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Dublin: 1 °C Sunday 20 April, 2014

Deaf interpreter at Mandela’s memorial was a fake

The deaf community in South Africa is outraged by the error.

The 'fake' interpreter is the man in the main shot - not the woman with the blue screen behind her.
The 'fake' interpreter is the man in the main shot - not the woman with the blue screen behind her.
Image: YouTube

THE DEAF FEDERATION of South Africa has described the interpreter used during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service yesterday as a “fake”.

In a statement issued today, the national director Bruno Druchen said the deaf community were outraged, confirming that the man who was shown on screens across the globe is not a recognised professional interpreter.

“He is not known by the Deaf Community in South Africa nor by the South African Sign Language interpreters working in the field,” he said.

The news first came to light through a deaf community site, The Limping Chicken, which said the man was signing in a way they were not familiar with.

With his statement his morning, Druchen listed the mistakes the man made during the broadcast, including grammar errors and the lack of facial expressions.

“In South African Sign Language, facial expressions are an important part of communication. The facial expressions you use while doing a sign will affect the meaning of that sign,” he explained.

Handshapes used were meaningless, he added, before concluding:

This ‘fake interpreter’ has made a mockery of South African Sign Language and has disgraced the South African Sign Language interpreting profession. The organisers of the memorial service, and indeed any event, should have contacted organisations who coordinate South African Sign Language interpreting services to secure a professional, trained experienced interpreter.

Concerns about the sign language being used while presidents Jacob Zuma and Barack Obama delivered speeches were noted across social media sites during the memorial yesterday.

South African parliament member Wilma Newhoudt, a member of the ruling party and deaf community, also confirmed that the man communicated nothing with his hand and arm movement.


(YouTube: Andy Palmer)

Read: Mandela’s body lying in state after solemn journey through Pretoria

More: South Africans honour “giant of history”, Madiba

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