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Friday, December 13, 2013

Mandela and the sign language interpreter… was he a professional interpreter?

Mandela and the sign language interpreter… was he a professional interpreter?

Professional interpreter or fake interpreter at Mandela's memorial?  The need for quality in professional translation and interpreting 

A professional interpreter either using a vocalized language or a sign language is expected to convey the message accurately and faithfully to the audience.  The linguistic expertise in the source and target languages is a must.  Hence, the penetration of fake individuals and translation agencies in major events is likely to undermine the work of professional interpreters and translators.  Thus, professional interpreting companies should be careful with the recruitment of its staff.
The mourning ceremony of late Mandela, the African leader and human rights defender, witnessed a controversial event caused by the performance of the sign language interpreter.
Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, was in a sign language interpreting task in Nelson Mandela’s memorial last week in South Africa.  The mistakes he made were at the origin of a deep non-satisfaction from the side of the deaf community.  
Although Thamsanqa explained his low quality work by attributing it to a loss of concentration and hallucination, the public was widely upset by this unprofessional work output.  Normally, a sign language interpreter wouldn’t sign in an interpreting task.  The man was using his own gestures which had no meaning for the deaf.  It is strongly believed that he was a fake interpreter.  His body movement and facial expressions did not reflect what the speaker was saying.  This was noticed especially during President Barack Obama’s speech.
The National African Congress has announced that the hiring of this interpreter was a mistake.  Meanwhile, the South African government pledged to investigate the matter later. The translation company which was represented by the fake interpreter disappeared and couldn’t stay to provide an explanation of what happened.  However, in a comment made by Josh Earnest, White House spokesman, this and other minor issues should distract humanity from the great achievement of Mandela.
Although people felt it was a shame to link Mandela’s death with such bad memories of unprofessional behaviour, the world of professional interpreting and professional translation still enjoy a good reputation thanks to the quality assurance measures translation companies take.  A professional translator or interpreter has to have a proven work experience and verifiable certification, along with a minimum degree level. 
As a global provider of professional interpreting, translation and sign language interpreting, Almiaad Lingua has made its recruitment of staff a major concern since its earlier beginnings.  Arabic to English and English to French interpreting first started with one interpreter and that was because the all the applicants who expressed interest to work with the company at that time were not convincing enough.  We had to work with a few people until quality applications were received.  
Now, Almiaad Lingua boasts of hundreds of professional translators and interpreters.  Our teams cover more than 100 language pairs and are experienced in all the fields of required enterprise. With the inauguration of our new sign language team ( we can now provide American and many local forms of sign languages.
Braille translations are also available for script and book translations from Almiaad Lingua.


  1. Do you know how the South African government found this UN professional translator interpreter?

  2. how sign language interpreter studies?? any certification body??


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