Have you ever encountered a situation where people were talking in two languages and didn’t realize that you could understand both? It’s quite a common experience for the multilingual.
They Didn’t Understand My Language
We checked on Reddit for their best “they didn’t realize I could understand their language” story and compiled the best ones here.
Deaf People Can Do It Too
Two deaf customers were in the store, talking and making negative comments about the shopkeeper, the original poster (OP) of the story.
Unbeknownst to them, OP had a sister who was also hard of hearing and knew sign language.
After they paid for their items, the shopkeeper told them to get out and ended the conversation with a well-known sign.
Telling Everyone I Was His Girlfriend
The poster of this story, Vermilithe, had lived in Japan when she was younger and returned to the same town later on in life.
She stayed with a family for a few weeks during her visit and agreed to accompany their son to his high school’s International Festival.
Despite her speaking Japanese pretty fluently, the son assumed that the visitor couldn’t understand him and proceeded to introduce her as his girlfriend.
She found it very funny and let him have his moment, until later joining in on a conversation in Japanese with his friend on their way back home, much to his embarrassment.
The Darn Asian Lady Can’t Count
At a McDonald’s drive-through, a group of Spanish-speaking people attempted to short-change the cashier, who had an Asian appearance.
The driver remarked, “That darn Asian lady can’t count” in Spanish. However, the cashier politely informed them that they were short in the same language.
This resulted in embarrassment for the driver and laughter from the passengers.
Lying at the Psychiatric Ward
At a Danish psychiatric emergency ward, a multilingual individual requested help in English. Though they were able to understand Danish, they found it difficult to speak the language.
During their stay there, they could understand what was being said about them. Two nurses found them attractive, and one doctor thought they were lying all the time, while a patient believed they were a spy for the staff.
Despite the situation, their multilingualism made their stay more enjoyable than expected.
The Old Hag
OP’s great-aunt had an amazing story about her visit to a butcher shop.
The butcher was speaking Russian with a customer, and upon seeing the poster’s great aunt, referred to her as an “old hag” in Russian, not realizing she spoke the language.
She then proceeded to ask for many pounds of meat, all cut, sliced and wrapped, before delivering a parting shot in Russian to the butcher, telling him: “shove it up your ass.”
Calling Me Fat
OP, who is fluent in both English and Polish, ordered at Subway while two Polish employees were present.
Unaware that the customer understood them, they called the individual a “fat a**” in Polish and laughed.
But when it came time to order vegetables for their sub, they were taken aback when OP spoke to them in Polish with a big smile on their face.
The order cost them £4.80, but the priceless looks of surprise on the employees’ faces were worth much more.
The Foreign Idiot
Reddit user bsksbeat was out in a bar in Riga and noticed a cute Russian girl coming up to him and speaking English. She invited him for a beer with her and her friend, so he went along with it.
Throughout the hour, they asked him for expensive drinks such as Dom Perignon and talked about taking advantage of him due to his foreign status to the bartender, who knew him well.
“They talked about how they’re gonna rip me off big time and that I’m a foreign idiot,” he said.
He ended up buying them four beers out of politeness. After getting a call from his friend, he switched to Russian, thanked the girls for their time, and left.
The girls were embarrassed and angry when he did this. Ultimately, he had an entertaining evening despite the circumstances.
Why Does He Look Strange?
Reddit user veekay45 was doing an exchange program in China, natively from Russia. While riding a subway one day, they noticed that a mother and her daughter sat next to them.
The little girl couldn’t help but stare at the foreigner; she asked her mother why this person looked so strange. Her mother explained that they were a foreigner and, although different, not strange.
Veekay45 then decided to join the conversation by speaking in Chinese and was met with nice reactions from both the mother and daughter. They all hoped for the best for each other and parted ways soon after.
Multilingualism is an amazing talent that has brought many different stories to life. While we hope no one is talking about you in a different language, surprising someone with your language skills can be incredibly satisfying.
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This article, Multilinguists Share Wild Stories Where They’ve Heard People Talk About Them in a Foreign Language, was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching. Source.
I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.
I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!
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