The Uproar Over a Fake Sign Language Interpreter

“Ha oun i ie i no e ere ac a e hae ie. I s ha ieece e ha mae o he lies o oer at ill deerie he iifiace o e ife e ea.” — Nelson Mandela

A little frustrating to not know what this sentence reads, isn’t it?  Welcome to my deaf life.  This is pretty much how I go through my day with no access auditory information unless it is captioned or interpreted.  I have some great success with lipreading, as long as I can face a person directly and they slow down their speech just a tad. Lipreading only works for some situations and it falls apart completely in a group situation or when someone is speaking on stage.  In those situations, a skilled sign language interpreter provides priceless communication access.

So when the sign language interpreter took his place on stage for Nelson Mandela’s memorial, there was a cause for celebration at first. Communication access for deaf and hard of hearing people in South Africa!  But as soon as the interpreter began flinging his hands in an erratic pattern with no resemblance to any of the South African sign languages, the social media feeds around the world began to pick up on the situation.

Fake Sign Language Interpreter at Nelson Mandela Memorial Provokes Anger

On the latest update, the interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, claimed he was having a schizophrenic episode and hearing voices during the memorial.

Now, imagine for a minute that the entire audio of Mandela’s memorial consisted of sentences like the one I posted at the beginning of this post.  How long do you think you could sit through the memorial before you became frustrated, aggravated, and annoyed?

Ha oun i ie i no e ere ac a e hae ie. I s ha ieece e ha mae o he lies o oer at ill deerie he iifiace o e ife e ea.

Hence, the uproar.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what the sentence is:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela




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