Interpreting Bloopers – Lost in Translation



I recently came across a thread where sign language interpreters shared their personal “oops” moments. 

Voicing for speakers with heavy accents…

Signing technical or classroom material…

Fatigue and confusion can make for some funny bloopers. Here are some of my favorites. Names have been removed to protect the innocent. 


After he had been talking about his wife, the hearing person asked if mom is Deaf too. I heard death. Internally I panicked and thought I was going to tell him his wife died. It took me quite a hot second to realize it was deaf not death!

“You’re upset” became “Europe + Set”

“Sync” was interpreted as “sink”. I definitely needed more lag time.

Turtles. I swear the guy in the training said “turtles”. I looked at my partner – who also heard “turtles” . We were in training for the new company software and suddenly we were supposed to look at the turtles. I should mention that the teacher was not a native English speaker. Finally it dawned. Terminals. We were to look at the “terminals”.

I once signed bears instead of banners! 
So the interpretation said “we went and hung bears on the side of the road last Thursday.”

“I am a state man” was supposed to be “steak man”. Scarcity became “scare city”.

“Boy caught” in Mexico was actually a boycott in Mexico.

I interpreted “embalming a mummy” into “bombing a mummy”

The teacher had strong accent. I thought he was saying devil worshipers ( which made sense because he was talking about cultures and beliefs ) Finally,  about 20 minutes later,  I realized he was saying developers.

I had to stop the hearing speaker because I couldn’t figure out what the acronym “KF” meant…he said, you know, “KF…like a baby cow!” Turns out he was actually saying “calf”

I was interpreting morning announcements at a high school and I thought I heard “the lesbian club will meet after school today.” Looked to my mentor for clarification first.
Nope. It was ” the thespian club”

I was interpreting a class years ago and the professor was explaining that his parents live with him, he loves them, etc. Then he started explaining how he keeps his parents in a cage, and one night they escaped onto the roof and…PARROTS. He had parrots living with him, not parents.

I heard the hearing person say, “Go have sex!” And I quickly relayed it. I realized my mistake a second later. “Go Aztecs!”- –  our local team. Both consumers cracked up and were nearly in tears as they said goodbye

My professor told us a story about how he heard ‘silent elephants’ as the topic of the lecture. The clients were excited, imagining a story about Deaf elephants.  Midway through at some point he realized it actually read Silent Eloquence”.

I interpreted a hearing older woman with a really thick southern accent. I sign, “I’m watching porn wars”. Deaf Client signs, “Grandma!! What are you watching?!” Her reply “I said pawn wars!”

I began my turn voicing for the presenter. A minute or so later, my team leaned in and said, “You’re speaking into your travel coffee mug.” The mic was in my other hand.

“We don’t have any patients (P on shoulder). And that’s the problem, no patients! We need to have more patients with these people”

I will just say this……..A person being “closed off” is not the same as having their “clothes off”…

The daily challenges of a Sign Language Interpreter. Gotta have patients and good cents and “GO Aztecs!!”



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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

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