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Linguaholic

Looks can be deceptive...


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So the other day, I was talking to some people when all of a sudden, this Hispanic looking person wanted to join our conversation but didn't really talk at first. I thought she didn't speak any English at all so I just made hand motions to invite her to our conversation.

Well.. you know what happens next. She said "Thanks a lot, but you know I can speak perfect English!"

I was so shocked because I didn't expect her to speak ANY English at all.

Did this ever happen to you?

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Yeah here in Kenya the native tribal tongues are spoken openly. I am native Kikuyu but never really speak it . Therefore, most people do not take it that I can speak  let alone understand. Therefore, its quite funny when people switch to it to hide what they are saying. One time that happened and told them that I still understand them. I never saw people so humiliated.

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I can't remember this happening to me before. I've seen situations like this in TV and movies though. I guess the best thing to do is just ask. My cousin, who is of Spanish decent, can speak decent Chinese, since his girlfriend for many years is from a Chinese family that speak mandarin at home. Don't judge a book by it's cover right? :smile:

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That sort of situations happen to me sometimes because I work in a university and we have a lot of foreign students, so if a Chinese looking guy comes to me I never know if he will speak English or perfectly normal Portuguese... (I am in Portugal).  :wacky:

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I have experienced this when talking to a new Japanese acquaintance that I did not realize had lived in my country before for the majority of his life before moving back to Japan. I tried talking to him in English and he seemed to be having a hard time, eventually he spoke in my native language and I was very much surprised. Sufficed to say, we our conversation got a lot easier after that.

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Never happened to me, but that must have been funny! What did happen to me once in San Francisco was that me and my friend were at Macy's and talking about perfumes in front of the sales guy. He was suggesting stuff in English, obviously, but we would make comments between ourselves in Portuguese. Then suddenly out of the blue he starts talking in Portuguese with us as well.. good thing we didn't say anything bad about him  :angel:

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That sounds pretty funny, I've only seen this on TV, not in real life; saying that, I don't think that this has ever happened to me. I would feel very embarrassed if this ever happened to me though; putting in so much effort to talk to a person, when in the end they speak the same language as you and communicate perfectly fine. I also live in Canada like zambothegreat and so I usually automatically assume that a majority can speak English.

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This happens to me where my husband would bring me to meet up his friends,coworkers and they'd whisper him 'does she speak English' and I'd say 'Yes I do'. I pretended I didn't speak my mother tongue when I stayed in a hotel with my date who was American. Why? the service was better if they thought you're foreigner because they'd try to get a lot of tips from you  :punk:

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Hahaha! :laugh: This hasn't happened to me, but I have done this to another person. It was also a hispanic person. I live in Los Angeles and some Mexican ladies don't speak any English. Some get mad if you don't speak Spanish (and look Mexican) so I started speaking Spanish to a lady and she got offended. It just made me laugh. I'm Native American and my whole life I had Mexican ladies give me dirty looks for not speaking or understanding Spanish.

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I'm a 6'2" white guy and I speak fluent Spanish, so this happens to me quite frequently actually. When I started my current job, several people were speaking about me in Spanish in the break room. They weren't saying anything bad, just talking about me. I joined in in Spanish and everyone got really embarrassed.

I also surprise people in Mexican restaurants all the time. It's enjoyable, I like showing off.

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I live in southern California.  This never happened to me, but sort of the reverse.  I have dark hair and am of Mediterranean descent and over and over people came up and started speaking Spanish to me.  So I think people do make assumptions based on appearance.

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When I was a kid, there's this group of kids who look caucasian. Most of them were my friends and they do speak Tagalog but one time, one of their relatives came by. I thought she'd be different so I was talking to her in English. It's funny because she replied in Tagalog and she also played "piko," a local game, with us. It was pretty funny.

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Yes, that has happened to me before as well. You are right though, looks can be very deceiving when trying to perceive someone. Sometimes people look as if they have never left their foreign country, but that does not mean that can't speak your native language. Can't judge a book by its cover.

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I never assume someone can't speak english based on their looks, if I ever do that they'd then assume I'm a somewhat racist person, and to be honest I'd not blame them.  I never assume someone can't speak english unless they give me a clear sign they can't.  I'd never do that because they'd surely feel like I really disrespected them.

A lot hispanic can speak english, not because they're ''hispanic'' (by the way, that's a very wrong term) it means they can only speak spanish.  It'd be like assuming an asian looking guy only speaks chinese.

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You're right you know. At times people's look can say opposite of who they really are. That's why it's important that we don't look down or underrate anyone because you never can tell what they're capable of doing. They may just surprise you big time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It have not yet experience something like that. But there is one episode I had watched on a reality television series of interviewing foreign people living in the Philippines he was an American by his looks but when he talked he sounds like a true Filipino because he was very fluent speaking the Tagalog language considering he was residing there for only one year. And he was amazing and I really admire people who are fluent to other languages besides their native language.

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I have a cousin who is half german and half filipino. His german blood is more dominant in terms of his physical appearance. Everytime he visits Philippines, when I introduce him to new friends they are always shy or afraid to talk to him. Since they assumed that he doesn't know how to speak tagalog. It's funny that when he speak tagalog, you can see how shocked they are. My cousin can speak tagalog, german, english and italian. :wink:

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  • 6 months later...

Your experience doesn't come as a surprise to me. Most nations have people of different ethnic group so basically looking at a person to determined the languages they speak would be beyond the ordinary. I had a similar experience years ago but I wasn't surprised, just proud. There was this one Jamaican woman working among several Hispanics in the business place and her communication was as fluent as theirs.

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