There are a lot of people who speak more than one language in the world, but for some reason, not everyone realizes that. These people share the time when they called out a person who was talking smack about them in another language. And things got pretty interesting. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
What Was Wrong With His Nails?
“My friend spent the first six years of his life in China, then moved to Canada, and then Seattle when he was 12. He’s fluent in English and Mandarin. He’s Asian but listening to him speak English, you’d have no idea he spoke Mandarin as he has no trace of an accent. I didn’t know until he called his mom for something and started speaking in another language.
One day he lost a bet and I painted his nails. We were in the elevator and two Asian girls got on. He and I continued our conversation about whatever, while the two girls talked in Mandarin. Then they started to giggle. When they got off on their floor, my friend shouted something to them in Mandarin and they squealed as the doors closed.
Apparently, they were making fun of him for his nails and talking smack about ‘Americanized Asians’, so he told them to ‘Get lost!’
Our campus had a very large Chinese population so a lot of times he would hear scraps of conversation, usually between two loud girls, that only he could understand in the group of us. Usually, he kept it to himself, but one time in the mostly empty dining hall he just stopped eating because the girls at the table next to us were comparing tampons versus pads rather loudly. He refused to elaborate on what they were saying.”
An Eventful Octoberfest Between Americans And Germans
“I was stationed in Germany ’89-’92 ish. My barracks mate was raised in the military. His dad was a retired officer and his mom was a German national. He had both American and German culture down. This was very useful when getting free drinks and seats at Octoberfest.
Anyway, we were at this tiny bar we had just found one afternoon. It had like two booths and four bar stools. There were two garbage men having a drink after work on two of them. They immediately took us for American Army (which we were) and began to complain in German about how they couldn’t go anywhere without us being around.
My friend translated for me while they continued to trash us for being idiots, how we couldn’t drink, couldn’t control ourselves in bars, etc. ‘We’ as Americans in general.
My friend finally asked them in perfect German (not even with an accent) why they feel that way. They immediately apologized, realizing that they just spent the past ten minutes trashing us to our faces. They bought us around, and we returned the favor.
We ended up closing that bar and moved on to another location where we (and they, I might add) fulfilled the stereotypes that they were talking about. We awoke the next morning on the floor of the apartment of one of the guys. He is now my husband, just kidding. We stayed friends with them until we came back to the United States.”
“I was riding in a hotel elevator with my 80-year-old grandmother in the early 2000s with two middle-aged Japanese women, looking out the window and talking.
My grandmother said to me, ‘Don’t let them get out.’ (literal translation) Then pushed me to the door.
I was like, what?! I could barely communicate knowing only a bare minimum of Korean. Then my grandmother started talking to them in rapid-fire Japanese, which she had been forced to learn as a child, and pointed at me and then at them. I’m six feet tall and don’t look at all Asian.
The two women had frozen-looking expressions but as soon as the door opened, they shoved their way past me out of the elevator when we got to the lobby.
I asked my grandmother, ‘What did you say?!’
Later through an uncle, I found out that the two were looking out at the city commenting how, ‘all this (Seoul) would be stinking rice paddies and illiterate peasants but thanks to their civilizing influence, look what it has become.’
The other woman said, ‘Korea and much of Asia indeed should be grateful to Japan.’
My grandmother told them she had not forgotten having to give up her Korean name for a Japanese one and being forced to learn Japanese. She was going to have me, her American servant, follow them, call my friends, and make sure they experience that ‘civilizing experience’ for themselves.”
Customer Service In France
“I was in France with my family for the holiday. We spent most summers there as kids and my parents were keen on the whole family learning the language so as to be respectful in restaurants, shops, etc. Fast forward 15 years when the family was meeting up as adults in a small town in the south of France. We went to this fancy-looking place for a bite to eat as it was our last night together. The three of us kids were taking care of the bill so it was a nice momentous occasion for my parents I guess. We took a seat and we waited patiently.
And waited some more.
Menus arrived. And we waited a little longer.
We don’t like a fuss in general as a family; my sister, in particular, hates causing any kind of scene. It soon became apparent that although the place was reasonably quiet and small, they were serving the presumably local but definitely French customers far ahead of us. We were there like half an hour before someone came to take our drink order, kinda popping over to us with rolled eyes.
