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Are you ever emberassed about this?


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I was at a dentist office today while waiting for my siblings to have a checkup when a woman and her children came to sit next to me. They were lovely people and I could halfway understand them and I wanted to ask questions about the words I didn't know but I felt too embarrassed to ask because I didn't really know her well. I felt like it would've been rude to do so for some reason. Has this happened to anyone else?

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Definitely!  I always feel like I shouldn't join in their conversations because if they're talking in a different language they probably don't want others in their conversation.  It's a shame because it's such a good way to practice a language..but I'm always too shy to try to engage with strangers...especially in a language I'm still shaky in!

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I have had persons next to me speaking in a language I know little or nothing of and I wished I understood a little more. However, I don't feel lead to join their conversation or ask what they are saying. To me that would be a bit rude or inquisitive to get involved.

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It has never happened to me. But if in case it would, I would feel awkward to ask because they would know I was eavesdropping. I, myself, don't want people being nosy in my affairs. You know, just looking or staring at me and my family. I hate that! Sometimes, I want to tell them off that staring is rude. But I haven't gotten the guts either. However, I show my annoyance. So I'll not try to do it to others even if I don't mean any harm.

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I don't why but hardly ever get embarrassed. I simply talk in whichever way I know best, especially if there is a situation that requires fast action. Usually, people don't care if you make any language mistakes, what they really is that you care about them.

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Oh definitely! I'm a little shy about such things, if the person seems especially friendly or open, I might explain that I'm not 100% fluent yet and don't recognize a few words, but otherwise I'm unlikely to ask someone I don't know very well.

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Hmmm, if you're going to butt in as if you're part of the strangers' conversation. Then, I guess that can qualify as rude and there's a reason to be embarrassed about it. But if you'll go about asking them politely that you are trying to learn their language. Then, there's no reason to be embarrassed about it. You can always start by stating that you can't helped but overhear them speaking the language you are trying to learn and if they don't mind you would be very much happy to get their help with certain words. I think if you open that way, then the strangers will be more than willing to help you and won't find your butting in as intrusion to their conversation.

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Never happened to me, but if it's a general discussion, I'll jump in. If they're saying something that I could relate to, I don't see it as rude to talk to them. You're just making casual conversation, nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think maybe she would probably be impressed that you would speak to her in her language or at least attempted to. From what my Japanese professor once said, if you try to speak to them in their language, they'll think highly of you because you took the time to talk to them in the appropriate tongue.

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When I was so much younger, I was afraid to ask about so many things. Today I ask anything from anyone if it captures my attention. Sometime back I asked two girls what language they were speaking. They were from Sweden.

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It's happened to me before and i usually just stay out of it and if i really wanted to talk to them in their language then id just wait for a better time. If i somehow felt from their conversation that they would welcome someone jumping in then I'd consider it but generally speaking, I wouldn't.

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  • 1 month later...

First off, if I didn't know them it's a resounding no; I wouldn't do anything of the sort! It just wouldn't be good etiquette LOL I mean, you're not even supposed to hear or make it known you're listening to their conversation. I see no reason to feel embarrassed about it, they probably didn't even notice you.

But if you were in a social group with friends and friends of friends, that's acceptable.

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I wouldn't join in to a conversation if I don't know the people.  If they address something to me, then yes, I'll respond, but I just don't want to get into their business trying to prove that I know their language when in fact I'm not fluent yet.  It's great to be interested in people, and it's good to be sociable, but I usually don't feel like inserting myself into a random conversation.

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That same scenario has happened to me a couple of times, but I really couldn't care less about what they were talking about. As long as they do not inconvenience me in any way, or if I don't have something important to say, then I don't feel a need to start small chats with strangers or foreigners in public.

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to me, that would be a little rude.  Not only are you butting into a private conversation, but then you are asking them to be a teacher.  In a best case scenerio, the only thing I might do is wait until they were done talking, then greet them in the language and go from there... but I would never ask anyone out of the blue to help me learn.

