"My friend's parents are missionaries. She literally grew up traveling around the world and knows a few different languages. I met her in Korea where I spent a year teaching English. Friend, who is Korean, speaks English and Korean and has a lot of hobbies, like shooting 35mm film like many hipster chicks... who have their own developing gear and darkroom.
So, she's on the bus and two American bros (I seriously hope they weren't in country to teach English, but it's pretty likely) were on the bus as well.
Bro 1: Look at that chick. I bet she doesn't even know how to use that camera.
Bro 2: It's probably a fashion accessory. Dumb hipster chicks.
Friend: I know how to use it. I've been shooting film since I was seven, and I develop them myself.
... ... ...
Bro 2: So, uh, you like photography?"
"I've always found it strange how Americans think they can talk in English and think other people can't understand them. I know about 3 people who can't speak English.
I was on a ski trip with my family in Austria last year. After snowboarding for a good amount of time we took the ski lift down. While we were heading down and chatting away in Estonian to each other, a group of girls, about 16 years old, started making remarks about people on the ski lift, oblivious to the fact that probably at least half of the people on there could understand them.
After about 5 minutes of them just insulting these people they've probably never met before, I asked them what in the world is wrong with them that they think it's okay to make fun of people behind their backs. They all got flustered quieted down after that.
It's just the nerve of these people that makes me angry. Pretty much everyone in most of Europe is at least capable of interaction in English."
"I speak Spanish. I was traveling through South America with a North American tour group. One of the side tours was to climb to the top of a volcano in the south of Chile.
We get there and gear up with crampons, ice axes, helmets and then practice fall arrest with the ax.
The safety speech was all about staying in line and listening to the guides, they drilled into us, that no matter what never move unless they told you too.
We all wondered why.
We start up this volcano, it's a 45 degree climb so we're traversing across. Suddenly we look up and we see this thing bouncing down towards our line. It's a small boulder about the size of a football. It whizzes through our line as we all jump out of the way.
The guides start yelling at each other in Spanish: 'Make sure the tourists follow instructions. We don't want to repeat last month and lose another one!'
Apparently the previous month someone zigged when they should have zagged and got clobbered by a falling rock. They wouldn't say what happened in the end"
"I look 100% white but have a little Korean in me.
One day just shooting around at the local park a family comes to have a picnic and one of the kids asks to use my basketball. I let him use it and take a break. He plays with the ball and then runs off with it back to his family.
No big deal, I'll just get it back after my ice soap shower.
I walk over to the family and tell them that I need my basketball back and they say that it's their son's ball, in English. Then the whole extended family gathers around to see what is going on.
In Korean: 'This guy is trying to take our son's ball', 'What does he think he's doing?' 'How dare he do that? It's ours', 'Why is he STEALING IT?!?' 'WHAT A LOSER!!!'
I look at all of them and say, in Korean, 'I let your son use my ball, can I please have it back now?'
Silence all around and the ball is rolled over to me...felt so good to see their jaws drop"
"I speak Chinese decently well- maybe not fluently, but I'm 'proficient' in it.
Spring semester of last year, I had a roommate who was Chinese. She knew I spoke Chinese, and we'd occasionally have exchanges in Chinese (but she mostly liked to practice English, because it was the language all her classes were in).
However, all her parents knew about her roommates were that we were both American. I was sitting across the room listening to music and doing homework while she was on Skype with her dad one evening. Her dad said something along the lines of, 'Is your roommate talking to herself? Is she crazy? Do you need to leave school and come back to China' She began to respond to him when I called out, in Chinese, 'No, I'm listening to music. Your daughter is doing very well in school and likes it here a lot!'
He stuttered a bunch and apologized to me"
"When I was maybe 12 I was in the sauna of my local gym. I was in a Japanese immersion program in K-12 so I can speak it pretty well. These two older women came into the sauna and the older of the two began talking in Japanese about their niece who was marrying a 'foolish American boy'.
She went on about it (all in Japanese) for awhile when the other woman interjected and said 'Are you sure we should be talking about this in front of others?' (Meaning me). To which the first one said: 'What, in front of the little girl? You think Americans would bother to teach their children two languages? They're too stupid for that. You're out of your mind.'
So I sat in silence for a while longer and then when I got up to leave the sauna I turned to them and in Japanese said: 'I hope everything works out with your niece and the stupid American.' The looks on their faces were priceless"
"Me and my father run a small metal shop. when he's out I attend the customers. I speak Spanish but you wouldn't guess it in a million years.
One day a couple came in looking for some fence. I shot out the usual sales pitch and immediately they started discussing in Spanish. I decided to have a little fun and remain silent about my second language.
