They say that language is an imperfect vehicle for human communication. That may be so, but it’s a perfect vehicle for creating hilarious situations! When people think that those around them can’t understand them, they’re naturally more bold and brash than they ever would be if they thought that the reverse was true. The only problem? More often than not, people can understand—regardless of whether one may have expected them to. Here are 42 examples of awkward moments when bilingual people secretly spoke the languages of those around them and overheard things that they weren’t meant to understand.
1. Which Side Are You on Anyway?
Most people don’t realize that I speak Spanish fluently. One time, I was in Mexico with my husband on vacation. We went to a restaurant and sat down to be served. The waiter gave us a menu with the English side facing up. I flipped it over and the exact same menu was printed on the back in Spanish—except for one disturbing thing. The prices were about half as much as they were in the English version.
I made sure to order both of our meals in Spanish just in case it counted towards the discount…
2. How Much Is That German in the Window?
This is kind of the other way around. When I was younger, my family and I, who are German, went to Greece one summer and were shopping in a store. My grandpa started talking about how overpriced the stuff in the store was and how cheap it looked. It was a huge mistake. My mom found something that she liked and the store owner came over to help her—in German.
3. Fighting for Her Right to Party
People usually don’t realize that I am bilingual and speak Spanish as well as English. Just recently, I was at a party and I overheard one of the Latino girls say something incredibly cruel. “That poor girl over there! She doesn’t know what we are saying, yet she keeps laughing at the jokes just because she sees everyone else laughing.” If they only knew…
4. This One Is to Dye for!
Some Japanese cashiers at our local grocery once had a conversation about whether my wife’s red hair was natural or dyed. As we walked away, I told them in Japanese that it was dyed, but not to tell my wife that I know.
5. This Is Not a Very Good Sign…
This is kind of the opposite of this topic, but still relevant nonetheless. I am by no means fluent at communicating in American Sign Language, but one time my local bar tried to introduce me to a deaf old man. I started our conversation with a simple “How are you?” in sign language. I got nothing in response. I figured that he just didn’t want to talk. I simply signed “Have a nice night!”
Once again, absolutely nothing in response. I later found out the awful truth. the dude is not deaf. He doesn’t even know a lick of sign language. Apparently, he just acts that way in order to get attention, sympathy, and free drinks. What a schmuck!
6. The Luck of the Irish
I speak Norwegian and English, but I’m Irish by background. I was in Ireland one time and I heard a Norwegian guy talking on a bus to someone who I presume was his girlfriend. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but what I did understand made my skin crawl. He went into great detail about what he wanted to do in the bedroom when he got home. I just kept my mouth shut and laughed about it afterwards.
7. What’s in a Name?
I once looked on as my poor friend, who had just started to learn American Sign Language, was trying to spell out her name to someone he had just met in ASL and, instead of using the letter “F,” he accidentally spelled out “S-T-E-butthole sign-E-N.”
8. Size Does Matter to This Guy!
I was speaking with a Russian friend in a bar one time and she stopped me in mid-sentence to inform me that the Russian guy right across from us talking on the phone was actually committing a disgusting act. He was loudly bragging about the size of his private parts over and over again to whoever he was talking to on the phone.
9. With a Little Help From His New Friend
My story is a bit more wholesome than some of these other ones. I worked at a department store and, during this one shift I was on, I once encountered a sweet but confused old man with a strong French accent trying to ask me a question in English. To his surprise, I proceeded to ask if it would be easier for me to speak to him in French His reaction was incredibly heartwarming.
He smiled very widely and said yes. Most people in our area only speak English, so he was glad that someone was able to help him in his native language. Cheering this guy up and helping him out was definitely my good deed for the day!
10. Let Me Finnish!
When I was a handsome young man of about 25 years of age, I was once at a wedding reception where I was introduced to two women who were both about 40-ish years old. I shook hands with one of them, who immediately acted as a translator and introduced me in Finnish to the other one. The second woman, in Finnish, while shaking my hand and looking me straight in the eye, said, “Oh, what a cutie! If I was 10 years younger, the things I would do to this man!”
