December 11, 2013

The interpreter for the deaf during the speeches at the Mandela memorial wasn't signing at all but just "flapping his arms around."

The national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said the man was "moving his hands around, but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for."
It was not immediately clear how the bogus interpreter slipped onto the stage during the memorial service, where nearly 100 heads of state attended....

Experts agreed that the imposter interpreter was not signing American sign languages or any of South Africa's 11 official languages.
It seems funny for about 5 seconds, and then you realize that this marred a funeral and that it reveals a lack of security. 

(In the comments at the link: "I knew something was wrong when I saw him make the clipping sign and then the first down sign immediately after.")

34 comments:

Jason said...

Does he design websites, too?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The ultimate photo bombing.

Archie said...

The giveaway was when he mooned the assembled throng.

jelink said...

He would have been better off to have just shouted at the top of his lungs, the way Garrett Morris did on those old SNL skits.

EDH said...

Okay, I'll re-post...

Extremely rare video of the interpreter's earlier work.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Perhaps he understood Obama to be speaking gibberish.

rhhardin said...

Turn the sound off and the speeches are great. Just watch the sign language guy.

rhhardin said...

Imus hoped he was a Howard Stern listener.

Original Mike said...

"I knew something was wrong when I saw him make the clipping sign and then the first down sign immediately after."

First and ten, Maaandela!

MathMom said...

So, this unvetted "interpreter" was standing within bomb-vest or knife distance from Obama and other dignitaries?

This is not good.

MayBee said...

Surely he was vetted in some way. Someone big knew him and got him a gig.

I never get beyond the "That's hilarious" phase. Reminds me of the time the Polish interpreter for President Carter was caught just making shit up.

MayBee said...

From Time:

Are you from Poland? Then President Jimmy Carter wants to sleep with you. That's what his translator, Steven Seymour, told the then-Communist country during the U.S. President's 1977 visit. Carter said he wanted to learn about the Polish people's desires for the future; Seymour said that Carter desired the Poles. Carter said he was happy to be in Poland; Seymour said he was happy to grasp at Poland's private parts. Carter talked about leaving the U.S. to go on a trip; Seymour said that he had abandoned America forever. Then he spoke Russian — to a nation struggling under the thumb of the Soviet Union. Yikes.

Read more: That's Not What I Said - Top 10 Embarrassing Diplomatic Moments - TIME http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1880208_1880218_1880227,00.html #ixzz2nD3qHYjc

The Elder said...

The clipping and first down signs were a good indication, by when he gave the high sign for Wiedemann's beer, I was sure!

Shouting Thomas said...

Seems like the perfect satire on the bombastic Mandela worship that we endured for about a week.

Completely empty and phony.

The Godfather said...

Unless I can blame Obama, I don't care. If it's just incompetence by a third world country, what's new? That's what third world countries do.

Original Mike said...

@MayBee: As always, there's a Monty Python skit for that.

Bob Boyd said...

He wasn't perfect, but his intentions were the very best.
His signs, though meaningless, were nuanced and brilliantly delivered.
He's obviously super smart, he has a palpable emotional connection with the common people and a true understanding of their struggle.

Original Mike said...

His signs were fake, but accurate.

jacksonjay said...


I am surprised that he didn't faint!

MnMark said...

I think the truth is even more embarrassing for the South African government than a security issue. I think the truth is that the people in charge of the ceremony thought that it was enough that a guy go up and wave his hands around. I don't think they even understood that the point was that there is a sign language that the deaf understand.

I think this is like the WW2 "cargo cults" who built something that looked like a runway, in hopes that it would draw planes to it. I think the South Africans in charge of this thing are the same ones who hired that guy for the ANC meetings - they knew that you were supposed to have a guy waving his hands around in the front of the stage, they just didn't understand why. In their minds, they did their job by having a guy wave his hands around.

However that will not come out. It will be blamed on security or something. But I bet that guy was legit.

LordSomber said...

How do you say "High Five" in sign language?

Bob Boyd said...

Certainly this man wasn't what we have come to expect, but perhaps its our expectations that we need to examine.
Rather than yield to the demands of convention, this unknown agent of wonder has jarred us out of our complacency and showed us possibilities that only yesterday did not exist. This is the hallmark of a truly great interpreter. We have only to recognize him for what he is.
Do we really need to see things done the way they have always been done? Can we really not move beyond the comfortable, the familiar?
We could ask ourselves.
"What the fuck?"
Or we could ask a question that may bring true understanding.
Let not our efforts on behalf of the deaf make us blind.

FullMoon said...

Hands down, this blog has the best commentiers on the whole WWW.

ken in sc said...

This reminds me of a story about an African court that modeled itself after British courts and had a "nervous titter" run through the crowd ever so often, during sessions.

jelink said...

I'm more of a leg man than a titter.

geokstr said...

The giveaway was when he mooned the assembled throng.

I believe that is universally the correct sign for "kiss my ass".

John Lynch said...

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Look, someone's nephew or whatever was making a lot of money. Clearly this was a payoff. Nobody noticed for a long time because there weren't enough deaf people with enough influence to bring it to light. It was only when a worldwide audience saw it that it became an obvious fraud.

Zuma wanted a deaf interpreter because other world leaders had one. One was provided for him. It was the appearance that mattered, not the substance.

John Cunningham said...

is it even possible to translates the screeching of chimps into sign language?

mccullough said...

The world's first illiterate sign language interpreter.

Ululating Umlungu said...

This would explain the massive discrepancies between the interpreter on TV and the guy at the event, both of whom were supposed to be using SA Sign language.

"If he values his life he must come clean because the deaf community throughout the world are outraged." - Director of Sign Language Education and Development in SA in response to the debacle.

Don't piss off someone who can't hear your screams.

Ululating Umlungu said...

He's hardly an imposter, having been the official translator at several prior events.

First link is of President Zuma singing about killing white people.. note the translator's "machine gun" hand signs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NVkRmBTB7k

Second link has him signing at an official funeral in 2011
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUaJzDhVdcY

rhhardin said...

The morse code community is offended by Walter Winchell's fake morse code.

Mitch H. said...

UU: One has to wonder if he's gotten this far without detection because nobody deaf cared enough about Zuma's stump speeches to notice that the guy wildly gesticulating next to him wasn't actually saying anything coherent.

South Africa actually has a deaf member of parliament? Who ever heard of a politician that can't listen to her constituency? Yeah, yeah lip reading, but the optics of that can't be conductive to constituent service. Hmm, looks like South Africa uses party-list seating, which means that the deaf MP just has to be a party member with sufficient status and standing, not an actual retail-politics practitioner. Party-list parliament seating can produce some really weird legislators, although our direct-election system coughs up enough hairballs to not make it worth the cheap mockery one might be inclined to indulge in...

tim maguire said...

The most fascinating part comes at the end of the comments here--this man did not walk in off the street. He is a prominent signer of long experience in South Africa. He has signed many important public functions.