As domestic leaders and heads of state from around the world eulogized the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela at a memorial service in Johannesburg yesterday, a man standing just a couple of feet away, who was supposed to be translating the speeches into sign language, was instead making a repetitive series of completely meaningless gestures with his hands. Not surprisingly, deaf people — including a deaf member of South Africa’s parliament — noticed that this person was speaking pure gibberish to them. “There was zero percent accuracy,” says an interpreter with DeafSA.
The man is so obviously faking it that even if you don’t know sign language, you can kind of tell he’s full of shit, because he keeps doing the same movements over and over again, regardless of what the speaker is saying. His phoniness is even more apparent in a direct comparison with a real interpreter from South African television doing real sign language:
Stranger still is that this was not Fake-Sign-Language Man’s first public performance: Here he is fake-interpreting the delightful apartheid-era song “Shoot the Boer” at a 100th-anniversary event for the African National Congress (South Africa’s ruling party) in January of 2012. (“I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t work for the ANC,” a party spokesman insists.)
To give Fake-Sign-Language Man just a little bit of credit, his fake-signing skills have markedly improved over the past two years. The guy has clearly been working hard to perfect his fraudulent, useless craft. He could have been learning real sign language instead, but still.