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I was at a dentist office today while waiting for my siblings to have a checkup when a woman and her children came to sit next to me. They were lovely people and I could halfway understand them and I wanted to ask questions about the words I didn't know but I felt too embarrassed to ask because I didn't really know her well. I felt like it would've been rude to do so for some reason. Has this happened to anyone else?

This hasn't happened specifically to me but it has happened to a friend of mine! I don't think you should have been shy or even embarrassed at all. I think that the woman would probably have appreciated your efforts in trying to learn her native language and would have been more than happy to help you out. My friend's situation turned out exactly like that.

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I think once or twice. When a family or a group of friends are next to me who speaks different language. I find it interesting and want to strike up a conversation but first off.. they may misunderstood my intentions specially if we have different cultures. I’m afraid if they’ll consider me rude for intruding and the like.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think it all depends on the personality of the person talking as well as the situation.  If you see that the person actually appears rather strict, then just make assumptions that he will not be willing to talk.  Also, if it's a public place that does not encourage loud discussions, then maybe it's also not a good option to engage in conversations.  It really all depends on the context. 

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I wouldn't join in to a conversation if I don't know the people.  If they address something to me, then yes, I'll respond, but I just don't want to get into their business trying to prove that I know their language when in fact I'm not fluent yet.  It's great to be interested in people, and it's good to be sociable, but I usually don't feel like inserting myself into a random conversation.

Yeah, it would be very awkward, and additionally knowing the same language does not automatically mean that they do indeed want to carry a conversation with you so it's best to just keep it to yourself unless addressed. I'd maybe jump in if I overhear them needing some help but if they are just having a conversation then I'd stay out of it.

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Of course! I'd seem very nosy if I did that, and if someone did that to me while talking to my children in Spanish... I'd also take it as a rude intrusion. But of course, some people don't think that kind of things are a big deal, but others do and take it very seriously.  It's better to leave people doing that alone. 

By the way, I don't completely agree with the member who said that most people talking in a foreigner language are doing it so no one around can understand them. That is not always the case, it's just some people rather communicate in their mother language, specially with their children,  because most of us people living in foreigner countries think is important for our kids to grow up being bilingual.  What better way to do that than always speaking in that language at home? After all they get to practice their host language a lot outside the house.

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to me, that would be a little rude.  Not only are you butting into a private conversation, but then you are asking them to be a teacher.  In a best case scenerio, the only thing I might do is wait until they were done talking, then greet them in the language and go from there... but I would never ask anyone out of the blue to help me learn.

Same here, Pete. I'd never dare to listen to someone conversation and then ask them what ''x' word mean, that would be scandalous and wouldn't blame them for thinking I'm super rude and nosy. No way I'd ever do that!  It is so disrespectful in my opinion, because as you said, it's like you are expecting them to act like a teacher even tho they're just having a PRIVATE conversation with their loved ones, just because they're in a private setting that doesn't mean we have the right to sneak into their conversations.

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  • 4 weeks later...

In a case like that I probably wouldnt either so I don't blame you. But keep in mind that a lot of people would really enjoy to hear their native language spoken by someone else and be happy to help you out. People really appreciate it when people, especially english-centric Americans, try to learn their language.

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  • 3 weeks later...

No, I haven't experience the same yet. But if I do, I will probably not interrupt them too as I'll feel awkward about it and a little rude. I mean, they are having a private conversation and who am I to butt in, much more I am still in the process of learning the language. There are other ways of practicing the language.

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to me, that would be a little rude.  Not only are you butting into a private conversation, but then you are asking them to be a teacher.  In a best case scenerio, the only thing I might do is wait until they were done talking, then greet them in the language and go from there... but I would never ask anyone out of the blue to help me learn.

Exactly, petesede, for me this is the only way of looking at it; it's just rude!  I mean, you don't even know these people, they're random people you've just seen! They may not want to be interrupted, you just don't know what they're doing there and why they're there. The last thing I'd want to do is to impose myself on them, and invade their space. It would just be a very strange thing to do, in my opinion.

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