A grounded theory study mapping the progress and support structures in the freelance careers of the sign language interpreters

Guest blog by Lucia Venturi

When I started to work as a Sign Language Support Service Coordinator within a sign language interpreting agency, my main professional role was to implement and develop a support service mainly designed for Irish Sign Language (ISL)/English interpreters working in several different settings in Ireland. After exploring the area in depth, in order to understand the needs interpreters have, how to meet those needs and also the types of services to make available, I decided to conduct this research study including interpreters as the professionals in the field.

The intent of this study is to develop a theory for ISL/English interpreters working in the field. After completing formal education, the transition from college to work life is recognised as a considerable change which may have a further impact should the target career involve freelancing. Life in the field is always different for any profession, students leave college theory-based and enter the real world of work on their own.

The learning journey begins as soon as you start your new career. At the beginning of each career, it is a learning journey as soon as you step in. The transition entails going from a comfort zone to a more solitary journey where there is a need for initial ongoing support for new and experienced interpreters. Once entering the field, the next step is into a life-long career of constant experiential learning and development of a successful business.

After conducting intensive interviews and going through an in-depth analysis of the data, there are certainly several challenges interpreters have to face when working in the field. In order to understand the professional life experiences of ISL/English interpreters and their perspective on a potential support service designed to meet their needs, it was necessary to investigate the substantive area, giving a voice to the people in the field.

Based on the nature of my study, I invited the interpreters to take part in this research by interviewing them. During the interviews, I asked the interpreters to address their everyday work-life experiences and concerns and give them the opportunity to identify any issues relevant to the company and to them.

By using Grounded Theory methodology, I aim at developing a theory grounded on the data collected directly from my participants. The purpose of this research is to allow participants to share their experiences, challenges, and stories with regards to their profession. The development of a theory could be an instrument that will explain what occurs in a specific area and this emergent theory could then be applied to other areas and organizations.

This research study has been conducted within Bridge Interpreting Ltd with the University of Dublin, Trinity College funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC).


Lucia Venturi, is an M.Litt student at the School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Science. She presented her work at PubhD Dublin on March 2018. The title of her research is ‘The Development of Peer Support: A service for supporting Irish Sign Language/English Interpreters’. A Grounded Theory. Her professional role as Sign Language coordinator within an interpreting agency allowed her to apply for the Irish Research Council’s (IRC) scholarship ‘Employment Based Programme’ which she was awarded in May 2017. Her goal is to implement an evidence-based Peer Support Service for Irish Sign Language (ISL)/English interpreters based on results from a Grounded Theory (GT) driven empirical study.