Interpreter Being Called a Fraud


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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) -- Nelson Mandela lies in state in South Africa, but the spotlight has shifted from the man being remembered, to the sign language interpreter at his memorial service.

Showing all the signs of a fraud.

"You wouldn't know what they're saying. Period. Nothing. You would get nothing from it. You can't understand him at all," said Rhonda Jennings, who is a sign language instructor at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and spoke trough an interpreter.

At VSDB, it was obvious even to those who don't know South African sign language.

"He used three consistent hand shapes. It was a U, the 'one' hand shape and a flat palm. He didn't have any expression on his face, there was a flat affect. And he just had too many pauses. Clearly he didn't know what he was doing," Jennings said. "Such an important and historic event, such a big event and they have someone who could not do this. It's disgusting."

"There's a huge responsibility placed on the interpreter to make sure that we get the message out faithfully, and that everyone is included into such an historic event," said Kathy Campbell, VSDB's interpreter coordinator.

But Campbell said that's not what happened here.

Jennings said interpreting for the deaf community should be taken more seriously.

"This is a message for America as well, to be able to think, 'Oh, we don't want this to happen here,' that there should be much more respect for the people and have a certified interpreter there, not just have someone just to fill the place," said Jennings.

She also said the interpreter's signs were completely made up.

She said if he would've just gestured, acted it out, it probably would have been more helpful than what he actually did.

Now the interpreter has come to his own defense.

In an interview with CNN, he said he believes he was doing South African sign language, but he also told the Associated Press that he was hallucinating at the time, hearing voices and seeing angels enter the stadium.


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