Poor interpreting, no laughing matter

Two tragic events have placed South Africa at the centre of global attention recently. 

The first and most monumental of these being the passing of global icon and heroic freedom fighter, Tata Nelson Mandela. The second and most recent event to put South Africa in the spotlight? The tragic death of Reeva Steenkamp and the subsequent saga that is the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Although unrelated, the interpreting services, both at Tata Madiba’s memorial and during the globally televised Oscar trial, have attracted shock, laughter and scorn.


The sign-language interpreter at Tata Madiba’s memorial has attracted a stream of Internet memes, many of which cause riotous laughter. I must admit to chuckling at a good few myself.  However, poor interpreting is really no laughing matter. The sign-language interpreter at the Madiba memorial left deaf people who had tuned in to watch and pay their respects confused and disappointed.

According to NBC news, ‘Hundreds of people took to social media to express their anger at the interpreter\’s gestures’.

The interpreting at the Oscar Pistorius trial has also been a cause of anger and frustration. ‘Proceedings were delayed for an hour and a half after the Afrikaans-English interpreter, who initially agreed to interpret, was suddenly unavailable… the substitute interpreter’s attempt was frustrating and delayed proceedings.’ – IOL News

The reasons behind the poor interpreting involve a lack of adequate training, qualifications and experience by the interpreters provided by Government for these events.

Professional, trained and qualified interpreters can be hired from a reputable language services agency to provide expert interpreting services and avoid anger, confusion and frustration. For a more in-depth understanding into what makes a good interpreter, have a look at our interpreting blog.


At Bangula we pride ourselves on delivering quality translations and interpreting services in all 11 official South African languages. We also have highly qualified translators, interpreters, editors and proofreaders eager and ready to tackle a job in any major international language of your choice. Contact us today.