For people who speak multiple languages, one of the joys is running into other people who also speak the language, at least well enough to hold a conversation.
But sometimes people will say they know more of a language than they actually do, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Throwra_NoSweForYou recently upset a woman when he tried to speak his native language to her after she claimed to be fluent.
After seeing her reaction, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if he was somehow wrong.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for talking to a girl in Swedish, who claimed she spoke it?”
The OP recently ran into someone who spoke his native language.
“I’m Swedish and have lived in the U.S for about 5 years. Met my girlfriend 3 years ago and hit it off immediately.”
“Last week we celebrated her birthday and she had, like usual, invited friends to the party. One of them we can call Linda.”
“The evening was going well; we had talks, games, and fun. My girlfriend and Linda spoke about some new acquaintance from Germany or something.”
“Linda reached out and said she had Swedish heritage and was really proud because she spoke the language fluently because her ‘mormor’ (grandma in Swedish, mom’s sida) taught her.”
The OP immediately wanted to talk to Linda in Swedish.
“Well, you can imagine I was thrilled, since the only times I get to speak Swedish now is on the phone and online in chats with friends.”
“So I proclaimed, ‘Ballt! Då kan vi ju snacka lite svenska om du har lust. Länge sedan jag fick prata svenska med någon i verkligheten!'”
“This translates to, ‘Cool! Then we can talk a bit Swedish if you want. It’s been a long time since I could speak Swedish with somebody in real life!'”
“She looked at me, and you could immediately tell from her expression, ‘Oh s**t…'”
“She tried to get back on track and said, ‘Sorry, you caught me off-guard. I didn’t know you were Swedish. Could you repeat that?'”
“So I said, ‘Ja, jag tänkte att vi kunde snacka svenska lite granna?'”
“This means, ‘Yeah, I thought we could talk a little Swedish?'”
“She then said, “Jag… eh, Linda namn är… hur du mår?'”
“It was obvious she knew a few words but definitely not on a conversational level.”
“When she said, ‘Jag… eh, Linda namn är… hur du mår?'”, it was understandable but not correct Swedish.”
“The correct sentence would be, ‘Jag heter Linda, hur mår du?’ for ‘My name is Linda, how are you?'”
Linda was not happy with the OP for this.
“The rest of the night was… tense, to say the least.”
“She kept looking at me like I had ruined her plan and made her the villain.”
“I don’t even care if she could speak it or not, I just wanted to talk to someone.”
“The evening went by and they all left.”
It turned out Linda was quite upset.
“The next day, after my girlfriend had a talk with her, she explained that Linda was really mad at me for ’embarrassing her’ in front of everybody.”
“I told my girlfriend that I did in no way do that, since all I did was ask her if she wanted to talk to me, and then I repeated myself, since I thought she didn’t hear me the first time.”
“I thought she just hadn’t ‘activated’ her ear for other languages, which happens to me all the time.”
“I get just as surprised and miss out on what is said if someone suddenly speaks in another language that I understand.”
“Now I’m the bad guy apparently.”
“What do you think? AITA?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some said the OP was not wrong to be excited.
“NTA, she’s embarrassed yes but it’s not your fault. That’s the risk of claiming to speak a language you don’t actually, you may get caught by someone who does.”
“It’s perfectly normal for you to get excited and want to speak with her. She’s butt hurt because she was trying to look cool and ended up looking dumb.” – GarbageNo8469
“If OP wanted to catch her out and asked something dickish like, ‘Oh, you speak Swedish? Name three irregular verbs,’ then they’d be a d**k even though Linda was lying.”
“But if they switch to Swedish out of genuine excitement to speak their mother tongue? That’s all Linda’s fault and that’s what happened here.” – DuckSaxaphone
“He wasn’t condescending about it. He was just trying to speak it to someone who said they spoke it. If she’s actually interested in speaking it, she should ask OP to teach her if they want to, instead of making him look like the a**hole.” – RevertiveKayo
“NTA, she claimed to speak the language, you talked to her in that language. You didn’t know.”
“If someone emphasizes something about themselves, they should be able to perform it when prompted. She shouldn’t have said it in the first place. I hope it’ll be forgotten and all of you will move on eventually.” – Compensate1995
Others agreed and recommended ways for the OP to turn this into a positive moment.
“I think this leads to the best solution from here… tell your girlfriend to tell her that you appreciated hearing your native language, you were glad someone was making the effort, and if she wants to learn more, you’d be happy to occasionally be a conversation partner.”
“Turn it into something positive. Trying to speak a nonnative language is ALWAYS going to be a little embarrassing; it’s only worth it because of the additional connections you make, so maybe instead of apologizing just move forward? (That is, assuming this person wasn’t insufferable in other ways.)” – rpsls
“This would be a very nice thing to do.”
“And it’s also possible (likely, even) that she can read and/or understand more than that. It’s normal that people’s active vocabulary in a second language is much more limited than their passive vocab. Maybe she really would like the opportunity to practice.” – alwaysneverenough
“I was like, ‘You go, Linda! You actually did learn some Swedish from your grandma, I didn’t see that coming!'” – Lennvor
Some also said Linda was wrong, but she may have not been trying to explicitly lie.
“She’s not necessarily a liar. She could have just over-estimated her abilities. I speak a second language, but there are accents from some regions I can’t understand much of and some I can. So I can see how this could happen.” – RebelliousMindBox
“I don’t know for sure if she was intentionally lying. It’s quite possible the only native Swedish speaking people she met were her family.”
“I always think I’m better at Spanish than I am until I hear native speakers. But there are a lot of those near me so I’m constantly put in my place.”
“She’s silly to be mad at him though. It should be a humbling learning experience. But lie? Maybe not. Just ignorance.” – Puzzled-Barnacle2771
“She probably didn’t consider it a lie just like a lot of Americans of European descent (or maybe any geographic descent, although I’ve only really encountered it with Europeans) who seem to always claim the nationality of their heritage.”
“But when you ask them about it, they finally admit that their great-great-grandparents came over from Europe and that they’ve never been there, don’t speak the language, and barely know anything about the country…” – jiggsteur
The subReddit agreed with the OP that he didn’t do anything wrong, especially in all of the excitement from hearing his native language. But they also suggested that Linda may have not had bad intentions nd that there was still time to turn this relationship around between the OP, his girlfriend, and her friend, Linda.