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Funny Stories About Over the Phone Interpreting

Interpretation - OPI - Translation - The more you know - Over the phone interpreting - Food for thought

Over-the-phone (OPI) interpretation is an instant lifeline for people in need of language access support in healthcare, schools, doctors offices and more.

The interpreters that diligently train for this type of work have to have the right combination of service-oriented focus and all of the ethical and professional standards that come with interpreting.

Since over the phone interpreting lacks some of the visual and social cues that in person or virtual interpreting have – there are bound to be some funny and strange interactions that happen.

In today’s piece we sit down to chat with three of our Ad Astra OPI superstars to hear a few of their funny OPI stories.

The Team Shares Some Funny OPI Stories

online team meeting


So team, what are some funny or strange OPI stories you’ve come across in the field?

Cammy (Camila)

This was one is cute! I was working on a speech language therapy call with some new parents. The two had a running bet one if their child would say mom or dad first. I never heard that kind of bet on an OPI call.


I love that! Too funny. I was interpreting for a school call for Mexican Spanish. The mother and child were on the chat. The mother asked on the call if her child is there and I start hearing what sounds like “chingados” far in the distance. If you look up this term you’ll learn it’s…very colorful slang. The parent become upset and confused thinking they were hearing their child cuss, but it just was her mishearing what they were saying.


This one might be more on the scary side, but I once got a 311 call of someone complaining in Spanish about gunshots and gangs. It seemed like they were a regular caller. She had to be told to call 911 since this was really urgent and dangerous. On the call I could literally hear gunshots!

a virtual interpreter translating over the phone VI


Wow…that’s crazy. This one is a classic instance of mishearing something. I was on a call with a car agent and a Spanish speaker. There was some issue about payment. The Spanish speaker was shouting “I’m going to sue you!”. The agent was hearing “shoot you”. They shouted “I will call the police”. I had to communicate that it was not a threat of violence etc. Totally a misunderstanding!


I had a funny mishearing one where a Spanish speaker knew a little bit of English. Somehow they got mixed up when saying hearing their name being said as I introduced them I said “Juan” and they cut in and said “no I have two names! Not one”.


That’s too funny ha. Sometimes we can get multilingual callers. That can flip between dialects or languages. I had a Portuguese woman call that started the call in Portuguese, but then apologized and swapped back to Spanish per the OPI request. As the call went on, she kept going back and forth…so it made for a very drawn out and confusing call as you can imagine.


This happens a lot! People think languages are similar and we will get calls like this where they might stray in to one they assume we might know since we already know Spanish and English.


That’s interesting!  We have a client that’s learning to speak Spanish. You say hello etc and she answers BUENOS DIAS no matter what lol. But it’s really cool that she is taking the time to learn and be friendly with us.

[Everyone Chimes In at the Same Time]

Hey how do you say this, how do you say this! [laughter fills the video chat call]


Yeah, before the 3rd person is on the call there is sometimes chit chat from the other person. While we’re waiting they will play a game of “como se dice” with us, which is “how do you say” in Spanish.


Going back to the 311 stuff. I always get 311 calls too! People lose their pets a lot. Like way too much… One lady called reporting it lost. 1 hour later she says she found her dog literally as we are on the call. Another animal one was when someone called to report that someone had ducks, pigeons, chickens etc. You could hear this loud mess of all these animals in the background. I would call to complain too if this was my neighbor.

a chicken standing with its profile


I remembered a story with animal craziness too! A funny woman was called due to multiple complaints because she had LOTS OF chickens and roosters. All day and early in the morning the neighbors would hear. So the conversation was something like(with plenty of background animal noises):

Client: But miss, why do you have so many animals?

LEP: Well, I love them. Is it illegal?

Client: No miss, but why do you have SO MANY of them?

LEP: Because they are like my dogs. They live with me in my house

Client: Well, you need a permit but it would have been much more easy if you would have real dogs… 😂😂


We once had a scheduled client call that they were unavailable for. Sometimes you have to leave a message in the language if you can’t catch them. We were leaving a message, then we were hearing “hello – can you repeat – can you speak up”. We were all confused – it turns out this was just the recording… It just kept going “can you hear me, can you hear me…”. Very strange!


That’s a very good one! Those recordings happen a lot, but not as strange. A lot of  Latin American moms will do music off their phone etc. So you will hear a long stretch of distorted music before you can even leave a message ha.

One time got on a call that was picked up by a child. I had to plead with the child to get their parent for our scheduled call. I’m glad they eventually handed over the phone.

Ad Astra Funny OPI Stories Man Smiling

And there you have it

Over the phone interpretation can have its challenges as you can see and occasional bursts of humor or downright strange scenarios.  From chatting with Cammy, Florencia, and Macarena you can get a deep sense of the professional care and service oriented approach they all have in their work.

There’s never a dull day in the life of an OPI interpreter!  See how you can get started in this fast-growing field.