Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Thamsanqa Jantjie has achieved eternal fame!


The anonymous South African acquired his 15 minutes of glory in a unique and fascinating manner, to which the entire world was exposed, at the funeral of the distinguished former leader of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

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Who didn’t see him standing there on the podium, alongside world leaders and other influential people, interpreting their words into sign language for the deaf, using flamboyant hand movements, whose connection to sign language was coincidental to non existent.

The man simply did not know a single word of sign language, but this did not prevent him from translating entire speeches into signs that no deaf person, whether in South Africa or any other country in the world could possibly understand.

Thamsanqa himself explained the captivating phenomenon as having resulted from a schizophrenic attack, from which he suffered while standing on the podium, and the vision of angels descending from heaven, which distracted him. One does not need to be a distinguished psychiatrist to understand that the man was somewhat delusional. In fact, soon after this his wife had him committed to a psychiatric institution.

However the more important answers have to be supplied by the company that hired our friend Thamsanqa to stand on the podium at such an historic event and to create such a monumental blunder. How did they take a person like that for such an important interpretation assignment? Was it so difficult to run a preliminary check?

Even though I followed the actions of Thamsanqa with a smile, I nevertheless found it difficult to understand how something like that could have happened. At Lichi we have not yet hired anyone to translate into sign language, although we are set up to supply such a service, but a translator is a translator and the procedure for being recruited to work for a translation agency is supposed to be identical.

Of course CV’s are essential to the procedure and of course it is also very important to receive recommendations from clients with whom the interpreter has worked. It is very desirable, if possible, to meet with the translator and in any event one should speak with him in order to become better acquainted. In certain cases, such as major and particularly important projects, translators undergo examination by the client to ensure that they are familiar with the language and material that they are supposed to translate. There have been numerous instances in which translators arrived equipped with impressive curriculum vitae and recommendations from here to eternity, but were disqualified because they did not comply with the professional criteria required by the client.

So my dear Thamsanqa; you impressed everyone with your resolve and tremendous self-assurance required to stand in that manner before the whole world and to sign such nonsense without blinking an eyelid. But you would not have been accepted to work for Lichi Translations. Sorry about that.

And if we are already in Africa, here are a few more words about this intriguing market:

So far we have heard mainly about business connections between Israel and Africa in the context of the defense industries, weapons dealing, security experts and all types of mercenaries who were connected with corrupt leaders. But the African market has a huge untapped potential, in the realms of agriculture as well as other realms, and it is worthwhile to pay attention to them.

I would like to devote the next Lichi Translations Networking Forum to business in Africa, and so anyone with any links to the subject, or who is interested in the vast continent, is invited to make contact with me. The meeting will probably take place in February/March 2014.

And so “Hakuna Matata” my friends

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