More Problems with Fake Sign Language Interpreter

The Interpreting Report

When the news that the interpreter at Mandela’s memorial service came out yesterday, I tried to write up a quick analysis that pointed out the systemic problems that led to the now-famous incident in Johannesburg. Today, more information has come out about the interpreter.

Nelson Mandela's memorial service

Jantjie

In an interview, Thamsanqa Jantjie (the “fake interpreter”), made several important statements, which I want to think through. (Articles on CNN, Daily News, and USA Today.)

1. He claimed that he is a schizophrenic and he was suffering from a hallucinatory episode on stage, which explain why his interpretation was gibberish.

I am skeptical that Jantjie’s incomprehensible signing can be explained as the result of a psychological event. I don’t believe that hallucinations lead to apraxia (the inability to produce meaningful language). If anything, hallucinations lead to hyperactive language production. Also, a psychological event would likely impair much more than just language…

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