This story now
IN People ON 02 Jun, 2016
It is said that learning more than one language gives your brain a boost and makes you a better learner. Of course, there are other advantages as well such as you get to connect with more people and get a different perspective on people and their cultures. But the best part of knowing another language is when people around you are unaware of this superpower of yours, you can always know when they talk about you in their native language secretly. And then you can jump in and make them turn red.
Here are few stories from Reddit where users have described such instances.
Many things overheard. But my favorite moment was early on when I first moved to Japan in 1994....
Waiting on the train platform in a rural village when a mother and her young son come through the gate. Immediately the son grabs her mother's hand and tells her in Japanese that they have to be careful of me - that I'm a dangerous foreigner. He promised to protect her, but he was hiding behind her.
We had a long wait. Eventually, he decided he could creep closer. Still muttering under his breath about the foreigner. So I muttered back, "I love Japanese children. They're delicious."
He ran screaming.
I did not feel bad about it.
I was working construction (white guy in Nashville, only one on the site who spoke English). The painters were talking about my man-boobs in Spanish. So, in Spanish, I yell back across the house "They're still nicer than your sister's!" Dead silence, then roaring laughter. I got greeted with a super enthusiastic "Aayyyy, Gringo!" Every morning after that.
Sat across from two German girls on a train. They said I was "7/10, maybe 8/10 if he smiled more. Looks like his mother died or something. Smells nice though". I told them my mother was fine.
At a blackjack table in an Indian Casino, two Mexican dudes were kind of drunk and talking business. Big business. Of the Breaking Bad variety. I kept my head down and mouth shut and pretended I didn't hear a god damn word.
My mother was visiting hers in Prague and walked to her car with German plates. Some idiots were standing next to her car, one said: "I can't wait to see how that stupid cow is going to get out of that parking spot." and my mother answered "Well, if the stupid cow got her car in there, she's going to get it out of there too, right?"
I am a native Polish speaker living is Australia.
It was Christmas Eve, and I had not yet bought my girlfriend a present. I went to one of our malls which is open 24 hours on Christmas Eve and decided to do some shopping.
The queues were ridiculous everywhere, but I decided to go to the Tiffany & Co. Store as I had little idea what to buy my SO.
I was in line to ask for assistance with an item; it was a pen that was on display.
I was in line for a good ten minutes when a yuppie, posh expensively-dressed, entitled Polish speaking couple are within earshot and I overheard this:
"Honey, let's not wait in this queue and cut in front of this guy (referring to me)" and slowly they inched closer and closer in front of me and sort of merged with the queue.
I thought I'd let them wait with me for a bit before I said anything, especially because they were praising themselves on how clever they are for jumping the queue. After about 5-10 minutes when they were well and truly in front of me, I thought back to my old days, living in the grey communist flats/blocks of 90's Poland and thought of how I would have reacted to this situation back then.
I put on my Warsaw ghetto attitude and said "A wy co, kurwa mać?"
Translating roughly to "and what the fuck do you suppose this is?"
They looked at me with shock as I directed them to the back of the queue.
I've always hated the wealthy Polish migrants. They have weak souls.
I lived in Western Africa, where most 99% of white folks are visitors who don't stay long enough to learn the local language- even though English is an official language most prefer their native tongue.
One day I left my cell phone in a taxi and had to chase it all the way to the taxi ranks. Out of breath, I asked, in English, for my phone. She said she had it, and I had to pay what amounted to $10. I said no, and she should give it to me, I paid my fare.
She and the other drivers started speaking Fanti, saying I should pay more, maybe $20. I had the money. I was an American.
So I walk over to her slowly, put my hand on her shoulder and say "Auntie, Osiande me ye obroni, wo dwin m'insase fanti, a? Wo se, Dzin Pa ye sen Ohonia. A?" (Auntie, because I'm a white guy, you think I don't speak Fanti? Your people say that a good name is better than riches, yes?)
All of the cabbies got quiet and turned to her. She just held out my phone, and I grabbed it and casually walked away to the "Ooooooo"s of all the other cabbies. From that day, whenever I took a cab in that town, they called me Dzin Pa (A Good Name).
I dated a Latino girl who had no idea I understood Spanish. We weren't together long, and I knew I didn't speak it well enough to bring it up.
One day I'm sitting at her house in the living room, her phone rings, and she tells me it's her uncle. She takes the call and process to talk in Spanish.
When she got off the phone, she said something about how she misses her uncle and I respond, "is that why you said, you can't wait to fuck him?"
Needless to say, that was our last day together.
Not in real life, but I was once playing Stronghold 2 online (2v2). Apparently, pretty much everyone on there was German. Anyway, I greeted them in English, so I guess they assumed I only spoke that, and so even though there's no Allies-Only Chat, they felt comfortable talking about their plans with each other.
They discussed their strategies in German. I understand German. I did well in that game.
I live in Japan and this happens quite a lot and to varying levels of insult. I'll tell a cute one. I was at McDonald's perusing the menu board and the longer I stood there, the more uncomfortable the staff became. "Oh no. No one speaks English. We have to find the English menu. Shit, where is the English menu???" I told them, "No, it's ok, I'm just thinking." They all sighed in audible relief.
When I was 16 a lady in the grocery store called me "a little tart" in Romanian because I was wearing tight jeans, and makeup. Both my grandmother and the lady's son started laughing when I asked her, in Romanian, "What's your problem grandma?"
She was super embarrassed.
I sign, but I'm not really skilled enough to speak English while I do it so I don't (Plus there was no need to, I was the only hearing volunteer that night). Earlier this year I was a volunteer at a Deaf event held in my town, it was at a pool hall that was just open to the public as well as the people playing in the Deaf competition; I was actually shocked how often a hearing person would come in and say something rude and mean about us all signing away happily.
Eventually I just got sick of it and told one group walking past I could still hear them and the looks on their faces were great to watch.
To access this content, confirm your age by signing up.