My mother ordered a glass in French, trying to be polite, being appropriate, etc. We each had a glass and waited some more. My brother started to look around, a bit on edge wondering if they were going to come to take our food order soon as he was pretty hungry.
The manager picked up on this very subtle thing and said in French about five yards from the table, ‘Hahaha, let them wait. If they want fast food, let them go to McDonald’s where the English belong’.
All our spoken French was much better than written but we all understood it perfectly.
My mother just pipped up with an astounded, ‘Excuse moi Monsieur.’
Then she stood up and said, ‘We’re going’ in French. My father placed a few notes on the table to take care of the drinks.
It was a small restaurant that was quite narrow so we each had to walk past the manager and waitstaff who now stopped and stared at us along with most others in the restaurant. My brother, all six foot and four inches of him, met the manager at eye level and glared at him.
He always had the best French (due to French girls) and said, ‘Nous sommes d’irlande imbecile.’ In English, it translates to ‘We’re from Ireland you, idiot.’
The manager’s face paled.
My sister just shook her head and took the half-emptied/half-full bottle from the table, tipped it to him, and said, ‘Slainte.’
That’s Irish for ‘Cheers’ and brought it out onto the street. It was hilarious for her as she’s a doctor. She always was quite serious and quite reserved. So then there was me, the baby of the family and usually, the odd one who was more liable to fiery behavior when I was a tad younger. I could see through the glass window outside my dad was watching, hoping I didn’t kick off perhaps.
I just turned to the waiter nearest to me and whispered, ‘J’adore le Royal’ which is the Big Mac with cheese in France. It also gave me a chance to roll my ‘R’s’. Then I headed out onto the street where my sister and mother were slugging from the drinks hilariously. We went to some really tiny cafe run by a lovely local family man to who we told the story.
He still sends my parents Christmas cards and my folks meet up with him when they visit that part of France.”
Sushi Chef Went Off On Him
“My wife and I were sitting down for a really nice sushi dinner in Kyoto, Japan. It was a weeknight, so the head apprentice (a woman, which is quite rare for sushi chefs) was behind the sushi bar to get more experience, serving customers on a slower night.
I commented on how surprised and impressed I was that she was there. We wound up having a very nice chat that went on throughout our meal. Pretty sure our meal was substantially nicer than it would’ve been if my wife and I only spoke English, but hey, gift horse, mouth, etc. Then a dude with bleached-blonde hair and his girlfriend came in and sat down a couple of seats over from us, around the corner of the sushi bar.
He rather rudely asked the chef why the heck we were in there, and she saw me raise an eyebrow because I understood what he was asking. She snapped at him, told him to shut his mouth and mind his manners. Then turned back to us, and asked me a question about our next course, which I answered in Japanese.
Blondie’s eyes bugged out of his head and he didn’t say a word the rest of the time we were there.”
They Had A Lot To Say About How She Looked
“This happened to me at Christmas in Japan. I went to visit my son who was living there for his teaching job. I’m half Hispanic, so I look white with salt and pepper hair and green colored eyes), but I speak fluent Spanish. I’m also semi-handicapped, quite large, and use a mobility scooter due to arthritis in my feet.
So, I was waiting at the hotel for my son to return from parking the car so we could go back to our rooms. I was sitting on my scooter in the lobby by a wall, just watching and waiting.
Then a large-ish crowd of Spaniards came to check in. They sized me up and one of them was just staring at me.
They then said to the rest of them, ‘Just how do you let yourself get that sickeningly big?’
At that moment, I saw my son approaching. His back was to the Spaniards.
I said loudly to my son in Spanish, ‘Estamos listos a irnos a las habitaciones?’ (Translation: Are we ready to go to our rooms?)
I whispered to him, ‘Just say ‘Si’ loudly.’
He did. When we went to the elevators, we passed the Spaniards who were doing the ‘Oops, oh no’ routine. I went by and gave them my sweetest smile. My son said later he had no idea why I told him to say ‘Si’ because he doesn’t speak Spanish. But he said he figured I had a good reason, so he’d better just do it.”
