and is now currently studying for his MSc in British Sign Language Interpreting at Queen Margaret University. The course is the UK's only post-registration Master's that focuses on British Sign Language Interpreting. Paul decided to upskill to further demonstrate that his practice, knowledge and skills were up to date. The MSc requires you to be registered and fully qualified in the profession for at least three years. Paul says: "I have learned so much and really updated my interpreting knowledge and skills. I've just started my dissertation and I'm looking forward to doing some meaningful research on medical interpreting."
Recently starting work with the NHS, he specialises as a medical interpreter and finds that he is "gaining much deeper medical knowledge with skills in that area improving all the time." He further adds that: "In healthcare interpreting, registration is an absolute requirement, and makes it possible for me to work. I also wear the yellow badge and find that other professionals are much more willing to collaborate and treat me as a member of their team because I present myself as a registered professional." Paul has also found that the message: 'Yellow badge = qualified interpreter and safe to practice' is very simple and easily remembered amongst doctors and other professionals.
He also believes that "it is vital for the UK to have one, easily recognised national register to give a clear message to people at large that only trained and accountable professionals should be allowed to act as interpreters." He also briefly touched upon the subject of unregistered language service professionals and added: "get registered or go do something else, where you can't do any damage. We have such a responsibility in our work, people's voices and even their health and lives are in our hands. We need to be accountable."