The first one, again acting as a translator, said: “She is very pleased to meet you.” In Finnish, I replied “Apparently so. What exactly would she do to me if she was 10 years younger?” Their faces turned so red, they almost turned purple!
11. Ladies and Germs
I can speak German. At my job in a museum, there was once a group of people who came in. However, they didn’t come to see the museum. They just came to sit on our benches, throw a soccer ball around, and act generally as one does outside having a picnic—not sitting inside a museum. I asked them to stop throwing the ball around and to be a little quieter. Their reaction made my blood boil.
They didn’t really respond and kept on doing what they were doing as if I didn’t exist. I then hear one of the girls say in German: “That woman is so stupid. We can do whatever we want here, the ball won’t hurt anything.” I immediately snapped back into German “Yes, it can. Now, you need to either stop kicking the ball around or leave.” They looked horrified and left right away.
12. They Both Scream for Ice Cream
One time, a few years back, I was shopping at the grocery store when two people approached me and asked me in English whether I knew if the store sold ice cream packages. Since I was heading in that direction anyway, I thought I would do them a favor and walk them directly over to the section that they were looking for. They repaid me with total rudeness.
Once we arrived and they had found the ice cream that they had wanted, they instantly started speaking to one another in Swedish—extremely poorly, if I do say so myself, as Swedish is my native language. One of them said to the other, “How impolite that guy is! Instead of simply telling us what aisle the ice cream was in, he had to put on a whole show and act as if we forced him to take us all the way there!”
I just replied in Swedish, “Well, I was heading over there myself, so why the heck would I just tell you where it is?” Instantly, the two of them both turned pale, grabbed the ice cream, and hurried off as fast as they possibly could. But there was one more incredible thing. This was in Sweden. There was literally no reason for them to have assumed that I would not have spoken Swedish.
13. A Taste of Their Own Medicine
Back when I was living in Germany, a friend and I were in a little ice-creamery talking with each other in English. A pair of German teens said, in German, “Freakin’ Americans are so darn loud!” My friend had the perfect comeback. He said in English “Freakin’ Germans are so darn annoying!” He was trying not to laugh.
The teens then suddenly turned from their booth and asked in English, “What did you just say?” To which my friend, in perfect German, replied: “Oh sorry, I didn’t know you understood English!” The dirtiest look I’ve ever seen was exchanged before they stood up, ice cream in hand, and left the store. Good riddance, I say.
14. The Wonders of Childhood
My boyfriend and I went to Japan and stood out like the pair of hugely tall white folks that we both are. Literally, no one in Japan expects foreigners to speak any Japanese at all. Well, they’re so, so wrong. We can. While just hanging out waiting to cross a street one day on our trip, we overheard a little kid who was holding his mom’s hand.
He was just staring in awe at my 6 foot plus boyfriend, and he said to his mom: “Wow, foreigners are amazing, aren’t they?” We both nearly died of laughter later when we heard that, but the truth is that we have tons of little encounters like this wherever we go. I only scare the pants off of some of them though! Great fun!
15. We Know What You’re Up to!
My wife, who is Norwegian by background, speaks no less than a dozen languages at varying levels of proficiency, and so I have more than my fair share of good stories about her understanding things that she wasn’t meant to. The best one, though, is from her time studying in Prague. She went out with some Czech friends one evening, all of whom were girls.
They ended up in a bar, at a table next to a group of Norwegian guys who were on a weekend party trip. The guys were somewhat drunk and, of course, they immediately started flirting with my wife and her friends, in the typical heavily-accented English spoken by most Norwegians. While flirting, they discussed amongst themselves the various physical attributes of each girl—but it gets worse.
They also talked about how promiscuous they each appeared to be, how they thought they’d each perform in bed, what they were hoping to do to them later that night (in graphical detail), “I’m so gonna score!” comments, and so on. My wife translated everything into Czech for her friends while this was going on. A lot of fun was had at both tables.
The Czechs got more and more flirty as the Norwegians bought more and more drinks, got bolder, and became more and more certain that they would all actually get what they were looking for later that night. After several hours of this, when the girls decided all of a sudden to rather abruptly end the evening, the Norwegian guys were all a bit confused.
