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Posts: 2735

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Q: Is it rude to speak in a foreign language around somebody who can't understand?


I've heard it before from people that it is rude to speak in a different language around someone who doesn't understand. Would you agree or disagree with this? What are your opinions on someone speaking their native tongue around you if you can't understand?

8 years 37 weeks ago in  General  - China

 
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Posts: 1933

Shifu

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Very rude, but when I'm with another anglophone, it would just seem too weird talking to them in Chinese, so I'm not going to complain when it's the other way around.

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8 years 37 weeks ago
 
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It's rude, but it is common with Chinese. It's just downright rude when Canadians start speaking French in front of you.

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8 years 37 weeks ago
 
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People are always talking in chinese around foreigners to eachother, and not every foreigner can understand much of it. Foreigners speak in their native tongue with others in front of chinese. They dont know what the hell we are talking about. Its common. And in most cases its not rude. Its usually just two people trying to communicate something.

But it is extremely rude to talk about someone in another language right in front of them. This happens on both sides, and most of the time people dont know it. Once I was eating with three of the other girls in my office. They just started talking about my girlfriend. Even though they werent saying anything bad, I found it really rude. But they didnt even know I understood them.

Also its not OK if you speak to in another lanuage with the express purpose of having someone not understand you... for whatever reason it may be. (especially if the conversation was business dealings)

But that is the deal with language barriers. They can be difficult at time, but as long as you arent using the barrier to deceive or keep someone in the dark, then its not something to worry about too much.

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8 years 37 weeks ago
 
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Emperor

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It is very rude to do so if you know the person's language. If I am speaking with a spanish speaker who knows english and spanish, and there is someone who only know english, then I will speak in English and so will the person I am speaking with. Common courtesy. Same thing if I am speaking to an english speaker who knows spanish and there is a spanish speaker who does not know english, we will use spanish. To do otherwise is not just rude, but offensive and even hostile. Now, if the person with us does not speak english OR spanish, she/he is out of luck, however, I will still try to include them in the conversation with body language, sign language or smile. And I will NOT speak ill of them in front of them in the "other" languge, no matter how angry I may be.

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8 years 37 weeks ago
 
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Emperor

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No. Pure and simple. It is rude to talk about someone in their presence if they can't understand, or (sometimes) to actively exclude them from the decision making process by doing the decision-making in an unfamiliar language.

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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
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Governor

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Very much so but once again the Chinese have no manners and just push and shove like everything else

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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
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Depends on the situation. Guilinraf put it about right - if you deliberately use a language that another person doesn't know, when there IS a language that you all know, then mostly - yes, it's rude. The only exception might be for something personal, or at least only works in that language... explanations/translations included.

If the language switch is going both ways - first one language, then another, so that the people who don't understand the other language are getting involved in at least some of the conversation, I think it's ok. There aren't a lot of really good bi-linguals out there in this country (with Chinese language - non-Chinese language dualism), so I take this as a compromise.

But, 2 bilinguals and a mono-lingual.. with 1 common language to good ability and for the bi-linguals to stick to their language to exclude the mono..- to deliberately speak in a langauge someone does not understand right in front of them - to deliberately exclude them... yeah, that's seriously rude!!!!

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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
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Governor

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Yep . . . courtesy and no arrogance. A basic body language skill.

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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
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I agree with most of what's said here.  I would just like to clarify however, that unless the person "around" me is supposed to be in on the conversation, I don't think speaking a different language is rude at all.

If I go to a bar with an English speaking friend and the purpose is to hang out and chat, I'm not going to speak Chinese simply because there are other Chinese people in the bar.  If 2 French friends walk into a bar and speak French to each other, no problem.  It's not rude.  They're talking.

Now if people in that situation purposefully speak a different language while obviously being rude (talking about people, making fun of them...) or they make ignorant statements (thinking others can't POSSIBLY understand them), well, THAT'S rude.

If it's a mixed language group, the common shared language should be used except for translations, or mix it up.  When I go out with friends, it's a mix of people, say a few native English speakers and native Chinese speakers.  We'll exchange comments in BOTH languages which is quite nice and not rude at all.  Helps me learn more.

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8 years 36 weeks ago
 
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