General Question

Introverted_Leo's avatar

How would you feel if someone insisted in speaking a foreign language around you, even though you absolutely knew they could speak your language?

Asked by Introverted_Leo (1957points) June 9th, 2009

Other than my hispanic friends just being jerks because they can be and still be considered my friends at the end of the day, lol…I haven’t really experienced a whole lot of this before. I know context makes a difference—whether you’re in their native land or they are in yours, if you are friends or strangers, etc.

In any case, I wonder if anyone else has experienced this in their travels around the world, or even at home? What was your situation? And what do you think are some reasons why people might do this? I just think it’s interesting.

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25 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

Happens all the time. Some people just feel more comfortable communicating in their own language. I never assume I am being talked about.

And, I just expect people in other countries to speak their own language. Afterall, America is sooo tolerant of people speaking languages other than english.~

Darwin's avatar

Although they may speak your language, they probably are more comfortable in their own. If their conversation does not involve you, then they may simply be opting for what is easiest.

And if I were traveling around the world I would definitely expect them to speak their own language first. It is their country, not mine, so why should I “expect” anyone to automatically speak my language.

I happen to speak fluent Spanish, yet I do not look like a typical Hispanic. I find people will often speak Spanish in front of me without stopping to think that I might understand them. Very. very rarely do they say anything about me. Usually, it is just personal conversation, stuff like “How was your uncle’s party?” and “How about them Cowboys?”

Even if it is about me, I rarely jump in. However, sometimes if a mutual friend is present they may tell the Spanish speakers that I speak Spanish. Then they usually get all embarassed.

Jude's avatar

When I went to visit my ex (who was my g/f at the time), she and friends (who were all Hispanic) would at times speak Spanish around me. Like the others have said, they probably felt more comfortable speaking in their native language. At times, she and her boys (her gays) would be speaking Spanish and there were smiles, giggles and all eyes were on me. Who knows what they were saying. :)

Lupin's avatar

It’s more work to speak in your non-native language and the usage is never as rich. I speak Japanese but I am a native English speaker. When I was in a group of 2 or more Japanese I would insist they speak in Japanese. Who cares if I miss something? It made the evening easier and more fun for them. That said, they would always try to accommodate me and throw a few bones my way. I learned a lot. ;-)
If they were jerks about language they were usually jerks about other things too. I figured it was no loss.

MrGV's avatar

Yes, and I could care less about what they say.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I see it all the time and it doesn’t bother me much, I wouldn’t take it as a sign of rudeness unless I was feeling purposely ignored or excluded to my face. Usually it’s been the people are excited to relax and share their languages and feel comfortable enough around me to do so. It’s given me the opportunity to learn and enjoy… they’d be thrilled if I could actually learn better.

Darwin's avatar

The only time it bothers me when my in-laws speak Japanese in front of me is when they keep using the word gaijin (foreign person) and then get suddenly quiet and stare at me when they remember that I am in the room.

Otherwise, I don’t care what they are saying.

FutureMemory's avatar

It’s a bummer because I’m a nosy bastard, but other than that more power to ‘em.

Lupin's avatar

@Darwin I would say: “Ii ii Shimpai de nai yo. Zen zen wakaranai yo.” That always lightened things up. (Practice before you do it, so it comes out really smooth with perfect inflections.)

Ivan's avatar

Should they be expected to speak English simply because you happen to be around?

Darwin's avatar

@Lupin – I refuse to say it unless I know what I am saying. Besides, I don’t have much in common with them except my husband, and even he doesn’t like them very much.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

Mi amigo Pedro le gusta mucho la cerveza Bud-Lite… this what you mean?

Mr_Callahan's avatar

Mi amiga Margarita le gustan mucho los hombres.

sap82's avatar

In my opinion, people have the choice to include you or exclude you from a conversation by speaking a different language. However, perhaps there is no malice intended and they just simply fall into a specific language more naturally than others. If they are deliberately degrading you by excluding you, then maybe they aren’t as good a friend as you hoped. I would suggest learning the language. Brush up on subjects of interest to you and your friends that speak a different language. Maybe then you will surprise them when you have the knowledge and ability to add some input to the conversation one day when they thought the discussion was personal.

Lupin's avatar

@Darwin I would never say anything impolite. You know that!

It means (in friendly casual): “It’s Ok, It’s Ok, Don’t worry. I don’t understand a thing.”
The humor -if you can pull it off -is that you are saying it in a manner that only someone well versed in the language would. (a native speaker)

It’s like having your MIL suddenly turn to you and say: “Chillax Gurl, We Cool!”

kheredia's avatar

What I find pretty ridiculous is when the other person insists on speaking English when they know I speak Spanish and their English is not very good to start with. There’s been times I’ve noticed the heavy accent on some people and I’ll respond in Spanish thinking they would probably be more comfortable speaking their native language and they’ll just continue in English as if I’ve offended them. Well excuse me for trying to be helpful!

wildflower's avatar

Anytime I’m with my husband (native English speaker) and my parents (English as 3rd language), there will be conversations in our/my native (Faroese) language. Considering my parents don’t speak English regularly or all that well, I usually have to help them find the occasional word – and for a conversation that may be of no interest to my husband (such as: our old neighbor bought my cousins boat last week), it’s just more hassle than it’s worth – even for my husband to try to fake an interest and staying in the conversation.
It’s not rude, it’s not uncomfortable, it’s just the way it is – when something needs to be said so all present understand, it can and will be, so there’s really no loss.