They started off by saying how much they like our most expensive model and the husband told his wife that he would haggle me down to giving them the most expensive model for the price of the most cost effective one. So now in English, he asks me to quote him for said expensive model and he tells me he already has 3 excellent prices from other rival shops.
As I'm crunching numbers and putting the quote together, they start discussing the other quotes in front of me and the prices are nearly double what I'm about to change them. So I quickly decide to charge them 200 less than their lowest quote and hand it to them. The husband 'haggled' me and I 'knocked off' 300 bucks (at this point I'm charging them 50% more than what I was going to charge them) and they couldn't be happier with me so I made the sale.
Fast forward 2 weeks later when they are picking up their fence. after loading up and clearing the payment I say in Spanish I wish you the best of luck with your project and if you have any questions feel free to call me. The look on their faces was something that I wish I could frame and hang on my wall. Needless to say, they called back to say they were very happy with the fence"
"I am Vietnamese, but I used to work at a sushi restaurant run by people. One night, I had a table with a Vietnamese couple. The man was nice. His girlfriend, however, was extremely rude. When he asked me if I had any suggestions regarding the menu, she would speak in Vietnamese and say things like, 'Oh, he doesn't know what the heck he's talking about, babe... who the heck does he think he is? Listen to me instead! He just wants you waste money on the expensive dishes.'
So then the man would smile at me and politely decline my suggestions. I carried on as if I was completely oblivious. I made my rounds and eventually came back to them. He made small talk by asking me random things about the restaurant. He then asked me what ethnicity most of the staff was. I told him the owner was Japanese and his wife (along with everyone else) was Korean.
He looked a bit surprised and asked me where I was from. I smiled and told him I was Vietnamese too (at this point, the girlfriend started shifting around, uneasily). He asked me if I spoke/understood Vietnamese. I told him I was very fluent, and that I can also read/write. He started smiling and laughing, while his girlfriend buried her face in the menu.
In the end, their bill was around $50... he tipped me $35"
Ana Blazic Pavlovic/Shutterstock
"I started dating a guy whose native language was Spanish, and had told him I spoke little Spanish. After a lot of joking about how I don't really know Spanish, he started to say phrases I knew were intended to test my understanding. So I played dumb. Eventually, he began to believe I understood little to nothing.
One day we were laying in bed. While gazing into my eyes, he began:
'You have the most beautiful eyes.'
I smiled. He continued:
'And you're not that smart, kind of a low-class girl. Not to mention crazy, and we won't be dating long. And it's so nice that you don't understand the things I'm saying.'
His seductive speech was littered with kisses and a few other insults that I only understood a few words of.
And he said this with the sweetest grin. I just smiled sweetly and said in English, 'I do. You can go now.'
I'm still not sure if he knows how much I understood. It was enraging"
"I have a very English sounding name on a Basic training full of very French instructors. We were also an English platoon so the assumption was that no one could speak French. I did not let on that I was bilingual. One morning during inspection the two French instructors were almost done and standing in front of my wingers room, and it kind of went like this:
MCPL Franco in French: 'His boots are good, but they are closest to the door'
SGT Franco in French: 'Yeah I just want to go eat we should just jack him up for boots then leave instead of doing the room'
MCPL Franco in French: 'Yeah good plan, what do you think of it?' Gesture and glance at me.
Me in French: 'If his boots are good, why not just go eat without the jacking up and pushups?'
SGT Franco: 'Yeah good point let's go ea... (In English)YOU LITTLE LIAR YOU SPEAKING FRENCH ALL THE TIME!?'
Me in English: 'Uh... no... uh... Sgt'
So many freaking pushups after that"
"I was in Tokyo on vacation a while back, browsing through a small bookstore in an alley near Ueno. I'm a largish bearded Italian-American guy (picture a taller Danny Devito and you're close), but I spoke basic Japanese, enough to get around.
Shopkeeper and his friend sitting up by the register saw me come in, and he immediately started talking about the stupid foreigner looking at books he couldn't read, how I was probably there looking for illicit images because that's what all filthy foreigners wanted, and how he hated foreigners, especially from whatever country it was that I came from.
Normal conversational volume, because he knew I couldn't understand them. His friend was listening intently but not really playing along, he was just letting the shopkeeper rant.
I bought a cheap book that interested me, went up to pay for it, and silently made my purchase. After the shopkeeper made change, I said quietly, 'You don't like filthy foreigners but you seem to like my money just fine' in Japanese.
The look of abject horror on his face was one I will never forget. The shopkeeper bowed over an apology so fast I thought he was going to concuss himself on the counter, and his friend, once it registered to him that I had heard everything, just sat there and howled with laughter"
"I was a bank teller at a branch located in a neighborhood with a large population of Persian-Canadians. I have a common Persian name and though we always wore name tags, my long hair usually covered mine. One time, there was a couple of young men who came in to deposit a large cheque.