Acadian French Vs Quebec French
“I lived in a part of Canada where mostly English is spoken, but there is French spoken in isolated communities. A lot of people from those communities move to the big city. I worked in a shop in that city, and there were a couple of women visiting from Quebec, Canada waiting to try on some clothes. They were commenting on the appearance of other shoppers, making fun of peoples’ accents (the English we speak in Atlantic Canada sound a little odd compared to the rest of North America), and basically saying how trashy and idiotic the other women around them were. They assumed that nobody would understand them, because to them, Acadian French is not proper Quebec French, and therefore no French is spoken very far east of Quebec.
Eventually, they said something about me, calling me basically ‘a red-haired streetwalker.’
I spoke to them in French, telling them that it was unwise to assume that nobody could understand them, and told them that a lot of people understand French in my city. I said that what they were doing was very rude, and I didn’t appreciate the comments they were making.
I couldn’t tell them off as I’d like to have done, being at work and all. But I still relish the looks on their faces to this day.”
The Teacher Didn’t Know She Understood Dutch
“I was assisting English classes at a local college while I was in the process of learning Dutch. For some reason, a lot of teachers at the college were under the impression that I knew no Dutch at all and that I was only there to help refine the students’ English. The college didn’t know which teachers would need my assistance so, for my first few days, I worked a little with everyone so that they could get a feel of how it’d be. One teacher, in particular, was a bit of a character.
He liked having a lot of attention and focus on him and I could tell I probably wouldn’t work with him in the future. The students were very interested in me as you don’t meet many Americans often here. A lot of the students asked me to bring in pictures, coins, etc. from America so they could see.
Then suddenly he spoke in Dutch to them, ‘Jullie zijn haar terugnodigen. Ik wil haar niet terugkomen!’ (Translation: ‘Stop that. You’re inviting her back. I don’t want her back.’)
The students kinda giggled and then burst into laughter when I made it clear that I was at the same level of Dutch as they were English. He was so ashamed, went red, and he brushed it off as a joke. But he didn’t speak much to me in the teacher’s room after that.”
He Didn’t Want To Take Out His Own Trash
“I worked at a golf course and there was a plentitude of Asians that played, particularly on holidays that Americans celebrate exclusively, like Thanksgiving. Anyway, whenever an Asian group dropped off their cart, I always listened in closely to see if I could pick up what they were saying. Most of the time, I couldn’t understand a lot because they were Korean or Chinese, but every once in a while my minimal knowledge of Japanese could snag a phrase or two.
So one day, I hit the jackpot and some tipsy Japanese dudes pulled up just blabbing about whatever.
Like I always do, I said in English, ‘Thank you.’
As they grabbed their belongings and took their garbage to the trash can, one said in Japanese, something along the lines of, ‘This prick has an easy job, don’t throw your trash away for him.’
All of them just found it hysterical.
In my limited and probably broken Japanese, I replied, ‘I didn’t ask you to. Have a good day.’
The look on their faces as they all turned around simultaneously and apologized profusely made it epic to me.”
“The Rice Is So Strange. How Do I Eat This?”
“At my college campus, I was eating at an Indian restaurant with friends and this Chinese couple came in. It’s buffet style but there is also a regular menu. They were obviously international students and they somewhat struggled with the menu.
I overheard the girl telling her boyfriend in Cantonese, ‘I wanted KFC! What is this place?’
He said, ‘I don’t think there is a KFC nearby, but look, that Asian girl (me) seems to be eating chicken!’
They gestured to the buffet and the hostess collected their money. They went up to get their food and when they returned, they started bickering.
The girl said, ‘The rice is so strange. Why is it yellow? How do I eat this (referring to naan)?’
He told her, ‘Watch that girl’s Indian friends. They appear to wrap it up.’
She said, ‘How strange! I prefer to pretend this red chicken (tandoori) is KFC. Is this red because it’s bbq chicken like bbq pork?’
At this point, I stepped in and explained what they were eating in Cantonese. They were mildly embarrassed but thanked me for my advice.”
He Tried To Hustle Him
“I was on holiday break in Jordan and went to visit their ‘downtown.’ This area is beautiful. It has all sorts of cultural bits and pieces and amazing food at great prices. If you go there, you need to haggle every price, even the locals do.
So I entered this shop and the shopkeeper at the door told his colleague, ‘Oh, yes, European foreigner, let’s see how much we can overprice stuff.’
I kid you not, he said that but in Arabic. Now, I can speak fluently, having an Arab father. Note, I’m very pale with brown hair and blue eyes, which is not typical in that region.
