A man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service, attended by scores of heads of state, was a "fake," the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said on Tuesday. The unidentified man seen around the world on television next to leaders including United States President Barack Obama "was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for," Bruno Druchen, the federation's national director, told The Associated Press.
There was Obama's rousing speech itself, his much-noticed (and, in some spheres, heavily freaked-out-about) handshake with Raul Castro, and of course his three-way selfie with a pair of European prime ministers. And now this, via the Associated Press:
Druchen along with three other sign language experts say the man in question wasn't signing in South African or American sign language. They also say they can rule out any other known sign language because there appeared to be absolutely no structure to the way he was waving his arms and hands around during the speeches. (Another giveaway, experts say, is that the man used no facial expression to convey the emotions of the speaker, a key element in signing.)