Interpreter Standards for New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Interpreters

The NZSL Board have explored a range of options to set NZSL Interpreter standards post-graduation as an outcome of the NZSL Strategy (2018-2023).

The Board received feedback that interpreters want a way of ensuring consistency and monitoring of quality interpreting services for the Deaf community.

Why establish interpreter standards?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) have worked in partnership to provide access to public services via high quality interpreting services for all New Zealand citizens, particularly those who have English as a second language.

The Language Assistance Services (LAS) work programme is responsible for establishing a new model to deliver quality interpreting services across the public sector. The programme’s vision is to provide equitable access to public services and information for people fluent in languages other than English in New Zealand, such as former refugees, migrants and NZSL users.

Why set interpreter standards for NZSL Interpreters when most are already qualified?

NZSL interpreter training was established thirty years ago at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). This means that we have a well-qualified workforce, however there are no requirements or guidance for NZSL interpreters to maintain standards once they graduate. NAATI certification will support the ongoing development of language (NZSL) and interpreting skills setting higher quality standards for the Deaf community.

Government decision-making for spoken language interpreters.

In 2018, a cross-government Senior Officials group agreed that from 1 July 2024 all spoken language interpreters must have a level of National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) credential to work in New Zealand. Initially this decision did not include NZSL or te reo Māori interpreters, however these languages have been invited to join the programme.

What is NAATI?

National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) is responsible for setting, maintaining and promoting high professional standards for the translating and interpreting industry in Australia.  Currently over 180 languages are assessed.

The New Zealand Government has a contract with NAATI to provide testing and assessment of spoken language interpreters in New Zealand.

What about NZSL Interpreters?

Deaf NZSL users should experience high standards of NZSL interpreting. We have a well-qualified interpreter workforce. Interpreter Standards for NZSL, as with other languages, provide greater confidence for users of interpreting services.

In August 2022, the NZSL Board made a final recommendation to use NAATI certification for NZSL Interpreters. NAATI certification won’t be in place from 1 July 2024.  A date for NZSL interpreters will be shared once it has been set. 

The development and monitoring NAATI NZSL certification will be developed with New Zealand qualified, experienced interpreters and NZSL experts.

The Board’s expectation is that NAATI certification will be the standard for all NZSL Interpreting work.

What are the levels of NAATI certification that will be used for NZSL interpreters?

Only two levels will be available for NZSL Interpreters – Certified Interpreter (CI) and Certified Provisional Interpreter (CPI).

Diagram showing the two different pathways

Download this diagram as a PDF [PDF, 158 KB]

Certified Interpreter (CI)

  • Qualification:  Degree, previous Diploma or endorsed international qualification
  • Level of skill: Experienced

Current qualified and experienced interpreters will only be required to test at the Certified Interpreter level.

Certified Practicing Interpreter (CPI)

  • Qualification: Degree, previous Diploma or endorsed international qualification
  • Level of skill: New and recent graduates

New and recent graduates would test at the Certified Provisional Interpreter (CPI) level and once they have gained more experience, will need to test at the Certified Interpreter (CI) level.

Currently MBIE is offering the Recognised Provisional Interpreter (RPI) credential to NZSL interpreters who wish to get a NAATI credential. In line with NAATI’s standard practice for all languages, once a test for CPI NZSL and CI NZSL is in place, the RPI NZSL will only remain valid until its expiry date (three years from the date it is issued). After that, interpreters who hold an RPI NZSL will be required to take the CPI NZSL test to retain a NAATI credential.

MBIE is not providing funding to test for:

  • Certified Specialised Legal and Health Interpreter
  • Certified Conference Interpreter

Why has the NZSL Board recommended the use of NAATI certification?

There are several reasons for this recommendation.

  1. Government responsibility:  The funding, implementation and ongoing management of NAATI certification will be led by MBIE.  This aligns with the NZSL Board’s belief that all government agencies are responsible for providing equitable access to high quality interpreting services for Deaf NZSL users. 
  2. Consistency: NAATI certification will be the same for all interpreters, NZSL and spoken languages.  This ensures that implementing and monitoring the standards will be streamlined and thereby more effective.
  3. Expertise: The development of an assessment system is complex.  NAATI are already established and deliver assessments for over 180 languages.  NZSL experts will be used in the development and delivery of an assessment making it fit for a NZSL context.
  4. Strategic use of funding: The NZSL Board have an annual fund to maintain and promote NZSL.  Accessing the NAATI system is a cost-effective way to monitor the quality of interpreting as the NZSL fund would be significantly reduced if required to pay for a separate NZSL interpreter assessment system. 

What does this mean for NZSL interpreters?

Once implemented, all NZSL interpreters who wish to be available for government-funded interpreter work will be required to have a qualification and NAATI certification to work in New Zealand. This involves:

  • testing of interpreting skills at each certification level (CPI or CI)
  • Re-certification every three years providing evidence of ongoing professional development and hours of work as an NZSL interpreter.

What happens next?

Work is needed to develop a NAATI NZSL interpreter test and train NAATI examiners.  New Zealand-based NZSL expertise will be used to develop and delivery all tests.

All existing NZSL Interpreters are encouraged to register with MBIE’s transition support package. For eligible interpreters, the package covers financial assistance relating to training and assessment costs, test preparation support and payment of test fees.

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) will work with an Advisory Group to ensure the process is working for all and provide feedback on the implementation to MBIE.  The Advisory Group is made up of representatives from Auckland University of Technology (AUT) who provide NZSL interpreting training and the Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ). The Advisory Group will have Deaf and hearing representation.

How can I find out more information about NAATI Certification?

Significant changes have been made to the Certification System in recent years. We strongly recommend that you visit the NAATI website to learn more about the certification system and process.

We are also having a number of Question and Answer sessions online. These meetings will not include NZSL interpreters, so choose a meeting to meet your language requirements. 

Meetings in NZSL 

Wednesday 14 December @ 7.30 pm
Meeting language: NZSL
Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 915 440 9358
Passcode: ShonaJNZSL

Tuesday 20 December @ 7.30 pm
Meeting language: NZSL
Join Zoom Meeting 

 Meeting ID: 915 440 9358
Passcode: ShonaJNZSL

 Meetings in English 

Tuesday 13 December @ 7.30 pm
Meeting language: English

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 915 440 9358
Passcode: ShonaJNZSL

Thursday 15 December @ 7.30 pm
Meeting language: English
 Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 915 440 9358
Passcode: ShonaJNZSL

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