Sign Language Interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie At Mandela Memorial: Good Job!

To us, this incident is as hilarious as a scene from a 1930s Marx Brothers’ comedy movie featuring Harpo Marx. Finally, an  interpreter who tells the truth. Many people are outraged by the actions of Thamsanqa Jantjie. People, deaf people in particular, are signing, or saying, he is a fake and a phony. We think Thamsanqa Jantjie was the only honest person on the podium in the Soweto stadium!

 

 

“Perhaps Mr. Jantjie does have some form of genuine mental infirmity. Reports say he says he suffers from schizophrenia. He sees BS all around him. Clearly he’s not alone. “

In case you missed the controversy it surrounds one Thamsanqa Jantjie, a sign language interpreter hired by the South African government to interpret the speeches presented by the various South African and international dignitaries who delivered remarks at the memorial held in the stadium near Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa for the late Nelson Mandela.

Nelson R. Mandela, after spending more than twenty years in prison, jailed as a terrorist, following his release from confinement, Mandela became the first democratically elected black South African president. He died earlier in December 2013 at the age of 95 years.

It seems, according to the thus far official explanation provided by a female South African deputy Cabinet minister,  Mr. Jantjie was hired through a cut-rate, “lie-by-day/fly-by-night” temporary employment agency; it seems one specializing in supplying personnel to interpret for the hearing impaired. Or, this is the cover story.

The government official, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, during her news conference, as reported by the Associated Press, said, “a mistake happened” with regard to the hiring of Mr. Jantjie.  Ms Bogopane-Zulu apologized to hearing impaired people around the world for the interpretation. The controversial translation has been called gibberish by those knowledgeable in the subject of sign language.

And called honesty by those tired of the self aggrandizing platitudinous parades. It’s a sham; it’s a charade. We suggest they save themselves the expense of flying there. Simply buy the tee-shirt: “I Was At Nelson Mandela’s Soccer Stadium Memorial Service”

Sign language experts, such as the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, have said Mr. Jantjie was not signing in South African or American sign languages; it is said he could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements. South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages, according to the federation.

What no one seems to realize is Mr. Jantjie was pantomiming the universal language of BS, aka bull snit.

Complaints from the deaf community, from Canada to China, were received about the man on stage. They said his movements look “like he’s signing gibberish.” One criticism is he also used no facial expression to convey the emotions of the leaders, a key element of sign language interpretation; an element we believe alien to some of the lying politicians. A lack of facial expression could simply be a misinterpretation of a cultural communications characteristic. For example some Asian people, who have not been completely westernized, do not easily smile when interacting with western people. We state this because we understand there are cultural differences in the manner in which we communicate verbally and non-verbally. We’re thinking international sign language, a form of transmitting ideas is no exception to the vagaries influencing the interchange of thoughts; that it may be signed with  regional idiosyncrasies or an accent. We know some sign language, not a sufficient amount to consider ourselves expert; we do think the criteria for determining if the person translating is competent may be based on more than facial expressions. We also know the sign/gesture for BS….and it looks just like what it is when signed!

“This man himself knows he cannot sign and he had the guts to stand on an international stage and do that,” said Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg.

They should give him an award for bravery. Best interpreter since the man, a reporter, who threw a shoe at George W Bush. We suggest the Official BS Award.

Expert sign language interpreters who watched the broadcast, said the man on stage purporting to sign was an embarrassment; calling his performance “horrible, an absolute circus, really, really bad”. One authority on the form of communication even stated, “Only he can understand those gestures.”

The truth is always embarrassing. The emperor wears no clothes. Gasp!

Considering the festive atmosphere of the service to remember the iconic leader we think it was entirely appropriate for the man, who specializes in international sign language to be a real fake, and translate the words of the many bloviating leaders as nonsense.

The incident is reminiscent of the scene in the Marx Brothers’ films, “A Night At The Opera“.