They could not understand why the girls all seemed to have turned so cold in such a short amount of time. That’s when my wife dealt them an excruciating killing blow. Then, my wife walked up to them and said, in perfect Norwegian: “Nice meeting you guys, good luck!” She then watched them all turn blood red, and left.
16. All Thai-ed Up
One time, I was at a market in Thailand. Just as the stall owner was handing me my purchase, a tourist walked up and started randomly trying to educate me on bartering. I had never met this person before, but they insisted on showing me how it was done. So, he’s bargaining away and drives the owner down to about half-price.
With a smug look, he says, “See? Now that’s how it’s done!” I didn’t tell him I knew a secret. I had just paid a 10th of what he did by simply speaking politely, using a rudimentary knowledge of Thai.
17. Strangers on a Train
I was on a train in Japan and two high school girls right next to me were talking about what it must be like to date a foreigner. I managed not to laugh when one of them said, “No way I’d do that, they’re all perverts!” When I left the train, though, I excitedly told them that their conversation had been very entertaining. The look on their faces was priceless.
18. Smarter Than the Average Bear
I’m a white-as-they-come American from the Midwest. I absolutely do not look like I speak any languages besides English. You know, like the stereotypical stupid American who thinks if I just speak English reeeaallllyy slowly and loudly everyone will suddenly understand me. But I’ve actually studied quite a few languages, including Chinese (Mandarin), Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, German, and Italian.
But again, I really don’t look like I understand any of them. I’ve found that the best thing to do to catch people off guard is to keep a vacant expression on my face whenever people are talking around me as if I don’t have a clue what’s being said. One time, I was in Seoul, South Korea, just sitting around outside and relaxing. I had about 15 minutes before I had to go back inside and keep working, so I was just enjoying the day.
There were several Korean men standing around not too far from where I was sitting. They were just smoking, laughing, and talking. So, out of curiosity, I started listening in. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t. They were talking about the “fat, stupid American man” sitting near them. They were hurling lots of insults and making fun of my character, intelligence, and looks.
I didn’t let on that I understood a single word of what they were saying. I just sat there minding my own business and if any of them looked over at me, I just innocently smiled at them. When it was time for me to go back inside to work, I walked past them and, in Korean, told them that not all Americans were as stupid as they seemed to think.
The look on their faces when they realized I had been listening to everything they were saying about me was one that still makes me smile whenever I remember it.
19. Judging a Book by Its Cover
My friend’s son speaks fluent Spanish, but has white skin—so when he brought his wife’s minivan in to get it detailed, the Spanish-speaking people cleaning it were all going on and on about how stupid and dirty they thought this guy was, and how he should make his kids clean the van up instead. But that was just the beginning.
Then, they went on and on about how cheap Americans are and how they probably wouldn’t even be leaving a tip for all the hard work they were doing. When they were done with their work, my friend’s son went right over to thank them, let them know how much he appreciated the job they did and gave them a large tip—all in Spanish so that they knew without a doubt that he had understood every word they had just said.
20. A Shot in the Dark
I’d say this may not be a laugh out loud kind of funny story, but more of an “OMG people are so freaking dumb sometimes!” moment. I, an Englishman by birth, work in a bar in the south of France. We get a lot of tourists who naturally can’t speak a word of French, so a lot speak English as their go-to language—regardless of their country of origin.
Maybe two months ago, I had an English lady order at the bar, which was quiet at the time, for a big bottle of water. It was a pretty standard request, except for the fact that we only sell bottles of water up to 50 cl (or alternatively, offer tap water for free). After offering her either of these options in perfect English because, y’know, I’m English, she proceeded with the stereotypical “raise of the voice, slow-talking, and speaking with her hands” charade to try and communicate her thoughts to me.
Her: “BIG….” (gestures with her hands the size of ‘big’) “…BOT-TLE” (proceeds to pretend to unscrew a cap off a bottle) “…WATTTTERRR” (air-drinks through her imaginary bottle of water.) So, I got my revenge. I gave her a shot of gin instead. Her husband found the whole thing hilarious. He also recognized immediately that I was from the UK and was fluent in English, but he let her play it out anyway for his own amusement.
