Multilinguals 'They Didn't Realize I Could Speak Their Language' Experiences

It pays to know another language. Being bilingual can open many doors.

It's also pretty useful for eavesdropping, not that we're endorsing that.

As a Spanish speaker—hooray for growing up in a bilingual household!—I have always been rather humored by moments when people were talking about me... under the impression that I didn't know what they were saying.

Imagine their faces once I proved them wrong!

Those who speak any other language have undoubtedly had a similar experience at least once.

People shared their stories with us after Redditor 64eight asked the online community,

"Multilinguals, what's your 'They didn't realise I could understand their language' story?"

"I was in Germany..."

"Am ethnically Chinese but grew up learning German."

"I was in Germany for student exchange and attended a dorm party one night. Two German guys at the party started flirting with me and openly discussed who would be able to sleep with me that night."

"Played dumb and rejected both their advances. A week later at another party I conversed with other friends in fluent German in front of them. Their expressions were priceless."


I bet they were shocked! What a power move.

"My dad was down the aisle..."

"Very innocent comment towards my Dad, but regardless they clearly didn't think I could understand them. I once overheard some middle aged guys say that my Dad looks like "the oldest kid from The Brady Bunch if he grew up" in Spanish."

"My dad was down the aisle getting something and I was manning the cart and they were semi near me. I just start laughing because my mom had a crush on Greg from The Brady Brunch as a kid,so it was perfect! Even my Dad's name is Greg!"

"No one was offended, but the guys did look scared for a minute."


I bet they were scared. Must have given you quite a laugh!

"I responded in Spanish..."

"It happens to me all the time because I look middle-eastern when I'm really Hispanic. I was working at a coffee shop and two hispanic men came in talking mad s**t about our food and confused about the menu."

"Right in front of me the guy's like "Lets ask this guy" "This guy? What's this camel gonna know about anything here" (I guess camel is a slur for middle eastern or something?). I responded in Spanish and it was back-pedal o'clock."


Serves them right, if you ask me. Hopefully they learned a valuable lesson.

"In high school..."

In high school I spoke Spanish fairly well. It was not common for that time and for my area."

"A family was buying groceries, and as I was ringing up the items the father said "he has not seen the stuff on the bottom, don't get it."

"I rang up what was on the belt, and sat there, after a few moments I asked about the stuff on the bottom. They would not look at me for the next 2 mins or so of the transaction."


Few places can inspire interactions like this more than the supermarket checkout line!

"I took a youth group to Six Flags..."

"I took a youth group to Six Flags. We had extra tickets from a couple of no-shows, so I decided to scalp them."

"A Korean family walked up and I made my pitch. They conferred together in Korean. I'm a white guy, but I lived in rural Korea for a year and bargained with a lot of shopkeepers, so I knew their counter-offer and what they were willing to pay before they announced it in English."


A secret skill! Look at you go. Oh to be a fly on the wall and see their reactions!

"I was in NYC..."

"I'm French. I was in NYC, on top of the Empire State Building and a young couple was standing next to me admiring the view, the guy turns to his gf and says in French "ahh I need to s**t so bad". I couldn't not laugh."


Can't blame you! One of the best things about knowing another language is catching moments like that.

"I was solo traveling..."

"I was solo traveling in Morocco. I'm 22, female and speak Arabic enough to understand conversations, basic words and phrases, etc. I was trying on clothes at a small shop and there were two women helping me choose what to try on."

"They started talking about me in Arabic, saying how I would be a great wife for one of the lady's sons. They were going on and on, and as I was leaving I responded in Arabic, "No thank you, but I appreciate your help," and they were stunned."


Good thing you could speak enough to get by! You could have been in an awkward situation!

"Oh, the cooks..."

"Oh the cooks at my job still don't know I'm fluent in Spanish. Yes, I know everything you're saying, Alejo."


Restaurants must be full of juicy drama and you have heard all of it!

"My wife is Indian..."

"My wife is Indian and her family speaks Gujarati. I've spent many years trying to pick it up and have found it to be very difficult as there are no great resources that I am aware of to learn it. You just have to listen and try to guess the context."

"Anyway, over the years I've gotten pretty good, and when my wife's aunt was visiting from India she went right in to my wife about how much weight I'd gained and how bad my diet must be."

"I understood every word and stopped her about two minutes into her rant. Turns out it didn't stop her from continuing."


She didn't even stop? Boundaries much?

If you happen to know another language, you pretty much have a secret superpower at your disposal! People will think twice about what they say around you, as they should.

Have stories of your own? Tell us more in the comments below!

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