Garbled in translation: the Mandela interpreter

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Monday, December 16, 2013

IT WAS crazy.

Sign language interpreter named Thamsanqa Jantjie infuriated the hearing-impaired who watched world leaders at the memorial service for South African icon Nelson Mandela.

A few seconds into one speech, they thought Jantjie (1) didn't know his job, (2) was kidding, or (3) was nuts.

Two of three: enough to raise howls all over the world -- and jokes from standup comedians.

"Saturday Night Live" (SNL) mocked it, confirming it was a major snafu worthy of ribbing. When U.S. president Barack Obama (played by Jay Pharoah) started talking about the much-derided health care website, the interpreter (SNL's Kenan Thompson) appeared, aping Spiderman shooting webs. When Obama said, "I'm relieved the website has been turned on again," the interpreter began rubbing his nipples.

At the Johannesburg rites, Obama's tribute reached the hearing-impaired as gibberish

Amazement over how Jantjie, a schizophrenic with dubious credentials, was hired turned to shock when Isrelis disclosed he had a record of murder and other crimes. Security lapse by South Africa and an epic oversight by top-notch security groups.


Jantjie mangled Obama's speech. Inches away from the president, he could've hurt him too. He heard voices, he said, and he was "alone in a dangerous situation."

Perfect recipe for mayhem: had the U.S. Secret Service known it then, they'd have wrestled him to the ground to protect Obama -- and to stop the interpreter from making those stupid hand signs.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 17, 2013.


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