As I was inspecting it, one of the men was explaining to the other that they would withdraw these funds and deposit them to an account with another institution, so our bank couldn't recover the funds once the cheque bounced. This is called kiting and it's illegal. I listened to their conversation carefully before I told them in English that I would be holding their deposit until it cleared.
They began to raise a fuss and wanted to speak with my manager, when I dramatically flipped my hair back to reveal my name-tag and said, in Farsi this time, that their funds are going to be held. They both turned red and immediately took the cheque back. I filed a report as soon as they left the branch.
"I speak a few languages. I'm totally fluent in only two but whatever I'm in the kitchen at work. For some reason, people always assume I only speak English. Of the four ladies I work with, two speak French and the other two speak Chinese. I'm washing my dishes and this discussion happens as I'm washing things and I'm taking my sweet time because this is gold.
In French, lady 1: I had this date with a coworker yesterday. The HR guy from the second floor I told you about.
In French, lady 2: Yeah, I noticed you came back with the same clothes as yesterday (giggles)
In Chinese, lady 1: She is wearing the same clothes as yesterday...
In Chinese, lady 2: Canadians are so unprofessional...
FL2: So will it be the last night you see him?
FL1: I'm not sure yet. I hope so, he made a great case last night.
AL1: Did I told you this hot guy (shuai ge, to my understanding it's often used in an ironic way) invited me for dinner? He's from the second floor.
AL2: He's a nice guy, but not married at his age? There must be something wrong with him...
AL1: In Canada, it's not the same...I'll give him a chance. We're seeing each other next Friday.
FL1: Before lunch, I asked him if next Friday he'd be available but he's taking care of his mom next Friday...
FL2: Oh that's cute. He seems like a good man.
Not necessarily weird but it's either a huge coincidence (so not the same guy) or that HR guy is a player"
"I grew up in an area of the Canadian Prairies with pockets of German-speaking people. We spoke it at home but were always respectful to not use it to exclude others.
My Dad and I went car shopping one such German enclave. Dad was talking to a salesman in English when the sales manager came by and asked him in German if we were going to buy anything. The salesman said we were just looking and generally wasting his time before he resumed trying to get dad to buy.
At the end of the sales pitch, Dad said the car sounded good, switched to German, and told him he'll never put 5 cents into a place that disrespected customers like that. Then said to me, come on son we're going somewhere else and I responded in back in German.
We bought a car later that day, down the street."
"One time I crossed the Mexican-American border by foot and walked into a Burger King 3 blocks away. I had on a flannel shirt dirty jeans and muddy boots. The reason is that I help my uncle in Mexico with his field work. My dad would drop me off at the border and he would pick me up on the other side, it was just easier this way to avoid the traffic.
Anyway, I walk in dirty and I'm sure I smelled a little, to use the restroom. When I walked out I heard the manager speaking to his co-workers and telling them that I looked like I just 'hopped the fence.' So I stayed quiet and acted like I didn't understand a single word he was saying. Fast forward ten minutes and these 2 cops entered the establishment. They seemed interested in buying food, but in reality they were they to see what I was up to.
The officer asks the manager what I was doing there and this girl from the back told them that I was just wondering around aimlessly. After exchanges back and forth the officer calls me over in Spanish and asks for my identification. I acted like I didn't hear him the first time so he gets angry at me and yells, 'Donde estan tus papeles?' or 'Where are your papers?' this is in front of at least 15 people eating their meal.
I take a deep breathe and begin to answer every single question of his in perfect English and give him my I.D. As I was handling over he said never mind apologized and they went on their way. I look at the manager and his posse and told them that next time all they have to do is ask and not assume."
"I speak German and worked at a summer camp in Germany teaching English. We were supposed to never let the kids know we spoke German so they'd have to rely on their English skills when communicating with us. I heard the kids talking smack all of the time, but the best was when I heard some kids plotting to go buy beer and cigarettes during their free time, and they were going to sneak out and meet at 10 pm to party at a boat house.
At 9:30, I headed down to the boat house and waited in the darkness for the party to start.
Soon after I hear giggles and voices approaching the boathouse, the party had commenced. I watched as a lone figure emerged from inside and saw it was one of my teenage campers stepping outside to light up a smoke. As he looked out over the lake and took a drink from his beer and a drag off his cigarette, I appeared from the darkness. 'Wie gehts?' ('What's up' in German) was all I said as I approached him, he flung the beer into the lake and smashed out the cigarette, but it was too late. I walked into the boat house to catch 10 kids drinking and smoking.