21. Fly Me to the Moon
I am an unassuming white girl who also happens to speak fluent Mandarin. When I went to China one year, I had a dark revelation. Many of the locals had no problem being rude if they thought that you couldn’t understand them. I think the most interesting thing that has happened as a result of this was when some people were making fun of me at the airport, having no clue that the nice smiling white girl knows Chinese.
22. Was It Worth the Wait?
I’m Norwegian, but was on vacation in London one year and was on my way out to the subway and waiting for a lift. Standing with my girlfriend, we overheard two girls who were waiting behind me for the train talking about me in Swedish, which I understand. They were talking about how hot I was and how they would definitely be down to sleep with me if I asked.
But they didn’t stop there. They went on to say that my girlfriend was not in my league and that I didn’t know how hot I was. When the lift arrived, I turned around and thanked them in Norwegian for the compliments, but added that my girlfriend was far better looking than either of them were. They decided not to get on the train with us.
23. Put on a Happy Face
Spanish speaker here. One time, I was with my family ordering food at a Mexican restaurant, and I overheard the waiter in training as he frantically tried to tell his senior that he was worried about his English not being good enough to communicate with the customers. He was very nervous and felt that he wasn’t ready to try. The next part warmed my heart.
I turned around and told him not to worry, as I spoke Spanish and would be happy to help translate for my monolingual mother. He got very excited and thanked me. I ended up chatting with him for quite a while and told him to not get discouraged—if I could learn Spanish in Mexico, he could learn English in the United States.
I also told him that most people would be more willing to help than he might think, so he need not worry. I think I definitely helped to make him feel at least a little bit better.
24. One Heck of a Ride
I have a friend from Egypt. One time, she and a friend were being driven to the bank by her friend’s friend who she didn’t know. It turned awful shockingly fast. The driver started going on a whole angry tirade to her about how Arabs and Muslims are all terrorists and trying to destroy the world. She just sat there quietly and nodded along as if she agreed with everything that the guy was saying.
When she left the car, she said “Oh, by the way, I’m Arab. I’m from Egypt.” She said she’s never seen someone look so horrified, and that all he managed to get out before she walked off was that he thought she was Hispanic.
25. Sandwiched Between Two Interpreters
I speak Farsi (Persian). While in college, I was waiting in line at Subway to order lunch one day and there were these two other Persian guys behind me complaining about the girl in front of me taking too long to order her sandwich. Then it got really bad. They began to comment on how hot she was and all of the naughty things they’d both do to her.
One of them said something like “I wouldn’t mind licking some of that sweet onion sauce off her body.” I’m just standing there smirking, fully aware that these guys have no idea that I know exactly what they’re saying. She finishes her order, pays, and, as she is about to leave, she turns to the guys behind me and gets her sweet revenge.
She says in Farsi, “Your mothers would be ashamed to hear the way you talk about women!” before walking away. I was just as surprised as they were—but the difference was that they looked mortified while I was trying my absolute hardest not to double over with laughter. I ordered my sandwich and, on my way out, I smirked at them and said in Farsi “She’s right, you know!”
I made sure to take a glance back to catch their returning looks of utter horror as I walked past them and out of the store.
26. The Friendly Ghost
I live in Taiwan, but I am not originally from here. One time, I was walking down an aisle in a Costco here and there was a five-year-old kid sitting in a shopping cart, who pointed at me and yelled in Chinese “Look dad, a white person!” So, once the dad walked away from the cart, I came closer to the kid and whispered to him in Chinese “I know I am white, but thank you for pointing it out for everyone else” and walked away.
My friends were walking right behind me and said that the kid’s face looked as if he had just seen a ghost.
27. Elevator Music
My friend once got into an elevator in Korea with a couple of North American guys. She’s Korean-Australian but doesn’t speak a lot of Korean. The two guys spent the whole elevator ride talking about how hot she was and what they’d like to do to her. Then, one of them wondered aloud about how funny it would be if she spoke English. Her reply was legendary. She got off first, turned, and said, “Is it still funny?”