I asked in English about the cost of a beautiful Arabian plate and he gave me an insane price.
I looked him in the eye and said in fluent Arabic, ‘Now that you know I’m a local, how much does it cost?’
His eyes popped out of his head and then he started laughing.
He finally said, ‘You heard me at the door, didn’t you?’
I smiled and nodded.
Then he said, ‘I guess I deserve that. That plate isn’t worth much, I’ll give it to you as a gift for giving me a good laugh.'”
She Didn’t Realize Who They Were
“I’m Nepalese born, living in Australia. I was going to training one day with my brother when these two Nepalese women walked in. They started talking in Nepalese about how we were short and chubby and they thought we were 19-year-old Lebanese men. I was 16 and my brother was 12. One of them proceeded to talk about their kid and how he’d whoop both me and my brother in cricket. The lady mentioned her son’s name and I instantly recognized him.
He played in the team that I was the assistant coach for and my brother was the captain.
My brother was struggling to hold his laugh and just as we walked out of the train, he said in Nepalese, ‘Oh your son is pretty good but I’m the guy that broke his toe while training. So you might wanna actually come to his games to see how good he really is and if he can whoop either of us.’
The look on their faces: Priceless.”
A Mouthy Student
“Several years ago, I was teaching English to a group of seven-year-olds in Spain on my first day as a teacher. I was conducting the whole class in English and using gestures to help convey meaning. The children assumed that I didn’t know any Spanish because I wasn’t using any.
One kid was giving me lots of problems during the first half of the class.
As I asked him to repeat some of the rules we had been chanting/drilling, he said in Spanish, ‘What a freaking idiot you are.’
I responded by asking him to step closer and I whispered in his ear, ‘If you thought I didn’t understand Spanish, you were very much mistaken. Now sit down and shut up and if you say it again, I’ll repeat it to your mother.’
He went white as a sheet and didn’t say a word for the rest of the class.’
An Eventful Day At The Beach
“I am a Turkish girl living in Amsterdam. I do not look Turkish, but I do not look Dutch either. People usually think I am Italian or Spanish. And because of this, Turks talk in Turkish about me quite often. Yesterday an older couple was sitting next to me in the subway.
The lady told her husband, ‘Look at her, she is gorgeous. I wish our daughter-in-law looked like her.’
Adorable! A few weeks ago, two men were talking about me too. One of them said I was stunning but a little bit chubby, which he didn’t like. The other one said I was pretty indeed, but not chubby enough.
Last year, I was tanning at the Vondelpark in Amsterdam in my bikini, reading a Turkish book. A Dutch couple talked about my busts. The girl wanted to see them without a bikini to compare them with her own. Quite funny, actually.”
She Wasn’t A Fan Of His E-Cig
“I was smoking an e-cig on the tube whilst sitting next to three Korean girls. This was before e-cigs were popular back in 2008. Being British but having a Korean wife was useful. They started talking about how I was so rude and that they couldn’t believe I was smoking on the tube. They even said English people were so inconsiderate and that they were going to get off at the next stop because they didn’t like the smell of smoke.
After they finished their rant, I just turned to them and said in Korean that they shouldn’t assume people can’t understand them in public. Then I said it wasn’t a real cig, there were no smoke fumes, and that I was getting off at the next stop so they needn’t bother.
They were shocked and just looked like dear in headlights.”
The Spanish Guys Were Smirking At Her
“I was in Belgium riding a train, and these three Spanish guys around my age sat in the same booth as me because the train was pretty crowded. They were speaking Spanish to each other, going on about the different girls on the train and pulling up pictures of girls on their phones. Then one of them changed the conversation to me and they were all smirking.
I just sat there trying to keep a straight face until the train got to my stop.
I stood up and said in Spanish, ‘You have a nice chest too.’
Then I promptly exit the train.”
“Really Germany? Is There Nowhere That’s Off-limit?!”
“I was in a hostel sauna with a German friend in Berlin. A young German couple came in and because we were speaking in English (for my benefit) wrongly assumed that my friend could not understand German.
I was blissfully unaware of their conversation, whilst my friend tried to uphold our conservation whilst listening to how the couple weren’t having enough hanky panky and were waiting for us to leave so they could begin. My friend ushered me out after a while and yep on looking back through the glass, they started fooling around.
Really Germany? Is there nowhere that’s off-limit?!”