Monday, 23 December 2013

Nelson Mandela’s Memorial and the Need for Professional Interpreters

As the Nelson Mandela memorial has recently showcased, it’s imperative for individuals and organisations to utilise professional and competent interpreters before major events, for obvious reasons. To bungle up on such an important and globally publicized event like Mandela’ funeral is no laughing joke. Solemnity and soberness was the order of the day an required from all the stately participants and organisers of the late South Africa activist and leader’s funeral. See here

Nelson MandelaWhat obviously stood out from an otherwise well-orchestrated procession was the not-so-choice appointment of the event’s sign language interpreter. Thamsanqa Jantjie shot to worldwide fame (in the wrong light) by giving off fake sign language gestures during Mandela’s memorial. After the incident, the 34-year old actually claimed to have had a schizophrenic episode while gesturing mentioning how he “saw angels descending” on the Johannesburg Stadium during his performance.

A few days after the global mockery, Jantijie was admitted to a Johannesburg psychiatric hospital by his own wife Siziwe. What’s important to understand here is that it wasn’t Jantijie’s mental state during the event that was the main issue. Rather, the more glaring problem was the way the event organizers and government haphazardly went about their recruitment. Had they done their due diligence, then they would have found out that Jantijie actually had a history of mental problems and violent bouts in the past and was previously admitted to a mental institution for well over a year. Moreover, Jantijie has been implicated of past false impersonation and a string of serious crimes in the past, something a simple criminal record check would have highlighted.

Ironically enough, on the day of the his scheduled four-hour sign language performance, Jantijie was due to have a medical check-up. After getting the sudden request to interpret at Mandela’s memorial, his wife cancelled the appointment and notified the hospital to reschedule on another day. Clearly events like this do not leave a good impression on others. Especially considering how Mandela’s funeral was globally televised and had an impressive guest list of over 100 current and former heads of state and government. In fact, Jantijie’s bizarre act was performed only feet away from the American President Barack Obama and other esteemed guests.

The lesson of this story is to always do your homework before appointing interpreting and translations services. Clearly, the South African government got it wrong on this case and in consequence, has had to publicly admit their mistake and apologize to deaf people for any offence that Jantijie may have caused on its behalf. Apart from his troubled psychological state and lacking of the required competency, Jantijie was also a security risk in the presence of major world leaders and power brokers.
To avoid similar embarrassments (of course on a smaller scale), you need to make the right decisions and carefully do your due diligence. You should always seek out professional and reliable interpreting and translation services that have a solid track record and a dependable roster of translation staffs on standby.

Ideally, you should only look for those firms that are professionally certified, have quality accreditations, provide a wide range of interpreting and translation services (including sign language) and has a large number of translators and interpreters ready to serve. Look for companies like the UK’s Convocco Ltd to seek out the right interpreter for your needs. Companies like Convocco will guarantee the right appointment (they have a network of over 6000 sector-specific interpreters and translators fluent in over 250 languages – including British sign language) and take care of all the background checks and due diligence themselves to help build trust and maximize your business relationships.

By: Hayder Al-Ani Convocco Ltd Birmingham

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