Fwd: Fake sign-language interpreter at Mandela funeral

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Fri Dec 13 01:44:35 UTC 2013

SignWriting List
December 12, 2013

Dear SignWriting List Members -
When I started watching President Obama give his speech at Nelson Madela’s memorial service on TV, I was so taken aback by the interpreter that I had to stop looking and just listen to President Obama’s words, rather that see the visual display that did not look like a sign language to me, but some “made-up invented gestures" - there were no facial expressions that made it “feel” like a natural sign language, and I remember thinking to myself “ that is the weirdest sign language I have ever seen - if we wrote it, it would be without facial expressions and really, the movements do not look like a natural sign language” and sure enough, it was not a sign language - that is a strange story and a concern - why was the Deaf Community not consulted when they hired their interpreters? Anyway, ironically, SignWriting could write the movements - language or not! I am glad someone spoke up and exposed him...

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Mark Mandel" <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Fwd: Fake sign-language interpreter at Mandela funeral
> Date: December 12, 2013 at 5:21:47 PM PST
> Reply-To: "linguists interested in signed languages" <SLLING-L at LISTSERV.VALENCIACOLLEGE.EDU>
> From Language Log:
>     Fake sign-language interpreter at Mandela funeral
>     Kim Sengupta, "Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute", The Telegraph 12/11/2013:
>     The key address in the memorial service for Nelson Mandela was given by Barack Obama, whose words were brought to life for deaf spectators and TV viewers by a “sign language interpreter”, who could be seen gesturing energetically behind the sombre US President.
>     Yet the man, not only seen by the tens of thousands in Johannesburg’s FNB stadium where the memorial took place on Tuesday, but also by millions across the world on television, was a “fake”, according to Bruno Druchen, the national director of the Deaf Federation of  South Africa.
>     Mr Duchen told the Associated Press “there was no meaning in what he used his hands for”. He and other language experts pointed out that the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements. South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages.
>     Apparently, the fake interpreter was not a creative gate-crasher, but rather was a fraud who makes money by getting himself hired to provide sign-language interpretation — "Interpreter For Deaf At Mandela Event Called Fake", NPR 12/11/2013:
> (Much more in the post.)
> Mark Mandel (no final "a")



Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at signwriting.org

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