Sign Language Translator in Mandela’s Memorial is Fake

December 29, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. memorial [muh-MAWR-ee-uh l, -MOHR-] (n.) – a ceremony done to pay respect to or honor a person who died
Example: Many people attended the former president’s memorial.

2. fake [feyk] (n.) – a person who pretends to know something or to be somebody else
Example: The fake police was arrested.

3. dismay [dis-MEY] (n.) – the state of being disappointed
Example: The audience expressed their dismay over the bad television show.

4. make up [MEYK-uhp] (v. phrase) – to create a lie
Example: Nobody believed him after he made up the story about him being famous.

5. disgraceful [dis-GREYS-fuh l] (adj.) – shameful or very embarrassing
Example: Pretending to be someone you’re not is a disgraceful act.


Read the text below.
South Africa's deaf federation has confirmed that the sign language translator during Nelson Mandela’s memorial was a fake.

Millions of television viewers around the world watched the memorial of the former South African leader in early December. Even some world leaders personally attended the memorial, such as the US President Barrack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The federation’s national director said that the translator’s hand movements had no meaning at all. The translator, identified as Thamsanqa Jantjie, did neither South African nor American sign languages, according to three experts.

A member of the parliament, who is deaf and understands sign language, also said that she got nothing with the signs made by the translator. The translator’s facial expression did not even change despite the changing statements delivered by the speakers. The hand movements of the man also did not match the hand movements of the official interpreter on the television screen.

Because the memorial was televised worldwide, many people recognized the fake movements of the translator. Many have thus expressed their dismay and disappointment.

Braam Jordaan, a board member of the World Deaf Federation and a deaf, felt upset and overly embarrassed with how the translator made up the hand movements. Jordaan was very humiliated as this incident will always be associated with Mandela’s memorial and the deaf community as well. This very disgraceful mistake should have never even happened, added Jordaan.

While this incident is already considered a major humiliation, the South African government has not yet given an official statement.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think the fake translator should be punished or not? Why is that so?
·         Who do you think should be blamed for what happened in the memorial? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·          How do you feel when you see people communicating in sign language?
·          Should sign language be taught even to people who can hear? Please explain your answer.


December 29, 2013