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Knowing a second--or third or fourth--language is like possessing a secret power.


You walk around looking like everybody else, you appear completely unassuming, and yet you have access to entire realms of conversation occurring all around you.

The best part? All the eavesdropping.

When people don't know you can understand them, you're liable to hear all sorts of things--things about you that they'd rather you never heard.

Some Redditors shared their best stories from those moments.

msgbubba asked, "Bilingual people of reddit what is your best 'they don't know that I speak their language' story?"

Ghost Train

"I'm white. Was in Beijing on a train, and had a little kid (like, 4 or 5) call me a white ghost in Mandarin. I stared him down at which point he asked if I understood him."

"I nodded, and he proceeded to hug his mom terrified. 😂"

-- Dipsendorf

Parting Discomfort 

"The tube in London"

"Two girls talking very explicit about their sex partners the Night before,in Swedish."

"Me and My mates all telepathically knew to Keep our mouths shut and dont look at them."

"When we got to our stop we loudly spoke Swedish so we knew they would hear :p"

-- Senalmoondog

Captive Audience 

"My cousin and her friend were on a ski lift in the US, and these guys on the lift with them started speaking Chinese."

"The whole ride was like, 'Look at these two American-born Chinese girls. They speak to each other in English. They don't even know Chinese. How pathetic.'"

"They all exit the lift. My cousin and her friend turn to one another and start conversing very loudly (and fluently) in Chinese. Apparently, the looks on the guys' faces were priceless."

-- birdwalk

Mingling

"I once went to a party where most of the people where English exchange students and i'm Dutch but fluent in English and there where these 2 girls saying things like 'Omg i know for a fact that Dutch guy doesn't even speak English he looks like such a ret*rd.'"

"And 'He looks like he is having a hard time understanding us.' All i did was look over to them and said 'Well thanks for the compliment but i'm going to look for some nicer company.'"

"Almost seating area erupted in giggles meanwhile i smiled towards the door."

-- TheDutchfella2001

Two Assumptions

"I speak English and Russian, but this is happen to someone else. In high-school we were leaving school with a whole bunch of us Russian speaking students. Pretty much we all hung out together."

"As were are walking 3 of us there is an Asian guy who is walking about 6 feet behind us. One of my friends turns to us and says in Russian 'why is this Chinese kid walking with us. I noticed him following us since we left the school grounds.'"

"Next thing we know we hear a voice from the back reply in Russian 'I'm not Chinese, I'm Korean.'"

-- Imispellalot

Polyglot Power

"Portugal has a lot of emigrants in France, and they enjoy vacating in their home country, but when they return, they like playing the fool with their countrymen by speaking in French."

"Well, I'm fluent in 7 languages, including French, and I used to work at a general store to pay for my tuitions, so from time to time, I'd get these a**holes asking me for help while trash talking me in French and I would fake I didn't understand them..."

"...and curse them back in Portuguese to see if they reacted, and if they did, I would trash them in French and would call security on them in case they tried to press a complaint."

"Let's just say I liked my time in the supermarket more than most."

-- TudoCasual

An Interesting Apology

"Half black half Japanese here. When I was in a train at japan there were two women judging me, called me 'black monster' in Japanese, I turned around and asked 'who's a black monster?" in Japanese..."

"...they started bowing their heads really quickly and gave me a bag of marshmallows as a gift of apology, even when I told them it's fine lol"

-- b8ednm8ed

5 Star Rating Probably Took a Hit

"An Uber saying in Spanish over the phone that had to drive me and I was ugly."

"I didn't talk in all the time I was in the car but when I got out of the car I said to him (in Spanish) 'thanks for your compliment! Have a good day.'"

-- Mbeheit

Not a Baby and Not an Idiot

"I was young, like 9, and I was going on this huge roller coaster. I was kinda shivering (it was really big, ok) and the couple behind me started laughing and talking in Hindi. Saying stuff, look at this little baby and stuff like that."

"So as I got on the ride , I turned back and said in Hindi, I understand Hindi you know, so shut up. I will never forgot the looks on their face as I ascended."

"And the ride was actually really fun, went on it like 5 times."

-- Xeno1224

Cutting Corners 

"My origins trace back to Southern Asia and I was born in Europe. My parents speak their native language and I had picked it up overtime. I once went to a restaurant and ordered some wings and patiently waited."

"The guy at the counter told his employee to pack the remaining food from last night and leave the today's item fresh. I simply said 'Hey, I like the fresh food, Thanks.'"

"He was so shocked and gave me some extra food."

-- AzyCrw4282

Cussing in a Desperate Moment

"Delivered a patient's baby and while repairing her tear she was uncomfortable and called me a bi*** and a wh*re in Spanish. I responded with 'now that's not very nice to say to someone holding a needle near your bottom.'"

"Everyone in the room just stared as the patient's mouth opened and closed a few times before she apologized and said it hurt."

-- crruss

Graphic Secrets

"One time I traveled to Argentina, and I'm pretty good with Spanish. However, I'm white, blonde, and I have blue eyes."

"Sometimes girls would talk about me in Spanish. I don't know if they thought I would understand them, but their conversations seemed pretty.... personal...."

-- SaveTheClams

Too Embarrassed to Tip

"Waited tables on TX-MX border. Couple didn't know I speak Spanish fluently and he called me 'f*ggot' in Spanish multiple times, to the wife's total embarrassment."

"I waited for her to get up to go to the restroom after clearing their dishes and I told him in perfect Spanish, 'When you're ready to pay I'll be your cashier.'"

"His eyes got wide and he asked me if I really spoke Spanish. My response: 'Yes, but I understand more than what I speak.'"

"Got $0 in tips from them but I have a story I like to tell."

-- Bibber_Song

Hiding Raunchiness in Plain Sight

"Half of my family is Amish, and speak Pennsylvania Dutch. Little did they know, I'd picked up on quite a few words."

"One day my parents were talking about sex and sh*t in Dutch. (My dad taught my mom Dutch, since he knew it and his half of the family spoke it.) They were making a ton of sex jokes like just plain yelling, "big boobs" or dumb sh*t like that."

"They realized when I started smiling that I knew what they were saying and they instantly shut up."

"Glad I'm older now, and I'm allowed to laugh at the jokes now. Keeping a straight face was f*cking difficult."

-- Choco-Late-Malk

Busted

"A substitute teacher came in to teach my Music lessons. Two kids who speak Spanish were mocking him (I assume, based on the tone of their voices, they were speaking Spanish and I only speak English) then they started laughing at the teacher."

"Anyway, he goes up to them, looks straight down at them, and breaks into fluent Spanish."

-- MrMagnificent1234

Confirmed

"My ex roommate is bi and overheard a gay couple commenting on how attractive the cashier was when we were having lunch at a Panda Express."

"After my ex roommate got his meal, he slowly passed by the couple and quietly told them that they were absolutely right."

-- pighalf

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