IRL

Bilingual People Share Their "They Didn't Know I Spoke The Language" Stories

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Being bilingual can be beneficial in more ways than you can imagine. First perk that comes to mind is you can be a translator at your job if a tourist on the street needs directions. That's boring, though. What about romantically wooing someone in a different country? Even better, what about dropping ears into another conversation people think you don't understand? Surely, that's the best.


Reddit user, u/SpiralArc, wanted to know about the times when people though they were in the clear to badmouth others in a different language when they said:

Bilinguals of Reddit: what's your "they didn't know I spoke their language" story?

The Terror Knowing We're The Same

I look mixed. I'm full Cambodian but I've been confused with being mixed with Black. When I was 7 I went with my mom to her doctor in Long Beach, which is mainly Cambodian populated in that area. My mom went inside her doctor's office, leaving me in the waiting room. As soon as the office door closed, these two old Cambodian ladies start talking sh-t in Khmer saying how she's a single mom (she's not), and how she had a Black baby (me) and that's such a shame bc she made my life miserable.

They also said my skin color was ugly and I had a Black nose, etc. I just sat quietly, looking at them until one realized "Oh snap, maybe she understands Khmer." And asks me "Hey, do you know your dad?" And I just replied back in our language, "Yeah and he's at home waiting for us. And we have the same skin color so that means yours is ugly too."

Both of their faces dropped it was great and they had the audacity to tell my mom that I was rude when she came out.

akekeo

Don't Let Ethnicity Trick You

I wasn't the bilingual one, but my bilingual friend was really the star of the show. I am a straight guy and my bilingual friend is gay. We were in college for summer school 20+ years ago and everyone taking classes stayed in the same old dormitory. It was a school with a lot of international students who had even greater representation in the summer because they typically didn't fly home for just three months. My friend had a computer, I didn't, so he told me I could go into his room any time and use it if he didn't need it at the time.

My friend was white, but had spent a number of his childhood years in Japan and spoke Japanese like a native. We were talking and walking down the hall toward his room and two Japanese exchange students began talking to one another in Japanese, looking at us and snickering. My friend looks over and starts dressing them down in absolute perfect Japanese and they are horrifically embarrassed. They began profusely apologizing and hurriedly waking away. I turned to my buddy, What did they say?"

"They were making some disparaging remarks about your sex life, so I told them they were wrong and not to be rude," he said. Then he quipped, "They were making some disparaging remarks about my sex life, too, but those were all true."

CO_74

Don't Mock The Walk

I worked as a part time clothing model for a while in an arab country, i am arab but i dont look like it apparently. Anyways, we had to walk around this convention and show the clothes, wearing heels on a carpet floor. I was young (around 16) i didn't know how to walk really well in heels yet and the carpet floors didn't help either, the women there didn't know i spoke arabic and started making fun of how I'm walking, i went up to them and asked them where the bathroom was in arabic they looked so surprised and embarrassed at the same time it was lovely.

tuna97

Don't Ever Assume

An american family was commenting on people on public transport in my city (nordic). EVERYONE understood them. it went on for a few moments before some local kids (10-13) started commenting back.

"yeah. he does look rough, but its us you really gotta watch out for we grew up in the hood" and so on. Love those kids.

bitterkuk

Best Watch Yourself, Even In A Bar

At a bar with a Russian buddy of mine. Grew up there and moved to the states when he was 12 or so. He adapted to English really well so he has no accent whatsoever. Both of the bartenders were Russian (you could tell by the accents) and were having a conversation. Friend looks to me and says "D-mn, they're talking some mad sh-t right now". I asked him about who and he said the other dude across the bar in the blue shirt.

I asked what they were saying and he said they were just roasting him in general. I asked if they said anything about us and he said not yet but would say something back in Russian if they did. They ended up not saying anything about us but right before we left, he said to them in Russian "You should speak a bit nicer of your customers". I don't think I've ever seen someones face turn a brighter shade of red than that.

Merry_Dankmas

Tattoos Don't Dictate Life

I'm fairly tattooed and I was working in retail, in a shoe shop. I was serving a very rude woman and her daughter, both of whom clearly thought they were better than me, and every time they asked for shoes they told me (in English) that I was very slow to fetch them and bad at my job (I was only on like my third shift).

The atmosphere turned pretty sour because obviously they were being rude and it annoyed me, and as I was boxing up the shoes they wanted, the mother turned and said to her daughter something like 'don't ever get tattoos, this is the kind of person that has them, working in retail with absolutely no brains and tattoos reflect that! bla bla bla' in Italian. I simply replied 'non sono d'accordo, ma grazie' [i disagree, but thank you]. She looked absolutely humiliated and quickly left!

RainingRoyalty

Never Try To Cheat The House

I used to work as a dealer in a casino where our biggest richest clients were Chinese. I don't look Chinese but I could understand and speak it. Sitting down on my table, they thought it was safe to discuss techniques to be sneaky behind my back (and also talk about me a little, I'm a young girl so I got some creepy remarks).

They never understood how they never got away with things as I never made any indication I understood them.

vaasnormandy

Can't Forget The Money

Late to the party but once when I was younger I went to the park with my sister. We look very white and no one would know both of us to speak Mandarin fluently unless we told them.

Some money must've fallen out of my sisters pocket and in Mandarin we hear a mother talking to her daughter and telling her not to let us know we dropped money so that they could pick it up after we left.