28. A Hole in One
I’m English by background and I speak a passable level of Spanish. I once overheard a guy say to his friends that he wanted “to touch every hole on that girl’s body, including her nose.” There was one problem. He was referring to my girlfriend. I couldn’t stop laughing, while my non-Spanish-speaking girlfriend was just confused and bewildered.
29. Giving Him the Finger
When my 6’4” tall, white-as-snow brother was our province’s ambassador to Hokkaido, Japan, he and a Japanese speaking friend from back home went to visit a castle on a trip through Honshu. This friend was a cowboy back home and had lost two fingers in a roping accident. He also had tattoos on his arms. In Japan, usually only the Yakuza, a criminal organization similar to the mafia, have tattoos.
They also have a tradition of cutting off the tips of certain fingers, moving down the joints as they move up in the organization. Anyway, as my bro and his friend were visiting the castle grounds, a youngish looking Japanese man took offense at seeing two white monsters in his country, so he began yelling at them.
He then showed them that the tip of one of his fingers had been removed, and said that they had better be careful around him. He was almost certainly assuming that they wouldn’t know what he was saying and thought he was just messing with some tourists. Little did he know, my brother was actually quite fluent in the local dialect.
He told him to be respectful of guests to his country. But then he really gave it to him. Suddenly, my brother’s friend rolled up his sleeves to show off his tats and then waved his two-fingered hand in front of the man’s face. Apparently, the man turned quite pale real fast, then bowed down as low as he could go while still standing, and eventually backed away.
30. Rest in Pieces
I was a peace corps volunteer in Vanuatu. I contracted malaria while I was there. I was in tremendous physical pain and agony. The doctor told one of the other doctors in Bislama: “He only has 5% malaria in his blood! I would be on my feet playing football if I were him!” I groaned and said: “I speak Bislama. Give me drugs!”
31. An American in Paris
I speak French. Visiting France and spending time in Paris was wild. As an American, it felt like I had these kinds of experiences on a daily basis. People just assumed that I was a moron and couldn’t possibly speak French or understand them. I’ll never forget the worst incident. It was when the friend who I was there to visit brought me to a party.
After what I had thought was simply just a really boring conversation in poor English with the host, because at this point I just went with whatever language someone started speaking to me, my friend came over and the host started telling him, in French, that I seemed really uncool and stupid. So, without missing a beat, I blurted out in French “Well, your English sucks!” (which was true).
Anyway, the host tried apologizing and this clearly made me look cooler or something, I dunno. It was really pretty snotty and there was really no recovering from that for either one of us, so we left shortly after. The worst part is that I am French-American/French-Canadian, so I’m just like “Word, worst mother culture ever!”
32. The Special Treatment
This is more of a positive kind of story. An old Japanese lady here in Brazil was selling yakisoba at the farmer’s market and talking in very broken Portuguese with a heavy Japanese accent. I walked up to her and start talking in Japanese, which made her super impressed. But that wasn’t even the best part. I got so much extra stuff for free on top of my yakisoba meal that day!
33. All Day, Every Day
I LOVE surprising people with the languages that I secretly know how to speak. I’m fluently trilingual (English, French, & Portuguese) and you would not believe how many people out there think that they can get away with talking smack about everyone around them just because they’re not speaking the same language as the majority.
People even try this with French in Toronto—where it is one of the national languages that we all need to study in school at the very least, geniuses. I worked as a charity fundraiser for several years. I found it really funny when people tried to brush me off with “I don’t speak English” because I’d reply with “What languages do you speak?”
Most of the time I could get by at least somewhat competently in their language. A few people were so impressed by this that they actually signed up! What was especially funny was when a native English speaker would pretend to speak another language, such as French, and reply “Pardon, je ne parle pas anglais” in French with a thick English accent.
I LOVED calling their bluff by replying in unaccented, fluent French “Sans problème, je parle Francais. Cela vous convient?” and watching them balk and flee. At one point, I was waiting for a streetcar in Toronto after school and listening to 2 ladies very loudly insulting the pants that I was wearing—a cool tie-dyed pair I had gotten on a trip to Brazil.
