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Sign Language Experts Call Mandela Memorial Interpreter a Fake

The man responsible for interpreting Nelson Mandela’s memorial for deaf audiences was deemed a sham for not communicating in any detectable form of sign language, according to sign experts.

“He wasn’t even doing anything,” said Cara Loening, the director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town. “There was not one sign there. Nothing.”

Aside from pointing out that the interpreter was “literally flapping his arms around,” Loening noted that he remains unable to be identified within the professional field of sign language.

Guests from all over the world, including President Barack Obama, spoke at the event held on Tuesday and were mistranslated by what officials from the Deaf Federation of South Africa called a “fake.” Bruno Druchen, the federation’s director, said that “there was no meaning in what he used his hands for.”

During the event, Druchen tweeted, “Please get RID of this CLOWN interpreter,please!”

Druchen also mentioned this is not the first time the so-called interpreter’s signs have been lost in translation, and that he was videotaped botching his interpretation at an event for South African President Jacob Zuma last year.

Ingrid Parkin, director of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf, agreed that the man’s hand motions were unknown in any sign language during the Mandela tribute. Parkin added that he also failed to use facial expressions, a crucial aspect to communicating emotions during speeches and an obvious qualification for any sign language interpreter.

Many who respected Mandela, particularly deaf audiences, felt insulted by the ordeal. “It’s complete disrespect for the deaf community, and for what Nelson Mandela stood for and the support which he gave towards the deaf community,” said Loening.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest denied any knowledge of potential concerns regarding the interpreter, adding that “it would be a shame” to let the incident distract from Mandela’s legacy.

About the author

Gary Bryan is an industrial marketing manager by daytime and political and social issues writer by night. You can also find his editorials at Mic.com.