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Overheard conversations in languages people assumed others didn't understand.

Overheard conversations are the best, especially if the conversations are about you and people assumed you didn't understand the language they were speaking. We at The Language Nerds compiled some of the funniest and unexpected real stories that happened to real people. I will let these people speak to you about the conversations they overheard in a language people assumed they didn't understand. 


"I was at a bar in Scotland, sipping my drink, whilst my friend had gone to the restroom. Two guys around my age came in and stood a few feet away from me. I noticed them looking at me.

#1: She’s hot! Reckon I could get her to come home with me haha?
#2: I dunno like, these foreigners can be a bit stuck up.
#1: Want to bet on it? £5 says I have her number by the end of the night.
#2: A tenner says you can’t!

So guy number 1 walks over. And in very slowly enunciated English he offers to buy me a drink and points to my empty glass just to reinforce what he had said.

I’ve had a few already by this point so I’m in a pretty happy mood and decide to ride this out. I nod silently and we get drinks. He takes his phone out and points to me, points to himself, points to his phone and then hands me his phone whilst speaking in the same tone, “You give me your number.” I take his phone and open the ‘Notes’ app.

I type “You owe your friend £10” and hand back his phone to him.

His face dropped to the floor and he went bright red, bless him. I began laughing as he profusely apologized and assumed that my blonde hair, blue eyes meant I was Latvian or some other Eastern European nationality.

My friend appeared back at this point and I filled her in. They offered us drinks as an apology and they got a long lecture on ‘betting’ on women from me and my friend!"


"I was shopping in a sports store in Boulder Colorado in the 1990s. For those of you not familiar with Boulder, it was about 95% white, 4% Hispanic, and 1% a mix of everything else.

My friend Rick is 6′2″, blue-eyed, and curly haired. I’m 6′5″, and we are both clearly very white. Of course, Rick spent 3 years in Japan teaching English - after having gained fluency in Japanese before going abroad.

There is a mom and son in the store near us. Both are Japanese and conversing exclusively in Japanese. The son is being an obnoxious pain in the butt, as spoiled kids often are when they are in public and want something that their parent isn’t giving them. This goes on for about 3 minutes near us, with the mom giving the most pathetic efforts at discipline to control her son.

Finally, after he says something very rude to her, she replies “That isn’t appropriate. Don’t say that.

He replies “Why? It doesn’t matter, we’re speaking Japanese!

Her half-hearted retort, out of desperation and with no sincerity, is “You never know who can speak Japanese.

Standing only 10 feet away, my friend replies, without looking up, in perfect Japanese, “You are right, you never know.

As we walked away, trying to suppress a big fat grin, both mom and son were staring with their mouths wide open, never having thought for a moment that ANYONE else in Boulder, much less either of these 2 very white dudes, actually could speak Japanese."


"Three guys spoke about me in my mother tongue assuming that I cannot understand them.

I was traveling to India from UK via Dubai. The flight from Birmingham to Dubai was full and my seat was towards the rear end. By the time I got near my seat, all the overhead lockers were full and I was struggling to fit my carry on. There were three guys sitting behind my seat and they were talking loudly in my mother tongue assuming I do not know the language.

Guy1: "Look at that girl in front of us and how she is struggling with the luggage."
Guy2: "Stupid girl, why get such a bag."

By then, the air hostess came to me and asked me to follow her to the front of the aircraft. She asked me to place the bag in a small cupboard where they hung their coats. She told me to take it when we land. I thanked her and came back to my seat.

Guy1: "Look, she is back. I wonder where they kept her bag."
Guy3: "I hope they kept it in one of the toilets."

All three laugh and give each other a high five. All through the conversation, I was quiet and did not react. Throughout the flight, they were making comments about me and laughing. Finally, we got down in Dubai and I saw them again near the gate to my connecting flight.

Guy1: "Hey Hi!!"
ME: "Hi"
Guy3: "So, where did you keep your luggage during the last flight?" (He asked me in English).
ME: "As you said, they kept it in the toilet." (I replied perfectly in my mother tongue).

I leave the guys' reaction to your imagination."


"I have taught myself German, for the most part, over the past 3 years. I have also had a few weeks of classes here and there, but foster care kind of messes with your plans.

So, I’m in a place where almost no one speaks German. I am stuck in my own world, thinking half in German, texting in German every day. I live in the South-East of the USA, where Spanish is more common as the second language.

Every week, I have to get two allergy shots (for the next 2 years) because of my severe grass and tree allergies. I was sitting in the waiting room, playing on my phone. A very tall man comes in, and for some reason he caught my attention as he checked in, but I shrugged it off and kept looking at my phone. A few seconds later, he walked past me to sit in a chair that was perpendicular to me.