Both of us turned around straight away and my sister picked up her money while both of us gave them dirty looks and we changed our conversation to Mandarin. The look of horror on both of their faces will forever be burned into my head.

itsjojosiwa

Got Both The Wins

I was playing chess with some guy and he was talking to a friend. My opponent starts talking to his [friend] in French, which I can understand. He was saying stuff like "my opponent sucks, I'm gonna easily beat him". It was pretty amusing watching him criticize me and then I still beat him (he was pretty bad but so was I back then). I told him I understand French after I beat him.

kokakxd

Sometimes, It's Best To Go Along With It

Visiting South Korea with my wife, a native of that country. I'm shaped like a lumberjack, and have a big, red lumberjack beard to match. A group of Korean women in their 50s and 60s nearby were laughing and calling me a "bear" which I found hilarious. So one of the older ones says, "Gom" ("bear") to me as she passes by, and I start laughing. She makes that face like, "Did he understand what just I said?" So I raise my arms and make a playful growl at her. She is horrified and starts apologizing while her friends all cover their mouths and giggle, as Korean women customarily do.

I love Korea.

earlymusicaficionado

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What is the strongest opinion you once held but no longer hold, and what make you change your mind?

Jade-Colored Glasses

I used to think that being cynical/negative was realistic and somehow smarter than being positive. I've since realized that a "be prepared for the worst but expect the best" is far better. We can't control the outcome of anything in life. Being negative makes you miserable rather than protected from bad things happening.

nanaimo

Cant' Have A Conversation With A Parrot

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Not-A-Real-Subreddit

A Big, Mysterious Universe

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CDC_

Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man

I used to believe anyone can be a successful artist if they just put the time and effort into it. There is no such thing as talent, only hard work.

What changed my mind: Art school. There were quite a few people that tried hard, but just weren't able to achieve professional level art.

berfica

You're Not Your Emotions

For the longest time, I thought my emotions were in a sense the most "real" part of me. I was always a very emotional person and I didn't make a real effort to control it as I thought it was a good thing, that I was just being honest with myself. Over time though, I started to become very depressed and the negative emotions just keep adding on and on. I thought "this is just how I am I guess". Unfortunately it started hurting other relationships I had, and everything changed when my girlfriend broke up with me. After a lot of reading I found that emotions are not who we are at all. They're just reactions and there's nothing that requires us to act on them or feed them. I'm learning to let it go through me instead of hanging on like I used to.

inca829

Don't Forget Big Willie Style

I used to think that hip hop was bland, repetitive, and all about clubbing and sh*t. Then one of my friends pointed me towards people like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Nas and Run The Jewels, who all have great songs and clever lyrics, and I realized that Hip Hop is pretty great.

6quid

The A**holes Will Always Find A Way

I used to think that the catholic church was responsible for all of the hateful people in it. I gave people the chance to challenge my opinion and someone explained it very nicely to me. Basically, the hateful people use the church as an excuse, if you remove the church they will gladly find another excuse.

TianaLeFong

High Times

Giphy

I used to tell myself that I would never stop smoking weed, and that I'd be happy if my kids grew up to be pot smokers... Now I have a kid, don't smoke, and realize what an idiot I was when all I did was smoke all day. I could probably be in a much better position if I hadn't smoked all through college.

But I mean, I still think pot's okay... Just in moderation.

edgar__allan__bro

The Road Less Traveled

"All taxation is theft, man! I made my money without any help from public institutions or the infrastructure they support, I should be able to keep every last dime of it!"

Naturally that was when I was 18, living at home rent free, and working at Pizza Hut as a delivery driver who relied upon public roads for pretty much every cent I made.

ExtremelyLongButtock

All Those PSA's Didn't Do Much

The whole D.A.R.E anti-drugs. Yes crack and heroin is bad, but they over dramatized what happens when you do smaller drugs. Weed isn't even a gateway drug, alcohol is more of a gateway drug. When I saw weed for the first time I thought it was tobacco (This was after all the D.A.R.E training too). Letting the government teach you your morales and philosophy is a thing that sheep do. Don't be a sheep.

PlantTreesForToday

Where Would We Be Without The Kindness Of Strangers

I used to think people on welfare and state assistance just weren't trying hard enough. I grew up spoiled and entitled and it seemed like any kind of charity was a stigma.

Then, my husband became chronically ill, and the economy took a shit. My family has been close to homelessness more than once, and have relied on state insurance and assistance off and on throughout the past few years. There are definitely people out there who abuse the system, but some just get stuck in a horrible cycle of poverty.

I also work in a school that has a high number low income and refugee families. It has really opened my eyes to the struggles that some people face.

BuffyandtheHellcats

He's Still There For You, The Best He Can Be

I could go through life and could seek meaningful advice from my Dad who has always been there for me.

Now he has been reduced to a feeble condition, I am starting to understand I'm out there on my own, and even what he's sure of is suspect given his mental and physical facilities have been rapidly deteriorating in his late seventies. I feel horrible that I have noticed this long before he did - or at least admitted as much.

june606

Clear Your Mind

This was before I received an ADHD diagnosis. When my doctor referred me to an ADHD specialist, first of all I refused to believe him and was kind of slighted that he even suggested that I could possibly have ADHD.

I had a very strong opinion that if I get a diagnosis that I would refuse to take prescribed amphetamines because they are "bad" and "addictive" and that they would ruin my life.

Then I actually tried the prescription and it was like magic.

Xingua92

Going Through The Whole Spectrum

Used to be fairly open with my views on immigration policy. Then I worked for a while down near Corpus Christie doing immigration work. I'd say one out if every hundred people that came through our office was going to somebody who actually wanted to work and try to make a living here. So many people simply wanted to exist enough to get welfare. Many were young men who we would later defend against exportation as a result of their criminal activity. I began to despise the work of defending these men and wished they would be deported.

Now, I'm dating a foreign girl and we are in the legal immigration process. She has advanced degrees and skills, so that makes things a little easier. But it does make me resent people who just bypass the system. We can't bypass the system because I imagine my participation in immigration fraud could get me disbarred.

RogerDeanVenture



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