Have you ever overheard a conversation or been let in on a secret that wasn't meant for your ears? We've all probably experienced this. Those awkward moments when, as kids, the adults were talking, and they forgot that we were in the room. Or someone mistakenly forwards you a picture or chat meant for someone else. It can be embarrassing, and we might feel secondhand embarrassment for them.
But there are moments when the people sharing the gossip are confident you can't understand because they've cut you out by speaking a foreign language. Then, you shock them by interpreting what they just said. Members shared experiences like these in an online forum. Here are ten of them.
1. Hotel Guests
A member on the platform said he worked as a receptionist in London. He's Swedish, just like some of the guests at the hotel. A guest once told him the light bulb in their room was out. The user apologized and told the guest that the maintenance guy would arrive soon. The guests spoke to each other in Swedish right in the presence of the receptionist, “How hard can it be to change a lightbulb?” The user heard it and replied, “Oh, you're Swedish? Cool. The problem is that I have no idea where he keeps the light bulbs.” He said he'd never forget the look on their faces.
A user said her parents are bilingual and fluent in Greek and German. One day, she was at work restocking things on the shop floor when she overheard a couple of Greek girls next to her say, “Look at the girl in the uniform; how cute is her hairstyle? I wish I could do that.” The user was flattered because it was her first attempt at a side braid. So she turned to them and said in Greek, “Thank you. That's very sweet. It took a long time to do.” Their jaws almost hit the floor, and they started giggling. They were visiting from their school, and she was the first English person they had seen who spoke Greek.
3. Familiar Stranger
The reverse happened to a user and her mom in Australia. They were in a secluded place with few tourists, so they both decided to speak in their local dialect so that they'd be the only people in the area who understood themselves. Their local dialect is Alsatian, a mixture of German, French, and English, spoken only by a small number of people. After talking about random things, the user told her mom she was hungry and wanted to eat. A random man beside them said, “I can recommend you an excellent burger house just around the corner if you'd like,” in perfect Alsatian. Needless to say, they were astounded.
In Bruges, Belgium, an Indonesian traveler was in a cab with her parents. The cab suddenly turned to a ride-share with a British family. All was going well until the British lady said in plain English, “These people look a bit funny, don't they?” The family kept chuckling and talking about the user's family in English until the user, fed up, said, “Some people actually think that English is a universal language by now, and think that it is fun to mock people for how they look.”
A user and his friend were shopping in a sports store in Boulder, Colorado. They were both white, but his buddy could speak fluent Japanese and taught English in Japan for three years. A mom and her little son were near them, conversing entirely in Japanese. The son was being obnoxious and unruly to his mom. When he said something rude to her, she told him that it wasn't appropriate and that anybody could be listening even though they were speaking Japanese. The user's friend stepped up and confirmed her assertion in Japanese, saying, “You are right; you never know.”
A woman on the platform talked about a Norwegian friend she used to have who left her Peruvian boyfriend because he was abusive. After having dinner with her friend one night, she sat on the subway. The person she sat next to was conversing with someone in Spanish. The user could understand Spanish and quickly realized that the person she was sitting next to was her friend's boyfriend, telling the story of his breakup with another lady, but conveniently leaving out the breakup part. Before leaving, she turned to him and said, “Well, John, Norwegian women don't enjoy being abused,” she turned to the lady and said, “And I guess Latin American women aren't too crazy about that either.”
On a subway in Shanghai, a user was casually using her phone when she heard the word “foreigner” in Mandarin. She looked up and met the eyes of a mother and daughter. She didn't know what they said prior, but when the mother said, “You don't think she can understand, do you?” the user grinned and nodded. They rushed off once the doors opened.
8. Rude Russians
A man was in a store when a Russian cashier and her friends were talking about the customers in Russian, convinced none would understand. The man understood Russian but kept his cool. When it was time to pay, she asked in the sweetest English tone, “May I help you?” He replied in Russian, saying, “Just these items, thank you.”
9. Foreign Giant
Another user talked about his time in Hong Kong as part of a Christian ministry. One day, he was in a crowded elevator, and he overheard a man behind him exclaim to his small son that there was a giant (the user was 6'6″) “foreign devil” in front of them. The user wasn't offended but instead turned around and said in his best Cantonese, “You should be more careful; you never know who's listening.”
10. Foreign Customer
One user shared a story about when she was in France visiting her aunt. They're Moroccans, but she lives in the south of France. One day, when she went to pick up her aunt from work, she came out laughing. When the woman asked why, her aunt said she and a colleague were just talking about a tall, blonde, and handsome customer in Moroccan Arabic. Her colleague even talked about kissing him. When it was time to pay, her aunty spoke to him in French and thanked him for coming. To their horror, he replied in Moroccan Arabic. Luckily, he took it as a compliment and walked away with a proud smile.
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