Lupin's avatar

@kheredia Often that would happen to me. I would always let the Japanese person speak English if they wanted. This is their big chance. I just go with the flow and when they get stuck I use the Japanese word. No big thing.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@Ivan: of course not, but it does put you in an odd posistion. I ask out of curiosity to see what others have to say about it, not necessarily because I find it offensive or because I’m a closed-minded American that expects everyone else to cater to her.


At least not for the most part. :P

@Mr_Callahan: sorry, buddy, but I actually understood all of that. :P But yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Lurve for you.

@sap82: I took a little Spanish in high school, but it just wasn’t something I could get into. I can pick out general meanings if they aren’t talking incredibly fast, but I don’t have much of a desire to actually speak it. Unless I were dropped off in the middle of a Spanish-speaking country and left there for like a year and left to fend for myself, unfortunately I don’t think I’d pick up the language on my own, lol. Idk, it was one of those high school credit things, so I took it. And so now my friends sometimes like to lose me in their fast-talking conversations on purpose. Which is fine ‘cause I know they do it just for fun. Though they do like to make me feel guilty for not speaking it.

But I’ve also heard stories from other people, somewhat similar to what @kheredia mentioned, where you try to speak the language out of courtesy but they reply back in yours. I laugh when I hear this, but something like that seems rather mean to me. I mean, yeah, it can be funny hearing someone who’s new to a language try and speak it, but not giving them a chance at all…?

<sighs> And then you have people who can sit in the internet cafe typing in French, talking on their cellphone in Spanish then occassionally say stuff to the guy next to them in English. Idk, I just find this all fascinating ‘cause I’m around English speakers for the most part. I guess if you spoke more than one language fluently it wouldn’t seem so amazing, but I’m not one of those people.

Which compels me to ask random questions, like this!

Supacase's avatar

One of my all-time BFFs is a Hispanic woman who used to work with me. If someone would start speaking with her in Spanish while I was present, she would ask them if they speak English. If they said they do, she would begin speaking in English and explain to them that I do not understand Spanish and she does not want to be rude to me. I always thought that was exceptionally thoughtful of her.

Sunybunny's avatar

My bff and her Mom akslways speak spanish arounnd me. i kind of think its cool. sometimes her Mom will speak Spanish to me, just to tease. If I know what she is saying I’ll answer back in spanish.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Happens all the time. It seems there’s not too many left in Australia that speak English. I just drop in the occasional “what did you say? I missed it.”

AnnieOakley's avatar

Whenever I get my toes done, I swear the toe girls are talking about the customers in Vietnamese. I’m absolutelty positive of it. I have threatened many times to learn the language, then listen, and respond just before I leave – in their language….too time consuming to learn an enitre language for that purpose. I did get them to teach me how to count to 20 last time I was in though…I thought we should make the whole “toe-doing” thing more fun and informative while keeping the “making fun of the white girl” thing to a minimum.

El_Perseguidor's avatar

I am from Guatemala, we have 23 different languages or tongues , 21 of them has Mayan roots but sound very different, the other is African language who speak people of the north of the country mostly black people, and Spanish. When I use to to be salesman traveling for the country a lot of times I was in a bus with people talking different. So I learned some words it help me a lot but still… I am learning English now and I am practicing here right now. I believe that if you don’t understand… Do something about it! You are not going to be an expert but communication is the goal!

Chrissie2011's avatar

It does indeed fell really awful to have people chatting away at length in another language when they can communicate in English and know you understand nothing of what they say. As manners are designed to make people feel comfortable, it is really bad manners to do this. I am having this experience at the moment with a young Chinese student who has moved into my home and she has almost moved her boyfriend in too. He is here all the time and they talk and talk and talk and talk. Day in and day out, talk talk talk. I have no idea what they say. I have been trying to understand why they would do this and read another blog site where people complained about Chinese doing this. Chinese bloggers on the site got quite angry. The angry Chinese bloggers in turn complained about people complaining about them doing this. Said it was rude to complain and showed no respect to the Chinese. this is an interesting point and may indicate the effects of the Chinese one child policy – partcularly for men. Only child boys are known as little emperors because their parents treat them like royalty. Even if they don’t get the royal treatment, only children have difficulty in relationships as they can’t compromise well and have little empathy for others. It will be interesting to see the effects of this lack of social skills and empathy for others long term. Chinese friends I had 39 years ago were entirely different, but they were from large families in Singapore and Malaysia. Socialising with them was really lovely. occasionally they would break into a bit of chinese amongst themselves, but it was never at length and more so they could put their head together better because English was their second language.

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