There are so many ways we can make a complete fool of ourselves. It's almost as if awkward situations are a quintessential part of the human existence. However, there are things we can do to limit the amount of embarrassment we go through. For example, stop assuming nobody speaks our language abroad.
For starters, bilinguals are a thing. Not to mention you could bump into another tourist from your country. Or an ex-pat. Sure, yelling insulting or vulgar stuff in public might give you the impression that you are all mighty and can say anything, but it's only a mirage.
Bored Panda collected another list of “They Didn’t Realize I Spoke Their Language” stories, and it's just as good as the first one. From racist old ladies telling black people to wash their skin off to obnoxious train passengers screaming that all Germans are Nazis. While in Germany. We've included it all, so scroll down, enjoy and upvote your faves!
I'm Dutch and my GF is Hungarian.
I went to meet her parents for the first time af Christmass a couple of years back and my GF suggested that I should learn a couple words like: Hello, how are you. Those kind of things.
I took it a step further and got a lot of help from 2 workmates, just to suprise my girlfriend and parents.
When we got there, her father was not so keen of me being not Hungarian.
He was saying some things to my girlfriend like "How will we ever communicate?" and "It's such a shame that you couldn't find someone who is Hungarian or at least speaks it".
I look at my GF, then camly responded to her dad that although my Hungarian isn't the best, I will learn it for them because now they are my family too. I also thanked then for having me over and asked my GF's dad that I hope that one day he can accept me for who I am as a "Outsider" as how he likes to call it.
The moment I did say that, he teared up and said that no one ever did some much for his daughter and his family in this way and he appreciates it very much.
After that, A bottle of Palinka appeard on the table and from that moment on I don't remember much from that night.
Now several years later, me and my GF's dad are really close although we live at the other side of Europe.
Soon I will go again to Hungary for Christmas, And now I am planning to ask him for his daughter's hand.
I hope I will pronouce it correctly
Around the world, most people – estimates vary from 60 to 75 per cent – speak at least two languages, suggesting the human brain has evolved to work in multiple tongues.
Multilingualism has been reported to have many social, psychological and lifestyle advantages. And if they're not enough, researchers are finding health benefits from speaking more than one language, with faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia being just a couple of examples.
This will get buried but oh well. About a year ago, I was in a café, just eating lunch when I overhear 2 French girls sitting next to me, talking about boys and stuff like that, nothing out of the ordinary.
Then, one of them looks at me and says in French "That guy [me] is really cute. I want his number."
5 minutes later I go to leave and say (in French) "Thanks, I think you're cute too, I can give you my number if you still want it." She gets so embarrased while her friend is laughing her ass off. I gave her my number, and the girl is my girlfriend now.
Also, there are findings that suggest we might think different when we "switch" to another language. In the 1960s, psycholinguistics pioneer Susan Ervin-Tripp asked Japanese–English bilingual women to finish sentences in each language.
She found that the women ended the sentences very differently depending on which language they used. For example, “When my wishes conflict with my family…” was completed in Japanese as “it is a time of great unhappiness”; in English, as “I do what I want”. Another example was “Real friends should…”, which was completed as “help each other” in Japanese and “be frank” in English.
From this, Ervin-Tripp postulated that human thought takes place within language mindsets, and that bilinguals have different mindsets for each language.
American who works abroad- it always baffles me how some American tourists seem to think that nobody else in the world speaks English.
The one that comes to mind was at a train stop where some tourists who were clearly American were talking about how smelly everyone in the country was. Tourist A mentioned that Tourist B should keep her voice down, and Tourist B replied, "Why? None of them know what I'm saying." A guy standing behind them piped up with something like "Pretty much all of us speak English." The tourists faces dropped and they were silent until the train came.
It was excellent.
At 17, just after I got my driver's license, my dad allowed me to take his car. I was on my way to pick up my friend so we could go see a movie.
I had a green light, was moving through the intersection, and was hit by a car running a red light. I hit my head, was confused and scared, and was incapable of moving. The accident took place less then five minutes from a hospital so I was packed up in an ambulance before I could think straight.
I was in the same ambulance as the woman who hit me that was screaming about the pain in her knee. In the hospital we are wheeled into the same room and separated by a curtain. She called her family, speaking in Spanish, and told them to come to the hospital. A nurse gave me my phone and told me to call a parent. So I called my dad to come.
Her family arrived first. I only took one year of Spanish and, while I couldn't follow the conversation, I could tell they were talking about me. My dad arrived then. He's completely fluent in Spanish though you wouldn't know it from looking at him. And, after hearing the other family's conversation he became enraged and began recording it on his phone.
The gist of the conversation was this. The woman that ran the red light knew she was in the wrong but didn't have insurance. I was a young white girl "rich enough" to have a car. The police would believe her, the middle aged woman, if she claimed I ran the red light.
