Recommendations to translate anonymous voicemails from Togo?
April 11, 2020 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Dear all, I've been receiving voicemails overs WhatsApp to my Montreal phone number from a +228 country code (which means the calls are from Togo as far as I understand). I don't believe that I know this person, nor have I ever traveled to Togo nor any neighboring countries. I don't understand the language, although the speaker does say some words in French that I do understand ("bon travail", "au revoir", etc.) More below...

I would like to have the voicemails translated, and I would also like to reply and say something (have they been leaving voicemails to the wrong person? are they reaching out because they found my number somewhere?) I would be happy to pay for this -- they have left 12 short voicemails so far over the last 6 months.

I've wished them a happy New Year and also a "best of times" wish in the last few weeks (in French). I've been putting this off, but hopefully someone here can help me locate a translator. Thank you very much!
posted by vert canard to Human Relations (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Like a lot of countries in West Africa, Togo has multiple ethnic groups and multiple languages apart from French. There's a good chance that this is Ewe, but no guarantee.

But honestly, if these voicemails weren't meant for you, do you really need to translate them? You're kind of in the lucky situation that your lack of familiarity with their language means they haven't accidentally shared anything personal with a stranger.

I would expect someone running a scam or just randomly dialing people to English or French, which raises the odds of this being a mistake in my mind. There is a Togolese diaspora in Montreal; have they got the wrong number?

The official language of Togo is French. There's an extremely good chance that this person knows French. If they don't know French, they probably know someone who can translate for them.

Trying to find an Ewe (or whatever language) translator seems like making this scenario more complicated than it needs to be. I'd find someone who could record a message for you in French, explaining that you don't understand their messages and think that they have the wrong number. It can be a friendly message, of course, but it seems kindest to both protect their privacy and to let them know that these calls aren't reaching the right person.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

I just remembered that this is over WhatsApp. Does that mean you can send a text reply? That would be the simplest thing to do.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:57 AM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

This happened to me a few years ago via phone, but the calls were coming from Côte d'Ivoire. The person on the other sounded elderly, so I (not a French-speaker) Google-translated/learned/memorized in French:

"I am an American and I don't speak any French. This is the wrong number."

Then I waited, for weeks. When they finally called and I got to use my sentence, there was a long pause, a burst of laughter, followed by "OK, OK, OK!" and they never called back. I hope they eventually got the right number and reached whoever they were trying to reach.
posted by jquinby at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

You're probably getting phone numbers spoofed to look like they're from Togo. My 514 mobile number was getting calls purporting to be from Guinea for awhile not long ago, and other random remote codes as well. But if you pick up, it's a robocall in Mandarin. Apparently it's a scam directed at Chinese people in Canada, trying to frighten them into paying money to regularize their immigration status or something like that. It's worth it to somebody to scatter-shot these calls in Canadian cities, apparently.

The English or French equivalent is a robocall purporting to be from the revenue service, saying they have a warrant for your arrest. If you respond, they have a method for scamming money off you. Enough people have irregular tax reporting habits that this must be profitable too.
posted by zadcat at 12:00 PM on April 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

The other possibility is the callback scam, where if you call the number you see on your phone, you're unwittingly dialling a 1-900 number or equivalent, and you can run up fees.

Ignore these calls.
posted by zadcat at 12:08 PM on April 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all, this is great advice. I speak French (sorry if my post did not make that clear), so I'll simply let them know I'm not the person they're probably trying to reach.

Curiosity got the best of me and I should let this go.

posted by vert canard at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2020

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