Local deaf and hearing impaired community upset over fake interpreter

Updated: 12/11/2013 5:45 PM
Created: 12/11/2013 4:44 PM WHEC.com
By: Joangel Concepcion

Deaf and hearing impaired communities all over the world, including here in Rochester are furious. They're calling a man, who was supposed to be translating for top officials, a fake.

On Tuesday, millions of people watched the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela. Now there is outrage surrounding the man picked to be on stage as a sign language interpreter. Rochester's local deaf and hearing impaired community says he wasn't really communicating anything at all and they are now demanding answers.

Kim Kurz, American Sign Language & Interpreter Education, said, “Once in a while we see that, even here in America, but to see something on the world's stage at Mandela's funeral, it was really, really offensive to the deaf community and the world was watching.”

The ceremony lasted for several hours, but it didn't take long for many to realize there was something wrong. The deaf community in South Africa says there were zero percent accuracy in the translation. Members were even more offended because he did not use signs specifically created for Nelson Mandala and even President Obama. 

Professors at RIT say they couldn't understand the signs and it really wasn't fair to the hearing impaired. One of the professors, who was born and raised in South Africa, says he is hurt by what happened. 

Werren Zorn, National Institute for the Deaf, said, “It was highly offensive. It's like someone speaking German and having someone speak to them and make up words and pretend that they are speaking German. Of course, it would insult people who lived in Germany because it is as though they are insulting their language and that's how I feel. He insulted my home language and that's how we as South Africans feel.”

South Africa's minister in the presidency says the administration is looking into the incident. Right now, officials are focused on their former leader. The state funeral for Nelson Mandela is Sunday.


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