VIDEO: Deaf Actress Marlee Matlin Criticizes Bogus Nelson Mandela Interpreter
The most prominent deaf actress in Hollywood had plenty to say about the fake interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial earlier this week. Interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie was responsible for interpreting Mandela’s memorial in sign language, but his hand movements didn’t resemble the language in the least and infuriated the deaf community. The Switched at Birth actress said she was offended by the mishap and slammed Jantjie for his stunt.
Speaking on CNN, Matlin said she immediately knew the sign language from the interpreter was bogus. “I’ve been to South Africa before and I can understand some of the South African sign language. But I thought to myself, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t anything.’ It was almost like he was doing baseball signs,” she said. “I was appalled. I knew that at any moment, the entire world, whoever was watching, there would be so much noise it would create an explosion. And it did.”
Matlin explained that there isn’t a single universal sign language and that each country has their own version of it. However, she said Jantjie’s lack of facial expressions and movement was a clear indication that he was not a true sign language interpreter. “To see someone standing there without any sort of movement of his body, without any sort of facial expressions that one incorporates into sign, indicates that he has no understanding of the culture, no understanding of the language,” said Matlin. “I knew exactly right then and there that he wasn’t authentic at all. It was offensive to me. It is a total mockery of the language.”
The national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said that Jantjie is a “fake interpreter” not recognized by anyone in the South African deaf community. However, Jantjie said he suffers from “controllable” schizophrenia and stood by his performance. “I have never in my life had anything that said I have interpreted wrong,” he declared. “It has been many years I have been doing this job. My portfolio shows that I have been a champion of what I have been doing.”