Multilingual People Share "They Didn't Know I Spoke Their Language" Stories
In this day and age never underestimate the power of language. Many, many people are fluent in three or more languages. You have no idea who is bilingual no matter where in the world you are. So beware of your "outside thoughts and voice" when in public. You may get into a little trouble. _
Redditor _\Trumpstered _**asked the Reddit world **\Multilingual Redditors, What is your "They didn't realize I spoke their language" story?
CAREFUL... PEOPLE ARE LISTENING...
Was on both ends as a deaf person myself.
On one side: This one time the cashiers at a store realized I was deaf, and so started talking to each other about me when they thought I wasn't looking... they also didn't know I had my hearing aids and could lipread. Their comments weren't anything too negative, it was mostly the typical comments about deaf people by people who were completely clueless about how deafness worked. When I brought my stuff to the checkout I kindly reminded them that it's a pretty bad idea to talk about somebody thinking that they can't understand what you're talking about... because the chances are that they do in fact understand what you're talking about. The look on their faces were completely classic.
On the other side: One time my best friend and I were people watching at the mall, and we randomly started rating the men around us. In sign language, of course. There was this one dude sitting near us and we start rating his looks and his body. I said that he looked like he had a nice butt, and that his eyes were really beautiful, with the color of the deep ocean. so I rated him a 10/10. Then he came over to us,and then told us in sign language: "Thanks for the compliments, ladies. you really made my day, haha." We were both so shocked and embarrassed. heh.
NOT SO LOUD!
I sort of have the reverse of this.
I am a white man from the UK, and whilst visiting Berlin was sat on on the S-Bahn facing a older (also white) lady.
On the other side of the carriage there were 4 gentlemen who where clearly eastern European / middle eastern. I think they were speaking Turkish but I'm not sure. The lady turns to me and says in German, something along the lines of _"Beschämend, innen Deutschland sprechen wir Deutsch" _(Shameful, In Germany we Speak German). Loud enough they were supposed to hear, clearly looking for me to agree with her.
To which I replied in my very broken German _"Ich bin English, mein Deutsch ist sehr schlecht" _or I'm English, my German is very bad. Her face went bright red.
DON'T BE AN A-HOLE!
This happened to my brother and father while they were traveling. Some dude walks up to my brother, thinking he is a local, and starts talking to him in Farsi. When he realized my brother didn't understand, started saying really rude things, about him and my dad being stupid. My dad (fluent in Farsi) comes over, and rips this a-hole a second one. The dude feigned being apologetic, and made excuses for his attitude. As he was walking away, he started muttering more foul things about them, but in Turkish this time. Dad speaks Turkish as well, and proceeds to rip him a third a-hole.
GRANDMA DON'T PLAY!
I was on a tour bus with my grandmother going to a luau in Hawaii, my grandmother spoke fluent Italian as both her parents were Italian immigrants. Two young women behind us were speaking to each other in Italian, probably assuming none of the other tourists could understand them. My grandmother told me (I don't speak but a few words in Italian) that they were insulting everyone on the bus. She let it go on a while but just kept getting angrier and angrier as the ride went on. Finally she turned around and told them off, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves for being so rude. They looked so embarrassed and apologized to her profusely. Getting told off by a grandmother on a tour bus was not what they expected.
I HEAR YOU...
Hearing girl here.
I was looking for something in Target and asked an employee for help. She was busy stocking shelves and I kept trying to verbally get her attention. When she finally noticed me she mouthed, "I'm Deaf."
I set my stuff down to free up my hands, introduced myself, and asked her where what I was looking for was in American Sign Language. Her face completely lit up, and I'll never forget it.
Communication is major for Deaf people because they are unfortunately often excluded from the hearing world, which is probably why this lady reacted the way she did. Though this was minor, it made a huge impact on me. This instance made me fall in love with sign language all over again and realize how communication is a basic human right that many people do not have or have limited access to.
CHECK AND MATE!
Was in Germany, and a middle school teacher asked me to come in as a guest for one of her English classes. The teacher introduced me, I said hello and that I was from the U.S. and happy to be in their class.
The teacher said "So do you have any questions in English for an American? What do you think an American is like?"
One of the kids near the front says in german, kind of under his breath but definitely loud enough that most of the class can hear, "fat and stupid!"
The kids laugh, the teacher turns bright red. I don't know what to do, so I just say "Of course, many Americans can speak German" in German.
The kid almost pooped himself. He looked like a baby deer that had wandered onstage at a Beyonce concert.
I thought he was just being a dick and had intended me to understand what he was saying. Apparently though he actually hadn't thought through that an American in Germany in their language class might actually speak their language.
SAVE THE PILLOW TALK...
I'm fluent in Spanish and was in a bank line in Lima the capital of a South American City and these two early middle aged women were in front of me have a mostly quiet chat. One was telling the other about this new young guy at work she was banging and describing all the crazy sex they were having, going into detail about all sorts of stuff.
The other wanted to know what he looked like and she was kind of describing him badly, and she kinda did a sly look around the bank, waited a few seconds and said in Spanish: "_he looks like this guy behind us, but with blonde hair, much better looking and a much better dresser." _She did a good job of not gesturing towards me when she said it, but it didn't stop me from hearing it.
So she goes back to discussing details about hooking up with him at work and they don't notice the line has moved, and so without a warning throat clear I just say: "we all love the details back here but can you move forward?"
She went white as a ghost and they didn't really talk for the rest of the wait, it was hilarious
I LOVE RICE!
The people at the Chinese food place on my campus spoke Chinese to the door exchange students. But even tho I spoke Chinese I just always spoke English to them since I have an accent when I speak Chinese. But one day I got all meat no rice since I had a rice maker at home. And when I was paying the lady says to the person beside her _"fat butt wants meat no rice." _And I responded in Chinese, _"actually I have rice at home."_ They didn't charge me for the order and started giving me a bit extra whenever I go there
LOVE THE HIGH DRAMA!
I went to a psychiatric emergency ward once and asked for help and if they were comfortable to speak English.
I understand Danish but have a hard time making myself understandable in it and didn't really feel like an idiot at a crucial time of my life.
I stayed there for 4 days without anyone realising I knew what they were saying about me right in front of me.
2 of the nurses thought I was cute.
1 doctor thought I was lying all the time.
A patient thought I was a spy for the staff.
A lot happened in those 4 days
It made my stay way more enjoyable then it should have been.
EAT THAT BAKLAVA!
A lady on the bus was being a b**** and slagging people off in Greek until she got to me. She was being excessively nasty about my chipped nail varnish, I don't know either maybe she was having a bad day. As soon as I clocked it I turned around and looked her dead in the eye with my very Greek face and she stopped. She then sat in the seat in front of me where I sat and called my mom, also Greek, who I had a conversation with for the duration of the bus journey about the rude lady who slagged my nails off because she thought I couldn't understand, in Greek. It was delicious.