I was trying to figure out a clever way of confronting them about it when my best friend, also a fluent French speaker, ran across the street to meet me and overheard a snippet of their conversation. She very loudly, and in French, complimented me on my pants, and we both proceeded to have a loud, French conversation about how some people are just idiots.
It got better. This was particularly funny as the streetcar was also full of kids from our French high school, who were all giggling to each other while listening to this play out. The look of horror on those poor women’s faces was excellent. I then spent the summer in Brazil and on my own. I could pass for a native, albeit pale, Brazilian in most people’s eyes.
On the train home one night, I got to hear two backpacker types going on and on about the local girls, and commenting on my breasts. A little while later, one of the guys, who had apparently been in the country longer, was having trouble answering the other one’s question about local transit. I saw my opportunity and jumped on it, answering in perfect Canadian English.
It was fun to see them go wide-eyed all of a sudden and start scrambling to mumble out their weak apologies. Later on, when my boyfriend joined me in Brazil, I got into the opposite situation a lot. People would often overhear me speaking to my boyfriend in native English, and subsequently assume that I didn’t speak Portuguese.
It was extremely fun to correct them, especially when it was a greedy vendor who were trying to rip me off, assuming I was a naive tourist. It’s not all bad, though. At times, I’ve heard a few little kids compliment me or ask their parents about something that they saw me carrying—often a cello, or some 3D model for school.
When that happens, it’s always nice to be able to answer them directly in their own language.
34. Talking Turkey
I’m an American who lived in Turkey for two years. When I first moved there, I had taken Turkish 101 & 102 classes to become competent in the language. One time, while there, I was negotiating with street vendors for something that I wanted to buy. As they babbled amongst each other trying to rip me off, I surprised them all by making a super lowball offer in Turkish. The look on their faces was pure gold.
I got the deal I was looking for, as they were super embarrassed and felt bad.
35. Anxious to Get Away From This Guy
I’m not bilingual per se, but I can understand quite a bit of Spanish and speak a limited amount of it. One time, I was at a quinceañera with a friend and was having a really bad anxiety day. One of the middle-aged men sitting at the same table as us was outright talking about me in Spanish, saying that I had crazy eyes and exclaiming that there was probably something wrong with me.
My friend told him that I could understand what he was saying, and he just went instantly quiet.
36. The Old Switcharoo
One time, I was in Barcelona and I overheard these stuck up Spaniards talking trash about me. So, I nonchalantly went up to them, started an innocent conversation in English, and then, when they weren’t expecting it at all, they got their comeuppance. I started aggressively chewing them out in fluent Spanish. The looks on their faces were priceless.
37. I Know You Are, But What Am I?
My cousin Raphael, who speaks Farsi, was once in a mall and he saw this Persian woman yelling at her son and telling him “Don’t eat so much or you’ll get fat like that man.” It took him a second to realize the disturbing truth. She was gesturing directly towards my cousin. So My cousin responded in Farsi, shouting out “Don’t call me fat! You’re fat!”
It’s so gratifying to see the horrible look on someone’s face when they realize that you just heard and understood everything they said.
38. Careful Lady!
So I’m a white Caucasian female, but I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English. Now, looking at me, you wouldn’t know I can speak Mandarin, which is why I find it absolutely hysterical to mess with people. Especially when they come through my line at work speaking Chinese, and I understand every word they’re saying. My coworkers find it especially hysterical.
Okay, so the other day this Chinese couple came through my line, and I asked them (in English) all of the usual questions about bags and if they had their rewards cards, all of that fun stuff.
Anyway, I started ringing up their stuff, and the wife said to her husband, “Tell her not to bruise the bananas,” in Chinese and I didn’t say anything. Then the wife said, “Tell the stupid girl to go faster,” in Mandarin. I smiled at her and pretended like I had no idea what she was saying.
She kept commenting on how my hair was like a boy’s (I have short hair, it’s honestly not even that short) and how her grandfather would have gone faster than I was going, all of this in chinese.
And then she said, “Make sure she doesn’t forget the water,” in Chinese.
I replied in English, “I won’t forget the water.”