When the police arrived to take statements they went to the woman first as the medical staff had already finished with her. (Inbetween the plan hatching she'd been screaming about how her knee hurt and the pain pills the nurses tried to give her were too big to swallow. I'd just been quiet and undemanding and simply answered questions asked of me and complied with any requests.)
Then they came to talk to me. My dad asked if either officer could speak spanish. One did, so my dad played the recording.
She got the ticket. The report stated she was at fault and I was not. And yet she still tried to sue me for her medical bills and the damage to her car. My mom was a secretary at a law office and her boss was kind enough to write her a letter full of legalese saying I'd countersue if she continued to harass me and I had the police reports stating she was at fault.
It was an interesting few months.
So not me but a friend of mine.
So he is a manager in a kitchen and when he got this sweet gig in a new kitchen it was like 90% Cuban women. Now my friend is straight up Irish, red hair, pale skin with freckles, green eyes, totally a white boy. His mother though was a Spanish teacher and raised him to speak fluent Castilian Spanish. Well for his first two weeks the ladies talked a lot of smack about him in Spanish to each other and totally dissed him non stop. He decided to let it roll and when the two weeks was up he held a big meeting with them all to go over the changes he was gonna make. He held the whole meeting in Spanish and he said every women's face just dropped and went bright red lol needless to say they stopped talking smack in Spanish.
Had a customer speaking korean and I heard them say the coffee was good and I said thank you in korean. They were super nice and tipped more than I thought they should have.
I'm german, but also speak english. Like almost everyone in Germany.
Once I was at a suburban train where I live and there were two Americans who were screaming, that all germans are nazis and that they are way better than every german and that the language is horrible... You get the point. Someone stood up and said "Do you really think you are the only people in the train who speak English?" They literally looked completely shocked and totally embarassed, while the whole train started laughing at them.
I started dating a girl and decided I'd learn her language (Punjabi) but I obviously didn't tell her because I wanted to keep it a surprise. Anyways, that's how I found out she was cheating on me because I overheard her conversation with her friend. 8 months of effort gone in vain.
French, English, German and Spanish.
Have had some fun ones with the latter two. Once, German tourists were in town, talking about how North Americans are rude and dumb. I politely responded to them that generalizing all North Americans is dumb, and saying things like that was very rude. That shut them up.
In Spanish, I was out with my partner, and a group of Spanish speaking boys started saying things about my partner that while I understand why they'd think them, you shouldn't say out loud, and what they'd do to her. I responded that this is what I thought of their mothers as I was having them the night before. Once again: triumphant silence and indignant shock was their reaction.
The best polyglot story ever was my Godmother, who is this White-ass French Canadian who was raised in India, and speaks fluent Hindi and Marathi. So these two guys in an elevator start talking about her physique, berating her for being on the plumper side. As she exits the elevator, she says in fluent Hindi how their mums would not approve of how they were talking and treating women.
So I worked in Italy for 1,5 years and took Italian classes at our local library 2 times a week for the first day I moved there. When I was filing a complaint about a dirty and poorly maintained hotel room whilest checking in, I started off in English because I was tired and could communicate better in English. The guy working at the front desk then turned to his colleague and starting bitching about me in Italian. He said something among the line of "OMG this stupid tourist thinks she can come down here and tell me what to do, just tell her we're fully booked. Maybe if she was prettier, I would've helped her. Nice tits tho." I was startled to say the least. So I replied, without skipping a word: "Well boys, maybe if your Mom would've raised you better, you would know not to treat women like that. Now if you can cancel my reservation, that would be lovely. I don't think I will be staying in this hotel tonight, thank you."
So yeah, I got my money back...
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 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 b*tch. 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...
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 di*k/ 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.
I've heard my 2 aunts gossiping about me, for 2 hours in a car ride.
I learned Farsi (which is what they spoke) by myself, so they had no idea I can suddenly understand them.
From the moment I picked them up, to the moment we arrived to destination, they never stopped gossiping about me (in Farsi).
They were sure I didn't understand them and they talked about EVERYTHING!
My romantic life, my job, my studies....
At the end of the car ride I told them to have a good day, in Farsi. It was worth it all just to see the look of horror on their faces.
I used to be the manager at a hostel in Kingston, Jamaica about 3 years ago. I speak English, Spanish and understand German, Portuguese, Italian and French some what well enough to get the context. They would often talk negatively around the front desk before checking in about the locals and would say extremely disgusting racist things and would generalize about my fellow compatriots (I'm a local, but due to my Hispanic background I look Latino). "Jamaicans are so lazy", "These n-words are always trying to charge us more because we are tourists", "This country is a complete s**t hole and backward, no one here is educated". Since I had the right to refuse admission even if they had a booking, I would cancel their reservation and explain to them that it was due to the racist things they were saying, I was kind enough to issue a refund to these atrocious persons. The owner of the hostel would back me up and say "People like that shouldn't stay here anyway".
