Social Question

GloPro's avatar

Does it bother you if people have conversations in another language in front of you, and only speak English when you are spoken to?

Asked by GloPro (8311points) June 18th, 2014 from iPhone

If you are in a small group of 3 or 4 people, and the others converse with one another in a language you don’t speak, only to swap to English to include you in the conversation occasionally, do you mind?

Is it rude? Does it make a difference if the other language is NOT their native tongue?

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26 Answers

Darth_Algar's avatar

Can’t say I’ve ever had that experience.

jca's avatar

I have not had it either. Would it bother me? It might. It would depend on the circumstance.

Seek's avatar

Doesn’t bother me.

Used to happen a lot when I was about town doing errands, like laundry. I lived in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and everyone talked to each other in various flavors of Spanish. I took a few years of it in high school, so I can read Spanish fairly well, but never really had anyone to talk to en español. So I just picked up a few words here and there. If someone needed me for something (Are you almost done with that dryer? Do you have change for the soap machine?) they’d try to ask in English, and I’d try to answer in Spanish.

An all around positive experience for everyone.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Just rude.

The worst? Middle Eastern men shouting their staccato into a flip phone.

jaytkay's avatar

I’m used to it, I have a couple of close friends with bilingual families, where the kids talk Spanish with Mom and English with Dad.

At work, where everyone is fluent in English, and all business is in English, it can feel a bit exclusionary. But I don’t pay attention because I know if they really wanted to hide something they wouldn’t speak in front of me.

keobooks's avatar

My grandmother and aunts would speak German all the time around me. I could understand most of it but couldn’t speak it very well, so sometimes I felt shut out. They assumed I couldn’t understand them until I started answering back in English. It bothered me when I was younger, but I just know it was easier for them to get ideas out in their native language.

A Jewish friend of mine talked about how his grandparents always spoke Yiddish around him and refused to teach him (or his parents) the language because they said it should stay in the old country. He said it bothered him until he learned enough German and Polish to get the gist of what they were saying.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I live in a large, metropolitan city with a diverse population. This happens on a daily basis, and no, it’s not rude. I have lived in cities with less diversity, and been surprised to encounter people who are horribly offended by it.

Usually, when I ask them how they would feel if someone asked them to speak a language other than English, solely for the sake of people in the same room who are not even involved in the conversation, they realize that this would be silly.

flip86's avatar

I got hired at a sushi place once and only lasted a few hours. I couldn’t stand that they were speaking Japanese. Made me paranoid. What could I expect though, right?

dxs's avatar

If there’s a conversation that involves more than two people, I consider it rude to talk in a language that not every member can speak.
I admit that at my work, I use another language to converse with coworkers about something that I won’t want customers hearing.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I simply learn the other language and they are no longer unintelligible to me (generally speaking).

And I’ve worked with enough mentally challenged folk to know not to be bothered when people begin spouting gibberish in the middle of a conversation.

mazingerz88's avatar

Would be rude if you are together for a reason like a meeting about something and the conversation in a language you don’t speak just starts and stops abruptly, and those people doing it know exactly you don’t understand them.

Had met courteous people excusing themselves first before doing that in a meeting.

LornaLove's avatar

Yes, it’s rude.

tinyfaery's avatar

It’s been happening my whole life. My family and most of my friends are Spanish speakers and I was left out quite a bit.

I don’t care about others speaking in a language I do not know. Not everything is about me.

I assume people always think they are being talked about in another language and that’s why they dislike it. That’s probably not true. Not everything is about you.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I think some folks might be misunderstanding the question. The question isn’t about people around you speaking a different language. That probably happens to pretty everyone these days, and anyone bothered by it needs to get the fuck over themselves. The question is about people you are with speaking a different language.

tinyfaery's avatar

Yeah. I know. Surrounded by friends and they speak Spanish/Spanglish right in front of me, even mid conversation. So what? No one is so interesting that I always have to know what they are saying.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Rude – extremely rude. It is never okay. It’s rude to leave anyone in a group out of a conversation in the first place. That means you don’t get into a lengthy discussion about people that not everyone in the group knows, or about who is going on a mission for your church, when the others aren’t members of your church and don’t even know the potential missionary. When someone does this to me, it just shows me that they are socially inept and I feel bad for them that they don’t know basic social etiquette.

Seek's avatar

Ah. I think @Darth_Algar is under the impression I know enough people to hang out in person with more than one person who knows the same foreign language.

cookieman's avatar

Welcome to my relationship with my in-laws. For over twenty-five years now, I have been the sole English-only speaker surrounded by numerous multi-lingual folks. When my wife and her brother and parents and various aunts, uncles, and cousins are together (which is often), all they speak is Italian and Spanish.

When we first started dating, I used to ask my wife to translate, but it was too much hassle and just interrupted the flow if their conversations.

I quickly learned to just sit quietly, eat my food, and relax. Luckily, I’m really good at keeping busy in my own head.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@cookieman Dude, you’ve learned no Spanish or Italian in 25 years? What are you waiting for?

Seek's avatar

I agree with @dappled_leaves.

Italian is a very sexy language. Not, like, New York Italian… real Italian.

cookieman's avatar

@dappled_leaves & @Seek: I am terrible at languages. Always have been. That being said, there has been some osmosis.

For example, if I know the topic they’re discussing, I can follow the discussion in either Italian or Spanish. I also now know enough words and phrases in Italian to make small comments here and there, or ask a question or two. But it took me years to get this far. I’m just not wired for language.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I don’t mind at all. If I have been an alien in some conversations even when people are using my native tongue for such a long time and don’t mind at all, then why bother when the conversation is in another language?

DipanshiK's avatar

It depends. If it’s my family I am having a conversation with, then it’s probably harmless and not hurtful.
But if it’s someone with whom I don’t directly relate to or have any kind of intensive bonding with, then it can be rude considering the fact that they can always talk in private at a good time.

cazzie's avatar

I live in a metropolitan city. I speak two languages myself, but people speak Spanish, Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, all the time. I, myself, have no choice but to speak Norwegian to my friends when my boyfriend is around (who only speaks English), and then translate bits and try to invite him into the conversation. (For many of my friends here, Norwegian is their second language and they never learned enough English to get by…)

When I got here, 12 years ago, I had to put up with people talking Norwegian in front of me at full pace all the time, but I could catch enough of it to realise when I was the subject of the discussion. I can say it only really bothered me once, and the woman discussing me was being quite rude. When I wasn’t included, I zoned out and just got lost in my thoughts. It was peaceful. I realise now I was getting in touch with my introvert side. You get over it. I suggest to anyone it bothers, get over it.

Gabby101's avatar

My husband and his friends speak English as a second language and when together they speak another language because it comes easier to them. I don’t actually mind because I understand how hard second languages are. What I DO mind is when people will stop the conversation to ask if I’m bored or make a big fuss about me being bored no matter how many times I say I don’t mind. If they’re so concerned, then why don’t they just switch to English? What’s rude is to point out to everyone at the party that they think I’m the one person not having fun, have everyone stop and stare at me and throw out a few words of English and then go back to their conversations.

I’m able to self entertain for long periods of time, but I guess that’s not the norm.

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