And I watched with enjoyment as a look of sheer terror spread across her face, as she realized I understood everything she had said before. She just stood there with her mouth open and her husband said (in Chinese), “This is why you shouldn’t trash talk employees while they’re standing right in front of you!”
I replied (in English), “He’s right, you know.”
They paid, then the husband apologized and left. After they walked out the door, my manager and coworker and I were laughing so hard.
Even though being a cashier sucks, it sometimes makes my day a little brighter when something like that happens.
39. Lecturing Them
I have a great story from a lecture I was at a few years ago. The lecture hadn’t started yet, and people in the audience were chatting amongst themselves. In front of me were two Israeli girls, chatting to each other in Hebrew. I speak a little bit of Hebrew—not a lot, but enough to be able to get the gist of what they were talking about.
They were making fun of the older lady in front of them, mocking her clothing and appearance and so on. They got what was coming to them. After a few minutes of talking about her and laughing, the lady turns around and says, in Hebrew, “You shouldn’t assume that no one can understand you, you know.” Oh, but it gets better.
At which point the guy sitting next to them says, in Hebrew, “Yeah, you really were being very rude.” At which point a third person, a woman sitting in the row behind me, leaned forward and called them idiots, all in Hebrew. By this point, I was starting to really crack up with laughter and the people seated nearby were giving me looks.
I didn’t have anything clever to add, so I just wheezed out that I spoke Hebrew too in between laughs. The four of us just laughed and laughed, while the two girls tried to slide into the floor.
40. Putting on a Show
One time, I was at the theater waiting for a play to begin in my home city (São Paulo, Brazil) and there was a group of teenage girls next to us who were making fun of everyone around them in French. I just stayed quiet. Until they crossed a horrific line. They started to talk about my mother. Oooooooh no you don’t.
They were not talking about anything in particular, just about her general appearance. Nevertheless, they were describing it in a fairly unflattering way. My mom speaks no French, but I do. It may be just a broken French, but I certainly understood what those girls were saying. My mom got really confused when I turned to her and said, loud and clear “Cettes filles croient qui personne lês a comprise. Connardes.”
Which means “These girls believe that no one can understand them. Idiots.” All of a sudden, they all turned blue, purple, and red. They were not from France, but they were smart alecks who thought that they were the only people in São Paulo who knew how to speak French. And nobody messes with my mamma.
41. And Now, We Wait…
I speak quite a bit of Polish, and we recently got these twin boys on exchange from Poland coming to the high school that I work at. When they first arrived, everyone was fascinated by them and how kind they were; the girls were all basically pouncing on them. Then, one day, while I was in the lunch hall, they sat with some girls at the table I was sitting at.
This was the day I found out the dark truth about them. Just before I got up to go and put my lunch tray in the kitchen, I heard one of them whisper “brzydka dziewczyna” to the other one, which means “ugly girl.” When the girl asked what he said, he told her that he’d just been describing how beautiful she was. Liar, liar!
Of course, I was very mad seeing this, because he had clearly called this girl ugly and then lied straight to her face. I’m still deciding how I want to let them know that I understood that—and I’m waiting for the perfect moment to attack…
42. Pardon My French
I mean, I live in Canada and I’m half French Canadian, so I have lots of stories about this kind of thing happening. Nevertheless, the best one was kind of the reverse. My dad did something so horrible, it caused a public scene. He once yelled out to me in the middle of a crowded grocery store that he was “Bleeding from [his] butthole and had to go to the bathroom!”
He did it in French, thinking that no one around him would understand. Like, literally no fewer than three people immediately turned around with awful looks on their faces as he uneventfully walked away. Why my father came to the conclusion that nobody would happen to understand French in Canada, I’ll truly never know.
I just shrugged the whole thing off. What can you do? The guy has hemorrhoids and no sense of shame—it’s not my fault! Either way, all those poor people now have to live with that image from now on…
43. So Much for the Language of Love
Friend of mine divorced his then-wife because she would only speak French when her family would come over. She was Spanish, as was her family. To add, her family spoke English, French, and Spanish; he could only speak Spanish and English. She got bored of being married to him, her family basically talked smack about him while he was there, was only when he recorded a conversation while they were there and got it translated he found out what was going on.