Dec. 12 (UPI) -- It's not entirely clear how -- or why -- the organizers of the Nelson Mandela memorial thought they could get away with using a fake sign language interpreter.
"I'd been to South Africa before and I could understand some South African sign language, and I thought to myself, wait a minute," she said. "It was almost like he was doing baseball signs or whatever. I was appalled."
Matlin, who lost her hearing before her second birthday, said she could see the translator, Thamsanqa Jantjie, struggling to keep up the charade.
"You can tell," she explained. "I could tell, and I could tell that he's thinking to himself, oh no, how should I do this... let's see what I just did, I'll do it again."
The actress said Jantjie's lack of facial expressions was a dead giveaway, as mouthing words and conveying emotions is a critical part of signing.
"Sign language is not international, so each country has its own sign language," she said. "But in this case, each language shares something, which is facial expressions, as a part of the grammar. And to see someone standing there without any sort of movement in his body, without any sort of facial expressions that one incorporates into sign, indicates that he had no understanding of the culture, no understanding of the language."
"I knew right then and there that he had no understanding of the culture at all," she said. "And it was offensive. It was offensive to me."