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Mandela Ceremony Fake Deaf Interpreter Ups Ante on Funeral Faux Pas

Maybe Bibi was right to stay home and avoid the ceremony – who knows what this guy would have said he said…
He really looked strange…

He really looked strange…

Did you ever watch deaf interpreters on television and said to yourself, I could do that? Did you ever figure you could pull it off in a major state event, like, say, the burial ceremony of the world’s most beloved leader, in front of 100 international dignitaries and millions of viewers?

No? Not enough chutzpa, maybe?

Well, deaf people around the world and in South Africa, who were glued to the set Tuesday, watching the impressive, heart warming procession, were trying to understand what the deaf interpreter was saying, with an ever more sinking feeling that the man was not a deaf interpreter at all, but a fake.

They started tweeting their frustration, too. In droves. Especially sign language interpreters, who complained the signing by this interpreter was “making a mockery of our profession.”

Come to think of it, maybe Bibi was right to stay home and avoid the ceremony. Can you imagine what would have happened if this guy mis-interpreted his speech and the next day the trucks would show up to pick up 50,000 settlers?



Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African who serves as board member of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section (WFD), emailed SBS News in Australia that he was observing the man, and he had to be a fake.

“The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying,” he told SBS.

According to Sheena Walters, the Oceania representative for the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), also thinks the signing used the guy was using had nothing in common with any accepted form of international or South African sign language.

“Most sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern and this person seems to be making a lot of repetitive signs and isn’t displaying the usual facial expression or structure of sign language that you would normally see,” she explained. “It seems quite obvious that the interpreter isn’t using South African sign language,” she told SBS.

Wilma Newhoudt, a deaf member of the South African Parliament and Vice President of the World Federation of the Deaf, said the incident was “shameful.”

She said the interpreter is not known to the deaf community of South Africa.

Braam Jordaan said “there have been question marks over the same interpreter at previous ANC events.”

So why didn’t they say something?

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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8 Responses to “Mandela Ceremony Fake Deaf Interpreter Ups Ante on Funeral Faux Pas”

  1. The reason Netanyahu needed to stay home because he would have been targeted by terrorists more than any other leader.

  2. Very befitting. Made a mockery of an evil man!

  3. Steve Brown says:

    Perhaps he was signing in Swahili ?

  4. Gil Gilman says:

    This had to be truly disappointing to all the hearing impaired people watching this event. Even though he made fools of the pompous windbags present at the event who couldn't be bothered to learn signing themselves, and even though I had no interest myself in the event, my heart goes out to all in the deaf community who bore the brunt of this disservice.

  5. THE INTERPRETER WAS A FAKE…SO WHAT…SO IS OBAMA…TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE…VIVA ISRAEL!

  6. Basha Kline says:

    …the blind one was missing from the photo!

  7. coudnt have said it better.

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