Of all the wonderful things that come with understanding multiple languages, knowing when someone is talking crap about you behind your back has got to be the best. Here are seven stories from people on Quora who had the incredible satisfaction of catching sh*t-talkers in the act.

1. ​Tre Critelli taught some students that nowhere is safe to talk crap, not even Iowa.

It was 1993 and I had just returned from living in Japan and was back in Iowa, browsing the shelves in a local bookstore when I happened to overhear two Japanese students commenting to each other about the other customers. Basically two teenagers presuming they were safe because who in Des Moines, Iowa--especially in 1993--could understand them? Well, me, it turned out.

I waited a few minutes, listening to them as they made their comments. My Japanese wasn’t good enough to understand everything they were saying, but I got the gist of it as they talked about how fat one person was and how ugly another was. They referred to their targets as “gaijin” which is Japanese for a foreigner or an “outside person.” Quora has debated whether or not it is a derogatory term, but suffice to say that “alien” would have a similar connotation in English.

Then it came to me. I waited until after they had made another comment about a “gaijin” and then I said somewhat loudly in Japanese, “Don’t forget that in this country, YOU are the gaijin.” There was instant silence from their side of the aisle. I am sure that the two of them were freaked out that someone had not only overheard them, but had also understood what they were saying. Moments later they left the store in a hurry. That was more than 20 years ago and I still laugh every time I think of it!


2. ​Justin Na was happy to help a few insulting tourists.

I was visiting Turkey in 2014. To be more precise, I was touring the Great Theatre of Ephesus .

I was taking a picture for my brother, who loves to post indie pictures on his Instagram. The idea of the picture was for him to sit far up on the stands, and I would take a picture of him looking into the distance. Here’s the picture if you want to see the masterpiece.

"He’s at the center of the shot, trying to look cool nonchalantly as possible."
"He’s at the center of the shot, trying to look cool nonchalantly as possible."

While trying to take the picture from multiple angles, I got in the background of a group’s selfie. The three women cussed me out quite loudly for ruining their perfect shot. They thought they were being sneaky by talking in Korean, but unknown to them, I was understanding all of their remarks. They called me rude, careless, without style, and lots of other horrible things people would say after someone ruins their selfie. The group probably didn’t think I spoke their language because I wasn’t dressed like a Korean. Native Koreans dress very nicely, and I was not dressed nicely at all.

But it gets better.

A few mins later, they needed a group photo taken by someone else. And guess who they asked? Yours truly.

They tried to ask me to take their photo, using key phrases like “take photo please,” “you can take photo?” They weren’t great English speakers, but they tried their best, and I wasn’t clueless so I got their gist.

I answered in Korean, “Nae, uh tukk hae kkic aw de lil ga yo?” (Yes, how would you like me to take it?)

Their faces were priceless. The mix of embarrassment, surprise, and confusion was hilarious.

After I took their pictures, they thanked me and apologized for their previous remarks, since they knew they talked loudly enough for me to hear them.

This experience has motivated me to learn more languages so I can reply if someone talks about me in another language!


3. Adrian Stone's father can stand up for himself in any language.

My father used to be a tie manufacturer’s salesman .One of his regular clients was an nice, old Italian tailor, Mr Pappaleo.

Mr P was ready to retire, liked my father a lot, and made an offer that my father couldn't refuse: to purchase his tailor + menswear store in the heart of Melbourne's Italian district, Lygon Street.

The transaction was done, and my father took the store over, modernised it and made it into an, at the time, iconic menswear store that was frequented by men of all ages.

Now, I should mention that my father was not Italian; but, he was Romanian, so he had dark hair and olive skin (I don't have either).

But, this true story did not happen in Italian, it happened in German. It just so happens that my father was fluent in German, and three or four other languages, as well.

One day an old couple came into his store. They spoke German amongst themselves (not having any reason to suspect that my father understood):

Husband: “I like these socks”

Wife: “How much are they?”

Husband: “$6”

Wife: “Give the stupid man behind the counter $4. He will take it.”

With his wife's approval, the husband took the pair of socks that he liked best off the rack and brought it to my father, who was still standing behind the counter:

My Father (in English): “How can I help you?”

Husband (in English): “Would you take $4 for these socks?”

My Father (switching to perfect German): “Those fine socks are $6 for the pair, and this stupid man will not be taking anything less. Would you like them wrapped, Sir?“

With a big smile and a knowing look (his head turned slightly, so that his wife could not see), the man gave my father the $6, collected his socks, and quietly left the store … now-silenced wife in tow.


4. Rajesh Podduturi never sweats the small stuff.

Delhi, I was travelling with a group of people, mixed ethnicity from different parts of world.

It was very hot and we were sweating profusely and we could not do anything about that.

We entered metro and there was a Telugu Girl and her mother .

They might have assumed no one would understand telugu and were talking loudly .


Mom , damn these people, they have surrounded us.

