A GLOBAL gaffe which saw a ‘fake’ sign language interpreter leave millions of deaf viewers unable to follow Nelson Mandela’s memorial service has been labelled a “missed opportunity” by a Worcester charity.
Deaf people worldwide were left baffled by Thamsanqa Dyantyi’s attempt at translating the words of leading global figures, including American president Barack Obama and social rights activist Desmond Tutu.
And having been outed as a fake, a Worcester-based charity says Mr Dyantyi’s actions were like returning to the “old days”.
“It was a completely missed opportunity,” said Gordon Hay, community manager at Lowesmoor-based Deaf Direct, who is deaf and uses sign language.
“Everyone was watching that service which saw the interpreter standing next to world leaders.
“South Africa has some similarities with British signing, but there were no similarities here.
“He would repeat the hand movements over and over again.
“You could tell it was a fake. I thought we were going back to the old days.
“It was shocking but at least people are talking about signing. It raises the profile.”
He said it was a shame that while the speeches were being made, former president of the World Federation of the Deaf, Liisa Kauppinen, was receiving the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Award prize in New York.
Mr Dyantyi, who is believed to live in Johannesburg, close to where the service remembering South Africa’s first black president was held, has since told media in his home country he “started hearing voices” and began hallucinating.
“It was so obvious he was a fake,” said Tessa Slaughter, senior interpreter at Deaf Direct.
“There is a perception that sign language is not really a language, that it is a gesture, but that’s wrong.
“It is apparently quite common in South Africa to have cowboy interpreters providing the shoddy service we saw.
“But it is not uncommon to have them in this country, too.
“Some interpreters in other parts of the country only have a basic level of sign language.
“I think the reasons are a mix of ignorance and a lack of funding.”
She said Worcestershire, thankfully, is different, with appropriately qualified interpreters on Deaf Direct’s books.
The charity runs sign language courses and has interpreters who can help deaf people access day-to-day activities such as job interviews, GP appointments and parents evenings.
Visit deafdirect.org.uk for more information.
Mr Hay has given your Worcester News readers a very special message. Can you guess what it is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUwjbTvcfFE&feature=youtu.be