So ... there are hearing people in South Africa who are fluent in sign language, right? I'm asking because the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's funeral yesterday was evidently totally faking it. Sign language experts called him out via Twitter and even more have since confirmed: Dude was just making up signs from the podium -- while Mandela's grandchildren and President Obama gave their speeches. How the hell does that happen? Isn't there some sort of screening process for sign language interpreters at high-profile funerals of legendary world leaders?
Wilma Newhoudt, the first ever deaf member of South Africa's parliament, was FURIOUS. Throughout the ceremony she made several pleas to get the fake interpreter off the stage, clearly embarrassed.
Shame on this male so called interpreter on the stage. What is he signing? He knows that the deaf cannot vocally boo him off. Shame on him !— wilma newhoudt (@newhoudt) December 10, 2013
Deaf Federation of South Africa Director Bruno Druchen also tweeted his alarm:
Please get RID of this CLOWN interpreter,please! pic.twitter.com/ziAZ4KBFNZ— Bruno Peter Druchen (@BrunoDruchen) December 10, 2013
Nicole Du Toit, an official sign language interpreter, told the AP, "It was horrible, an absolute circus, really really bad. Only he can understand those gestures."
The Limping Chicken, a news site for the deaf community, posted a video of the on-stage interpreter with another signer actually signing what's being said superimposed in a blue box. Note the differences.
And this is not a matter of languages, either. True, deaf communities in different countries use different signs, but apparently the language signed by this particular interpreter is used nowhere. Sheena Walters of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters says, "Most sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern, and this person seems to be making a lot of repetitive signs and isn’t displaying the usual facial expression or structure of sign language that you would normally see."
It could be that he was signing to viewers on another planet.
Sorry, I shouldn't be making jokes. This is clearly a serious matter and a massive disservice -- not to mention insult -- to the entire deaf community. It's just that it's so absurd. What was this guy thinking? Didn't he know he'd get called out eventually? Did he knowingly perpetuate a hoax, or is he mentally ill, or is he just far more inept at signing than he realizes?
And WHAT IS HIS NAME? That's another weird thing -- I can't seem to find mention of the interpreter's name, though according to reports, the African National Congress has used him at other events, where his interpreting skills have also been called into question. So it doesn't look like this was a fluke incident.
Well one thing is for sure, after this massive backlash, I bet we'll never see this interpreter at an event ever again. Right, ANC? At least, I hope not.
How would you feel if you were deaf and noticed that the sign language interpreter was faking it?
Image via Andy Palmer/YouTube