Hard to describe but I thought it was adorable. I was at a weekend retreat for people studying Sign Language. It was held at a residential school for the deaf and the children were away at home but a few teenagers were hanging around. A couple of the teen boys were trying to flirt with a girl. I wasn’t paying close attention, and I’m not fluent anyway, but I could tell one boy was asking the other boy to talk to the girl for him, probably because he was too shy to talk to her himself. Finally I "overheard" (oversaw?) the boy ask her "What is your weight?" The girl looked confused and a little disgusted. He repeated the question. The first boy slapped the second boy's hands away and emphatically signed "What is your NAME?" The girl was happy enough to answer that and I was glad none of them could hear me laugh out loud.
Used to teach in Korea in a fairly small town. Some kids I taught told me about their grandma. She saw a black man at the train station and muttered at him, in Korean, to go wash his skin. She, of course, assumed there was no way he spoke Korean but he immediately answered back, in Korean, “Don’t hate, grandmother.”
She was so shocked and embarrassed she just stood up and left the station. Took the afternoon train instead.
I was working downtown (in the US) in a part of the city that is mainly tourists and waited on a Chinese family one day. The restaurant is the equivalent of a sit down chain like Olive Garden. I greeted them in English and they responded in English, so I figured that this would be the best method of communication since they did not ask if I spoke Cantonese. Once I moved onto my next table I heard the mother tell the father that it is such a shame that my parents worked so hard for me to not speak Cantonese and work at a restaurant. I went through the whole meal speaking in English and at the end as I was handing them the bill, I said in Cantonese that "it was a pleasure serving you and I hope you come again soon". The mother's face dropped and she thanked me profusely and left a decent tip. I might speak English well, but I also know how to work the Chinese guilt.
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.
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 sluts 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.
American tourists being totally oblivious that a heck lot of people in Europe are fluent in English. I'm Swiss, which means I've learned 2-3 languages in school before the age of 18. It's always great fun to see peoples faces turn white or bright red when I respond to what they're saying in their language.
But American tourists seem to forget the fact that English is being widely spoken a lot. When I was working in retail I once had a family of 6 (parents, children, granddad) coming into my store, touching everything and making snide comments about the prizes along the lines of "it looks so cheap" and "how do these people even live here, they must all be crazy rich" . Then they'd side-eye me and comment on my clothes like "nah, look at her" and "maybe her boyfriend is rich and she isn't even Swiss".
You'd bet I had the nicest smile on my face when I went over and asked them if they needed some help finding a product in my best American English. The dad ushered the kids out of the store while the mom and granddad asked me with horrified expressions if I heard what they had said. That day was very satisfying.
I speak French and English but people wouldn’t think it because I’m Asian. I also wrestle. I was at a tournament and a group of French wrestlers showed up. They assumed that o my their team knew French. I won my weight class and completely annihilated the French kid. Later, I’m in the change room getting dressed, when in walks the French kid and his teammates. They are speaking in French and his teammates are like “that’s the kid you lost to? How? He doesn’t even look tough.” And some racist/derogatory comments. Before leaving, I turn to the kid, and in perfect French say “that was a great match. I had a lot of fun wrestling you. Have a great day.” The three of them stood their, jaw to the ground as I walked out.
Not me, but a teacher of mine
Teacher, who spoke both fluent French and fluent German, was on a horse drawn tour of a city, sitting in the center row of the carriage.
A French couple sat in the rear row, and a German couple with small children sat in the front.
The children were tired and cold and making a small fuss, but nothing outrageous.
The French couple started insulting the parents and children in French, snidely. The German family didn't speak French and had no idea what was going on, trying to soothe their children and enjoy the ride.
Teacher scolds the French couple in French, saying something along the lines of "if you two bitter people ever manage to hold this relationship together, you'll likely be in the same situation one day. Show some decorum."
Teacher then turned to German couple and, in German, reiterated what the French were saying about them and what he said in return.
The German couple asked him to convey their apologies, their hotel room wasnt ready and the children hadn't eaten yet, and they were killing time until they could check in. That they were sorry for disrupting their evening.
Teacher did. French couple looked embarrassed. Teacher spent the rest of the evening visiting with the German family in German.
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.
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-peddle o'clock.
English and Italian. I am fluent in Italian and find it the most beautiful language. I like the culture and history. Anyway, was young and chose as a starting point for two week trip across the Europe Italy. My friends speak only English. So we are at the bar, and talking with some locals. One of them is a girl so cute that , at the time, I would never had courage to approach. We all speak English, but she turns to her friend to tell her silently that she wonders if I am good kisser and she plans to find out. I stayed in Milan for few days longer than planned.
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.
I was sitting in my grandmother's living room. I hadn't been there since I was 7(I'm 19 in this story) and had said nothing as at that time I was a quiet introvert. My two aunts were talking about how I was "A stupid American" and "How I never could understand the language of my family". I then smiled and said "You know I understood everything you just said, right?" They didn't talk to me for a while after that.
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.