I always find it presumptuous when people assume those around them only speak a single language. Around the world, I would guess this happens less, since people generally aren’t monolingual – but in the States, many people still assume that just because they only speak one language, so do the people around them.
Not the case, which we can clearly see from these 16 rather awkward experiences.
16. Well, this is adorable.
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.
15. Yikes! What the heck?
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, dont get it.”
I rank 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.
Edit: I cannot spell, and I know it 😉
14. Those kids hate their lives so much.
I am half English and half French. When I was 19 I used to run a football class for a summer school in my hometown in England.
My dad was the modern language teacher of the private school which lead me to be pretty knowledgeable about how things worked. When walking through the street at the end of school term some French exchange students asked me for a cigarette. I don’t smoke so I told them as much and I carried on. I got 5 meters down the street before one said “eh merci fils de pute”. This means oh thanks son of a bitch.
I turned back and asked them to repeat themselves. They apologised and were really suprised and also extremely embarrassed.
Not nearly as shocked as when they turned up to gym class for their first summer class and I was their teacher…
13. This is just fun, right?
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.
12. How interesting.
I’m from Hungary and I lived in Germany for a few years as an au pair. I was honestly surprised how many times I heard random Hungarians. They never said anything offensive or rude about others, just…swore a lot, really loudly. Always made my day when I heard a random “fucking f*ck” in my native language in Aldi. I almost never swear in English (a sad lack of variety) but when my friend visited after 6 months, and I could finally talk with someone from home, I did the exact same thing! Maybe it’s a cultural thing.
11. Yes. Yes I do know.
Korean family visited university i went to. They were lost and needed help. They dont speak English. As i was passing them. Dad: “He looks Korean. Let s ask him.”
Mom and daughtor ” He s Chinese. Let s not ask him”
10 mins later. I met up with my friend and was walking toward dining plaza. They saw my friend and asked her “where is this and that”
My friend ” sorry i m not sure” turns to me and asked ” hey do you know?”
I ended up telling them in Korean where to go and watch their shocked faces as they didnt think I was Korean.
For info: i do kind of look like Chinese. Chinese families always asked me questions at school. So i had to learn “sorry i m not chinese. I dont know how to speak chinese. I am korean” in mandarin
10. Maybe not so ready to help.
ASL for many years. Had a deaf best friend and learned for him.
Downtown PDX one afternoon, waiting on the MAX, guy walks up and starts talking in what I assumed was the most broken English I’d ever heard. After a few “I’m sorry, man, can’t help”, he signs… The sign… For “sign?”. Phone goes in my pocket, water bottle set down, I’m ready to help.
Motherfucker asked me if I knew where to get heroin.
9. That awkward moment when…
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 sh^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.
8. What a rude person.
I work in the utility industry.
I had a guy I was working with trying to get new service to his residence. During one of our meetings he was on his cell phone when I got there. He continued talking for a few minutes then said something along the lines of “I’ve got to go, that stupid ass white boy is here”. He was laughing on the phone then looked at me.
The look on my face must have told him I understood everything he said, because he got stone sober professional.
7. This made me lol.
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 sh^t so bad”.
I couldn’t not laugh.
6. They 100% deserved it.
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.
5. Probably more.
On the tram in Munich I heard some drunk American tourist talking about how she didn’t realize some guy had left a condom inside her for a few days.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that like 90% of the people there could understand her.
4. How could they forget that, though?
Sometimes my students forget I speak Russian, and start saying stuff that is way inappropriate for English class.
The best was when this one boy, who always finishes his work early and fidgets around with things, was pretending to swallow a pencil. Another boy, who thinks he’s very funny, said in Russian, “I always knew you could deep-throat.”
That kid turned a beautiful color when I reminded him I could understand.
3. Stand up for yourself in any neighborhood.
I’m a white blonde female, but I grew up learning Spanish and ended up living in Chile and Mexico for a time. I am pretty fluent in Spanish. I was 18 and getting my car fixed after an accident and I had to walk around back with one of the guys past the garage where all the mechanics were. This was in Arizona so almost everyone working there was Mexican or Hispanic. They started saying some really rude things about me in Spanish loudly and they were laughing. I understood them but was too embarrassed to say anything. With me being white they probably assumed I didn’t understand them.
After my car was done I walked back around past the guys again. This time one of them said something along the lines of “I want to kill her with my d%ck/ choke her”…. something like that. At that point I decided to turn and tell him off in Spanish and say that yes, I understood him, and I let him know how rude, offensive, and uncalled for that was. My Spanish isn’t perfect, and I probably didn’t get the exact point across that I wanted to because I was nervous and angry, but he and the coworkers clearly understood that I had heard them and knew exactly what they were saying.
On my way home I called the car place and told the manager what happened and he said he would handle it. Idk what happened after that but I was young and shy and was proud of myself for how I handled it in the moment.
2. Gotta be more careful in those metropolitan areas.
I’m Polish and live in England.
I don’t know why Poles never realise that there are so many of us there that they can’t just speak about everyone in Polish because someone will understand.
It happens quite often.
1. Red lipstick has its own language, I guess.
I grew up in Thailand and can speak fluent Thai but I’m mixed race so I look pretty white. This happened when I was about 14 and wearing red lipstick for the first time.
I was coming home on the sky train. This older lady turned to her husband and basically said that foreigners always dress like sl*ts and that she feels sorry for my parents for raising such a degenerate. Luckily my Thai mom called to ask which station I had gotten to so I was just talking to her in perfect Thai. The woman’s face was priceless. I kinda wish I had some witty retort before I got off the train but I was really shy and didn’t really stand up for myself at that age.
Just one more reasons to learn a second or third language, hmm?
Are you bi- or trilingual? Share your similar experiences with us in the comments!