Real sign language interpreter translates fake one




This is pretty entertaining, but presumably Justin–the guy Kimmel brought in–is an ASL interpreter, and there’s no guarantee that anybody interpreting at an international event would be using ASL rather than a mutually unintelligible other sign language. (It sounds from news reports like this guy was also not using any variant of South African Sign Language, though, either.)

I wonder how easy it is for somebody not versed in a foreign language to tell that a native speaker of that language is speaking gibberish–and if it’s easier or harder to do in sign. This particular example seems pretty easy given that he used a limited repertoire of “signs,” but what if the guy were an actual signer and was just spouting nonsense?

The question reminds me of this.


Now the interpreter claims he was hallucinating. Maybe it’s the sign-language equivalent of this:

(EDIT: accidentally pasted wrong video link)


The “dialog” as interpreted reminds me of how Charlie Kelly writes…

Speech as written by Charlie Kelly

(Sorry for the ads and what not on the video.)


In all seriousness: are sign languages neurally similar enough to spoken languages for sign-speakers to suffer from (presumably gesturally expressed) analogs of the various language pathologies?

Is there ‘sign salad’? Signing in tongues? Would Tourette syndrome induced coprolalia have a gestural expression instead?


For that matter can software developers “code in tongues”?


But a tongue is only needed for audible speech. Maybe “Signing in Fingers?”


Given the horrorshow that is phonetic symbols in unicode, probably only the ones familiar with the matter…


The translation sounds precisely like some instruction manuals for assembling imported hardware.


It would probably be difficult to do while coming up with something that passed validation. Unless you managed something like the plot of Snow Crash…


Do you mean Malboge?


There’s a good MetaFilter thread on this in which MeFite Conspire, who is deaf, goes into a lot of detail about how signing is intrinsically different from spoken language.


Heh. He’s the human equivalent of a parrot, but instead of being a bird that repeats words he hears from humans, he repeats sign that he observed from signers.


We dodged a huge conspiracy theory franchise if “something” had happened.

The theorists would have gone crazy saying there is no possible way that that fake interpreter could have gotten through all the vetting and checkpoints without having gotten extensive assistance from dark, nefarious forces.


Have they managed to figure out how the Obamafascist Sharia-death-panel, gun-grabbing conspiracy is advanced by having a nutcase being a bit of an embarrassment on stage during a major public occasion?

I do enjoy a good conspiracy theory; but I’m one of the whiners who demand that the ‘cui bono’ criterion be satisfied. If it’s totally the work of dark, conspiratorial, forces at work in the world; but you can’t give a remotely cogent account of how said forces gain, I’m less than impressed.


Thanks mcsnee – you hit exactly the questions I would have wanted to ask.

My knowledge of sign is limited – I can just about apologize for not knowing more, and follow enough of sign-singing to appreciate that art. But since I learned the basics of ASL in a class heavily populated by linguists and neuroscientists, I got to listen in on some good discussion of how sign languages have evolved independently in different countries even when starting from common bases… and of how and why ASL has optimized itself into a grammar which more closely resembles Navajo than spoken English.

My reaction to the video was that the signer’s gestures were sharp enough that they certainly seemed to be ones he had practiced… but that there seemed to be too few distinctly different signs, so something was wrong.


Here’s a catch-all: the plots that don’t make sense exist to throw you off the scent of the ones that do.


I did once speculated aloud when watching the safety film on a British Airways flight form the US to the UK whether they used ASL or BSL. The woman sitting next to me assured me that it wasn’t ASL.


Yes. Thought disorders manifest through language problems that can seen in the language being signed. This is honestly why some times you may need multiple interpreters for some patients, including a Certified Deaf Interpreter (yes, an actual deaf person who can help the patient communicate, for instance, with a hearing interpreter).

There really is signed “salad” and yes it is hard to determine the lines, and yes this puts people who communicate through sign language (or who would if they had been taught any language) at a real disadvantage when it comes to medical situations and law enforcement.


True, but I can vouch for the fact that interpreters versed in multiple signed languages and methods agree that his signs are not known to be a coherent signed language, so I think it is pretty obvious though honestly some times interpreters will basically be seeing a sort of pantomime. Think of it like grammar maybe? I do know that if the languages are very different it can be hard or impossible to understand really.

But of course, using ASL here was mostly for fun.