I began chewing them out in German (a very fun language to yell in) and sent them back to their rooms. They pleaded with me not to get them in trouble, but rules are rules, and we had little kids at the camp to consider. I didn't feel entirely bad about it since most of the kids we busted were losers anyway.
We ended up sending a few home, and for the rest of the camp session the counselors ended up drinking the confiscated beer and smoking the cigarettes at night after it was lights out.
That was a fun summer"
"When I was a teenager, some of my friends and I would get together at someone's house to play LAN based video games. Most of us knew Spanish even though almost none of us looked 'Spanish.'
On one particular occasion, we convened at a new friend's house. This new guy had just started working at the same place some of us worked--That's how we met him.
After a couple of hours of playing Halo, New Guy's mom walked in the door. We were taking a small break and this nice lady was making conversation with her son. We knew she was a little irritated, because we understood her (she was thinking about the electricity bill--what with all the extra televisions and gaming systems), apparently, New Guy didn't ask his parents permission for this little get together.
The crowning moment was at the end of her calm rant, she looks at my overweight friend, and asks New Guy, 'Y este gordo, tambien trabaja contigo?'
'This fat one here, does he work with you too?'
New guy goes, in Spanish, 'Mom, he knows Spanish.'
My friend looked at her, smiled sheepishly and waved.
Lady showed no shame. Didn't even say anything. We were all embarrassed for her"
"Let's start this out with the premise that I'm a blonde-haired hazel-eyed Conan O'Brian-lookalike guy. I also speak Spanish.
I was hanging out with this girl from my work casually for quite a while, she was gorgeous but taken. Regardless, we'd hang out quite often.
One day we made a 'bet where I wagered that a date I was going to go on wouldn't turn out. She was more optimistic but it turned out I was right. She owed me a meal.
We went to the local burger joint that has the best burgers in the Twin Cities IMO. Half-way through my meal a family sits down next to our table and orders Sundaes.
Upon our tab, she takes the bill and takes her wallet out of her purse to pay. Then the family started to mutter in Spanish.
'She's paying? Wow. Cheap date.'
'He must live with his mother. Does he even have a job?'
'I wonder if she wears the pants in that relationship.'
Now, a lived in Latin America for a good chunk of my life. I know about 'Machismo' courtship. It didn't bother me, but I told my friend that they were talking about us in that way.
'Omg, should I not pay?' She says in a worried tone.
'No, you lost the bet, loser. Pay up.'
By the time our check gets back the family next to us tries to take a family photo by giving the 4-year old a tablet to take the picture. It's way too big and the girl fumbles around with it.
Finally, in Spanish, I offer help:' I can take a picture of your family for you if you'd like!'
Their jaws drop. We've just lost cabin pressure. The family jostles uncomfortably in their seats and say 'si' nervously.
'Everybody say, Whiskey!!' I say as I take a picture. In English, we say 'cheese' because we can smile and say that word. In Spanish, if they'd say 'queso!' Everybody just had a bunch of O-faces, hence Whiskey.
Let's just say after the photo, we left and my confidence was sky-high. She was thoroughly impressed. It's just too bad that we weren't on a real date. It would've been the best one I've ever been on"
"My family is Lithuanian and at the time had recently moved to the states. My great-grandmother was riding a bus with her friend in Chicago when a young man walked on the bus and took a seat nearby my great-grandmother. To her friend in Lithuanian, she mentioned that the man was very, very handsome and had a really well-tailored suit on. (I like to imagine it was more like 'that guy is hot' but this is how I was told the story.)
They continued to chit-chat in Lithuanian until the man stood to leave. He turned to my great-grandmother and in fluent Lithuanian thanked her for the compliment and said she was quite lovely herself and turned to leave.
I love this story because of the rarity of finding people who speak Lithuanian (even in the highly populated immigrant neighborhoods in Chicago).
This was always one of my favorite stories growing up about my aging great-grandma and it taught me to always talk good about the people around me, no matter what language I am speaking."
"One time during lunch time in high school, I was walking down the hallways which were relatively emptier than the other hallways. It turned out there were these guys hanging by the lockers who were speaking Tagalog (a Filipino language) really loudly, with rough voices. To be honest, they looked a little intimidating. A lot of the other students either left the hallway immediately or walked speedily by them. Being fluent in Tagalog myself, I listened in to what they were saying. Their conversations went something like this (translated to English):
Guy 1: I was walking down this farm market and I saw these watermelons, they were on sale.
Guy 2: No way, I was just down there too. They have a sale on grapes and mangos and stuff.
Guy 3: Whooaa. No way.
Guy 1: Ya man. I bought like 3. I'm going to give some to my mother. They look real ripe and fresh.
I just walked past them with the biggest grin on my face"