They are all stinky and we have to bear them now , sighs.

Mom:- come and stand this side , look they are sweating badly .

Followed by Some scoldings and weird comments on these foreigners with a smiling face and acting innocently.

I was standing right behind them, they were asked to get down and get in again because they were blocking entrance.

I whispered, in Telugu " don't get down , you won't be able to come in again"

Both of them were flabbergasted

In shocking state, she held her mother tightly and put her palm on her opened mouth and gasping for air, her mother started laughing .

I gave a wicked smile and walked out of the metro. Both of them put their heads down laughing at each other :P


5. Ankur Mehra had some wise words for arrogant Americans.

Happened with me at Castle Hill, Nice (France). So I was standing at one of the famous photo-stop at castle hill over looking beach to click some pictures. It was summer time and place was a bit crowded with people patiently waiting for their turn to click pictures. Here comes a group of young European students speaking in English. Somehow, one of the funny guy thought that I (who look like an Indian obviously) wouldn’t know English. He came up and asked his friends to click his picture and to ensure that the guy next to him (that’s me) doesn’t come in the picture. I overheard it, and moved a bit. Then he further said, I hope he doesn’t understand English. Then I couldn’t resist and replied to him saying that unluckily I do understand English and English should be the last language in the world to assume that the other person wouldn’t know. It was a fun moment and he was thoroughly embarrassed in front of his friends. :D


6. Benjamin Davis's prowess with languages made him very, very lucky.

I am fluent in English, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German. In the past 4 years, I had to travel quite a lot due to my work . Last year, I went to Atlanta, Georgia and stayed at a very nice hotel. Of course that I use English in the US (and Spanish in southern states, if need be). So haven’t spoke a word of anything else other than English, it would be difficult for someone to know what languages I speak.

Now comes the funny part. The room-service girl was always the same. She was a petite, shy and pretty girl like this one:

I actually asked her something, but her English was so bad she couldn’t answer. She simply pointed to the phone (probably suggesting me to call the front desk). It wasn’t important, I didn’t care. A few moments later, another girl (clearly from the same country) comes about, and they start talking. Now, the interesting stuff. Somehow, I could understand them!!! I later found out they where from Cape Verde, these tiny islands in the African West coast:

The thing is that they speak “Crioulo” which is a modified version of Portuguese. Turns out there are many words I can understand directly. After talking about the rooms yet to clean and what not, the original girl told the other girl that she was lucky because I was so sexy. They talked for a while more and after I gained some confidence I came to them and said I was pleased she found me sexy, in Portuguese. We exchanged numbers and we met the following day. No word about what happened :)


7. And finally, Omar Patel has an incredible story of living it up on an elevator.

I pressed the button in the elevator for the 21st floor of the hotel. There were two other Emirati men (let's call them Ahmed and Abdo) in the elevator with me, talking in their usual loud, expressive, who-gives-a-crap-if-someone-else-is-in-the-elevator voice.

As we went up, the elevator stopped on the third floor and in walked a stunning Philippino woman - she was dressed in a shirt and tight fitting leggings that showed off quite an attractive back-side.

I was surprised though - almost all Philippino women in Dubai were either housekeepers or working for the hotel, yet she was dressed like neither of those.

As the elevator doors closed, I looked at the Arab men and they had mischievous expressions on their faces. Oh boy, I thought.

Ahmed: Ya khrabbaytak! Unthur lahaa teezak! (On my house! Look at her ass!)

Abdo: Ha wallah, urid laha litanzif almirhad alkhass bi. (Yeah I swear, I want to her to come clean my toilet)

My face quickly turned red with anger. These two fools were guffawing and staring like a couple of perverts while she was facing the elevator door, and they continued to insult her, the jokes becoming more and more indecent as the floors climbed higher.

Then the elevator dinged, the door opened, and a tall Arab man in a suit walked in. He saw the Philippino woman and looked surprised.

Tall Arab man: Hello Madame. How are you?

The Philippino woman smiled softly at him.

Woman: I'm doing fine Yasir. How's my hotel?

The anger flushed out of my face as my jaw dropped to the floor. I turned to the two Emirati men - their eyes were as wide as beach balls and their mouths were suddenly clammed shut.

Tall Arab man: It's doing very well Madame. The guests are enjoying themselves and all the rooms are booked.

Woman: Wonderful.

The two Emirati men stood there with looks of incredulity plastered on their faces.

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. The Philippino woman walked out - but then turned back to the Tall Arab man.

Woman: Oh, and Yasir? Can you send someone up to these gentlemen's room, it seems as though their toilet might need some cleaning.

The two Emiratis' faces morphed into horror and all the life seemed to drain out of their eyes.

Then the woman turned to them and said in impeccable Arabic:

Istamta'at Eqamatik. (Enjoy your stay).

And she walked out.

Emirati men are very rarely at a loss for words.

I will remember those next 30 seconds of silence for the rest of my life.