Deaf people around the world took to social media yesterday to declare that the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial was speaking gibberish. Many wondered if the man was using a sign language unique to South Africa, but that was not the case.
Paul Breckell, chief executive of the U.K.-based charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: “We are shocked by the quality of sign language interpretation at Nelson Mandela’s memorial — if it could be called interpretation at all.” He added that “the limited number of signs, the amount of repetition, lack of facial expressions and huge gaps in translation meant that deaf or hard of hearing people across the world were completely excluded from one of the biggest events in recent history.” Among the first to express their dissatisfaction was Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African parliament, who tweeted that the signing was “rubbish,” adding: “He cannot sign. Please get him off.”
And the YouTube parodies have already arrived.