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Is it bad etiquette to speak a foreign language in the presence of people who don't speak said language?

by Vee (follow)
Social (107)      Etiquette (55)      Communication (25)      Language (23)     

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.

I've had this happen to me in the presence of two young men. I felt ridiculous and very self-conscious.

Is it rude to speak another language in front of people who don't speak it too?

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Top Answers
Only if you are part of the group or conversation. If you were part of a group or discussion, and then they start talking to each other in another langauge, it is a bit rude, but if they have nothing to do with you, then I don't think it is.
If the people speak English as well, then it is one of the big etiquette mistakes to make.
It tells the people around, that they do not want to have them hear what they are saying.
This of course then also tells those around that they 'may' also be talking about that person.
I just 'understood' the Picture you posted? it took a while...lol.
Very smart. :)
by jonaja
LOL, thanks jonaj.
by Vee
Hi Jonaj.....
Great pic of Tower of Babel'! Haven't seen that since did Art classes!
by donjo
:-) Thanks.
by Vee
I'm afraid I have been guilty of doing this on many occasions.
It is usually when in a crowd of people I do not know however.

Also some people just find it easier to speak their national tongue -this used to happen when I managed a shop with a lot of boat people -they kept slipping back into their own language to each other as this was obviously far easier for them.

I would explain that it is a bit rude if they do this when there are customers in the shop but because their english in some cases was so bad, they often forgot.

It IS sometimes rude but with all the multi cultural people here in Australia nowadays, it really does not worry me.

And it is great when they are speaking the language I can speak and I can understand them!
by Finy
I do not appreciate when somebody does that. I consider it not thoughtful , even if you are not talking about the other person. It leaves the other person looking at you blank and thinking what could it mean.
I have had this happen with me multiple times even at work, and I tried to complain about it. Not that it changed anything. These things need to be taken seriously by HR at work atleast.
by BK
I find it slightly discomforting when people speak another language while in my presence. The people I know who do this most often are Chinese merchants who operate family business. They tend to communicate in their native tongue with each other. I think this is ok as I can see from their body language that the brief conversations directly relate to business aat hand. However, I really wished I knew what they were saying. After all thye can understand everything that I'm saying.
Would it be rude of me to speak english in front of people who don't? Even if I speak their language, no it isn't rude. It does require extra attention to body language, but it isn't rude. I don't have any right to know what people are talking about unless they want me to know. Yes, it might be awkward but that's my problem, not theirs.
Good points meggf.
by Vee
Of course it is. Just like it's rude to whisper in company. Of course, the people speaking the foreign language may not have any knowledge of English, so can't do anything other than speaking their own tongue. Then again, if they had no English they probably wouldn't be living in a foreign country, they would probably just be visiting and so then it probably shouldn't worry you.
But I have worked with people, I have commented on their using their own language at the work station, they have told me that it is simply easier for them to use their own language and I have told them that that is probably why their accent is still so strong and that other people in the workplace face difficulty in communicating with them. In other words - I think that is a lazy and rude habit to adopt.
Most definitely! How rude, if you were part of group conversing. Funny how people who do this think it's 'smart'. They might do it in their so-called 'culture', but we don't do that here!

Remember story about a priest, who could fluently speak SEVEN languages, was in a cab, & the 'cabbie' had his 'mate' in the front passenger seat. Throughout the cab ride they were jabbering away in xyz language about the priest.
Upon arrival at destination, priest paid his cab fare & then said a sentence to them in their own language! They both left maybe wiser people!
I have heard many stories like this. Reversed situation though. Passenger remarks that driver is ugly in her own tongue. Upon arrival at destination, driver turns around and wishes her a lovely day in her native language.
by Vee
I think it is extremely rude to converse in a language some people in a group don't understand. It would only be acceptable if someone was translating, from English for example, into the spoken language of another person so they could participate in a conversation.
Many, many years ago I was in a bakery and two french guys were making "off" comments about a girl who was, of course, totally oblivious. I stood quietly and then said, in their language, "Gosh it's disgusting in here, let's go" . . . . . I looked right at them and they nearly died. LOL. One should always know a few words here and there. Hahahahaha.
by Rice
Great story, great guts, Rice. Good on you for saying something. I hope they were mortified to their very cores!
by Vee
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