The fake interpreter for the hearing impaired is “Harpo Marx”, the silent/mute brother, disguised as a famous aviator, drinking glass after glass of water, instead of speaking, when he was obliged to deliver a ponderous speech before a gathering of very “important” dignitaries. Bold, daring, disrespectful and comically irreverent are the words we use to describe the scene in the classic 1935 film.

This real life episode of “Is the translator accurately conveying what I said?” reminds us of some satirized incidents of translators free-stylin’. The character of the interpreter Sakini in the film and the stage play “The Teahouse of the August Moon“. This incident also brings to mind the  often repeated comic bit, used in the parodied newscast segment “Weekend Update”. It employed Garrett Morris as “President of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing” and as such he was featured assisting the newscaster by shouting the main headlines. It was a burlesque imitation of what was at the time the  frequent practice of providing sign language interpretation by a human in an inset on the screen as an aid to the deaf viewer. (Teevee networks and local outlets have since opted for closed captioning since it is likely cheaper than using the skills of trained sign language personnel. We see this as another indication of how important it is for deaf people to be informed.)

For us the fake translator’s performance was a sardonic comment about all the pompous speeches given by the 91 heads of state whose remarks he was interpreting. Somehow we get the idea the heads of state weren’t so much praising Madiba, as demonstrating self aggrandizement.

Experts in sign language say “gibberish”. We say the Universal BS sign language; we find it absolutely hilarious and perfectly appropriate for those who spoke insincerely and superficially during the event.  It’s no wonder the family is holding an invitation only, smaller, more private burial event, with an expected 45,000 people as guests on Sunday in the town of Mandela’s ancestral village of Qunu.  (Correction: is it only 4,500? What a relief? That’s down from the 100,00 who were in attendance at the soccer stadium.) The family farm located there will be the final resting place for the venerated leader.

“There are tens of thousands of people who attended the service in the stadium, and millions more around the world who watched Tuesday’s memorial for President Mandela on teevee. Most would have to be considered mentally unbalanced to believe the remarks delivered by America’s first president of black African descent, Barack Obama, the man who still tortures, imprisons, spies and kills innocents by drones, was sincere in the laudatory statements he pronounced before the world about the man who will be forever known as the one who unified South Africa’s diverse cultures.”

In the United States we have come to expect our current leader, President Obama, to speak drivel making no logical sense whenever he opens his mouth. We especially anticipate gobbledegook to be presented in his major state presentations. His remarks at the Mandela memorial are no exception.
At last a translator for the hearing impaired who tells the truth; or as they say in the old school vernacular, “tells it like it T-I-is!”

The cover up reports “Thamsanqa Jantjie experienced hallucinations during the four hour service for the late president of South Africa.”  There have been widely circulated reports of Jantjie having a violent past (of course, he must be discredited) as well as a history of mental health issues (the truth is crazy), even having previously been a patient in a mental health facility for nineteen months (that is as high as he could count). He has been reported as admitting to having a mental health examination scheduled for the day of the Mandela memorial stadium event. He missed it for the important translation assignment, during which his “fraud” was discovered, by our security conscious leaders.  Ironically, though not surprisingly, they had no clue what he was saying about their speeches as he was translating.

We are skeptical of the revelations, which are being disclosed daily about this man. Mr. Jantjie has translated for the deaf at other African National Congress (ANC) events. Prior to this event there had been no reported complaints received by Mr. Jantjie or the ANC. The ANC is the Republic of South Africa's governing political party.

Perhaps Mr. Jantjie does have some form of genuine mental infirmity. Reports say he says he suffers from schizophrenia. He sees BS all around him. Clearly he's not alone. There are tens of thousands of people who attended the service in the stadium, and millions more around the world who watched Tuesday's memorial for President Mandela on teevee. Most would have to be considered mentally unbalanced to believe the remarks delivered by America's first president of black African descent, Barack Obama, the man who still tortures, imprisons, spies and kills innocents by drones, was sincere in the laudatory statements he pronounced before the world about the man who will be forever known as the one who unified South Africa's diverse cultures.

Nelson Mandela, Madiba, he was the peacemaker.

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