Giving the finger

From the Scotsman (and the ‘Nowt so queer as folk’ department):

ON a day rich in symbolism, the signs were not so easy to read. The South African government has become embroiled in a bizarre row over a “fake” sign language interpreter who stood by the side of world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday.

In a highly embarrassing episode which cast a shadow over the event, the unidentified interpreter has been accused of “signing gibberish” while a global audience watched the four-hour ceremony.

The man stood to the left of US President Barack Obama and other political leaders, seemingly interpreting their speeches.

However, as the footage was relayed, those familiar with South African sign language grew suspicious and it emerged that he was not communicating the words of the speakers.

So somebody pretended to be a sign language interpreter and then stood beside Obama and other leaders, and waved his hands and fingers about pretending to use sign language. Why would anybody do that?

If that is not bad enough, it appears this troubled individual has form:

It emerged yesterday that the same man signed at an event last year that was attended by South African president Jacob Zuma.

At that appearance, a deaf person in the audience videotaped the event and gave it to the federation for the deaf, which submitted a formal complaint to the ANC, said Mr Druchen.

Mr Druchen is the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa.

And if that’s still not bad enough, despite a total failure on my part to understand what the hell is going on, he’s not the only one!

Bogus sign language interpreters are a problem in South Africa, said Ms Parkin, as people who know a few signs try to pass themselves off as interpreters. “Organisations hiring them usually do not sign, so they have no idea that the people they are hiring cannot do the job,” she said.

Ingrid Parkin is the principal of the St Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg. She also said:

She received complaints from the deaf community from Canada to China and the man’s movements look “like he’s signing gibberish”.

“This man knows he cannot sign and he had the guts to stand on an international stage and do that,” Ms Parkin said.

Nicole Du Toit, an official sign language interpreter, said the man was an embarrassment. “It was horrible, an absolute circus; really, really bad,” she said.

Oh boy.