Quality assurance in international sign conference interpreting at international organisations


  • Maya de Wit Radboud University, the Netherlands
  • Onno Crasborn Radboud University, the Netherlands
  • Jemina Napier Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh


Quality assurance, conference interpreting, International Sign, interpreter education.


Quality assurance (QA) in conference interpreting is considered essential among international organisations and interpreting practitioners (Pöchhacker, 1994). The need for QA resulted in the establishment of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) and the development of university degree programmes in conference interpreting in spoken languages worldwide (Seeber, 2021). International organisations such as the United Nations and the European Union (EU) work closely with universities worldwide to ensure that interpreters are trained and assessed in line with their requirements. Sign language conference interpreters working with International Sign (IS) do not have equivalent opportunities to be trained and assessed as their spoken language colleagues, with whom they work for international organisations. Therefore, to assure that those who deliver IS conference interpretation services are up to quality standards, the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) established an accreditation system for IS interpreters in 2015. As of June 2021, thirty IS interpreters had obtained the corresponding accreditation. In this article we examine the 2021 QA system for IS conference interpreters and present findings from our 2019 global survey of the perspectives of IS conference interpreters (de Wit et al., 2021) in combination with a follow-up study on practitioners’ training and accreditation needs. The results indicate that there is a demand for formal professional training programmes that focus on interpreting IS in conference settings and a need to enhance the current accreditation system.


Author Biographies

  • Maya de Wit, Radboud University, the Netherlands

    Maya de Wit, MSc, is a qualified sign language interpreter and consultant. In 2011 Maya obtained her master’s degree in the first European Master of Sign Language Interpreting (EUMASLI) program. Since 2018, she has been conducting PhD research at Radboud University, focusing on interpreting to and from International Sign in conference settings. Maya is a member of WFD, WASLI, EFSLI, NBTG, RID, CIT, and the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), as well as the coordinator of the AIIC Sign Language Network.

  • Onno Crasborn, Radboud University, the Netherlands

    Onno Crasborn, PhD, is a professor of Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) at Radboud University (the Netherlands). He works on the linguistic structure and use of this language and is the co-author of both an adult corpus of NGT and a longitudinal data set of sign language acquisition in the Netherlands.

  • Jemina Napier, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
    Jemina Napier, PhD, is an interpreter practitioner, researcher and educator, professor and Director of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. She conducts linguistic, social, and ethnographic explorations of direct and interpreter-mediated sign language communication to inform interpreting studies, applied linguistics, and deaf studies theories. She is a qualified interpreter between English, Auslan, British Sign Language (BSL) and International Sign and is a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC).