Uhuru Sign Language Interpreter Speaks on New-Found Fame, “It’s Overwhelming”

March 7, 2019

Everybody’s favorite sign language interpreter, Youla Nzale, is overwhelmed by the attention she has been getting following her animated translation of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address during the official opening of the 6th Annual Devolution Conference in Kirinyaga County Tuesday.

Youla, who is described as a shy person, provides sign language interpretation services for Citizen TV prime-time news bulletins.

“It [attention] is overwhelming. That explains why I am declining media interviews,” she told Citizen Digital.

Asked if she expected her interpretation of Uhuru’s speech to go viral, Ms Youla said: “I did not. And, that should not be the case,” adding: “You know the president’s speech at that function was more important to Kenyans; sign language only enabled the deaf to understand the Head of State’s speech.”

She defended herself against claims that her passionate facial expressions were unprofessional saying “facial expression is part of sign language. However, the level of animation varies from one interpreter to another”.

“My emotions went hand-in-hand with the president’s tone. I tried capturing every moment in his speech — when he was serious, sad… Deaf people do not [often] read [the lips], they cannot hear; so, they read the facial expressions. So, an interpreter needs to be happy, when the speaker is happy; sad, when the speaker is sad; confused, when the speaker is confused. That explains my facial expressions during the president’s speech.”

Mz Nzale also explained that she was part of a sign language interpretation team contracted to provide services at the 5-day devolution seminar.

As interpreters, we take turns [during such events and live programmes]. It just happened that it was my turn to offer sign language interpretation services when the president was speaking. I have never been and was not his official sign language interpreter at the conference,” said Ms Nzale.

Here are some photos of Youla Nzale in action at the Devolution conference.

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