He’s talking on the phone, and honestly I tried to listen for a second— I had no choice, he was loud about it. If any of you speak another language, you may relate to what I’m about to say— my brain was so confused when I didn’t hear English. So I switched to try to pick up Spanish words (my boyfriend is Puerto Rican, so I’m very familiar with how it sounds), but then I realized something crazy— I was UNDERSTANDING what he was saying. He was speaking in German. Excited, I listened to his conversation, and it made me laugh. It went something like this:

Yeah, I have to host that damn Christmas party at my house. Yeah you can bring a friend, but not __________ because she’s a bitch. No one wants to see her, even Mom said so. I guess she can be nice, but she’ll just drink all of my beer again.”

I was laughing to myself, and when the man was called back, he walked past me. The look of shock when he saw my “Deutschland” shirt on with the flag was priceless. He quickly said “Verstehst du mich?” (Do you understand me?) And I grinned “Ja ich verstehe dich.”(Yes, I understand you).

He walked off to his appointment with a very embarrassed face."c


"I was at a store in Mexico, waiting my turn to pay. There was a group of men beside me, at one meter distance, in the row next to mine. They were Greek tourists and, of course, assumed that nobody else spoke the language.

They were describing how they were going “to have sex with me” that night, in a grotesque and explicit way. Also, they were laughing and talking very loudly, as if the funniest part was the fact that I could not understand what they were saying about me.

I finally looked at them and said, in Greek, and with complete indifference “Sorry to interrupt your conversation, but it’s your turn to pay, and people are waiting.

The look on their faces was priceless.

What did they do? They put their heads down, said nothing, and did not seem to be so sure of themselves, after all."


  1. I was married to a high-caste Balinese wife for some years and was shopping in the local tourist area.
    Having done my bargaining everybody was happy but a local non-Balinese decided to suggest that I was extremely stingy and not looking after the locals, all in "refined" Balinese.
    I said nothing whilst I had a cigarette then eventually let him know I had understood every word he had said and to be very careful about whom he spoke.
    Very embarrased, he scuttled off immediatelu to the laughter of everybody listening

  2. I was on holiday in Spain, with my family and some friends and their family. We (4 teenage dutchspeaking girls) went to have a drink with our parents. Our parents sitting together at a table and we 4, of course, at a different one ... We were talking in dutch in loud voices about another tourist at the next table ... How he was dressed really foolishly, his t-shirt and short didn't match and he had ugly sandals and so on ... Our parents said to keep our voices down, because although we were in a different country, there is always the possibility someone understands what you're saying ... As the waiter came along with our lunch, the other tourist paid his bill, stands up, turns around and wishes us a pleasant diner (in dutch) ... We all turned bright red and didn't speak for the rest of the meal.

  3. Not quite another language, but I lip read exceedingly well as I am partly deaf, and known not to be able to hear low voices in a busy room. (I have rudimentary Spanish also due to my aunt - but not really had any notable understanding occurrences as yet.) Had many times where conversations assumed to be outside of my hearing have been perfectly understood by me with results from the hilarious to the quite upsetting. Mostly I do not react - I expect that is a similar thing to hearing and understanding something you are not supposed to in another language...

  4. Oh man ! Reminds me of that time I was at the supermarket here in Manila and I was in front of two French-speaking guys. I guess one of them noticed me because this conversation ensued (in French):

    Guy 1: Dude ! That girl in front of us ! Check her out !
    Guy 2: Oh, man ! Nice a** !
    Guy 1: Man, I could get with that....

    What they didn't know is that at that time, I'd already been taking French classes for a year and a half and reached a B1 level (Intermediate). So, I couldn't help saying back in French "Uhm,,,thanks, guys...I guess ?!". Needless to say, the guys were beet red and kept quiet after that.

  5. I was born & raised in the Philippines. Although with dark hair & eyes, I look extremely Caucasian. People always speak to me in English. I was taught to always reply in whatever language we started off with, so I always reply in English. I was there for the first 19 years of my life. I can't count how many times people had to discover the hard way, that my mother tongue is Tagalog. So many freaked out faces, even now, when I hang out in Filipino chat rooms online so I'd never forget my mother tongue despite living in Europe for the past 12 years & learning other languages.

  6. Back in 1980's, we, my family and I, were travelling on a sea cruise tour in the Greek islands. For the duration of the trip we were talking in our native Arabic. My late mother kept making fun of an overweight Greek woman sitting by her side on the boat deck.
    My mother (in Arabic): Hey kids look how thin I am compared to my friend sitting beside me. This is the first time I feel thin.
    When we reached our final destination and the tour ended, the Greek woman stood up and talked to my Mother, in perfect Arabic, "I've lived in Egypt all my life and I understood every single word you have just said." I still remember the stunned look on my mother's face.


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