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Woman Called Out For Not Telling Japanese Girlfriend And Her Parents She’s Fluent In Japanese

Bach Tran/Unsplash

It’s surprising what people will assume about us and our lives without ever really asking us questions.

It’s almost funny when they scold us for not being more upfront about those details, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor Ta2777271 was surprised when her girlfriend called her out for not being more upfront about the languages she was fluent in, since her parents had spoken about private matters in front of her, thinking she didn’t understand.

But thinking that the parents really just wanted to gossip, the Original Poster (OP) didn’t see why she needed to disclose what she knew.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for not telling my girlfriend and her family that I can speak Japanese?”

The OP grew up learning multiple languages.

“I (18 Female) am of Japanese descent. It is not in my surname because it is on my mother’s side and I only have my father’s surname.”

“But I grew up at my maternal great-grandmother’s and grandmother’s house, who spoke almost 70% of the time in Japanese, so I can speak Japanese, as does my whole family (including my parents).”

“I live in another state, far from where my parents live (my relatives are from the Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, and I live in Brasilia).”

“I’ve been dating Lara (19 Female) for 5 months. She is also a descendant, but unlike me, she has Asian traits.”

“She knows I am of Japanese descent, but we never got into the conversation about whether I speak or not. She never asked and I never commented.”

It was clear Lara’s family believed the OP didn’t speak Japanese.

“I’ve had lunch every two weeks at her parents’ house where she lives (both of whom are of Japanese descent) for about two months now, and a funny thing always happened.”

“They would talk in Japanese about some things like, ‘Go make the bed’ and ‘the dishes for lunch are yours.'”

“They also spoke badly of me, like ‘She didn’t eat everything on her plate’ or ‘strange way to dress.'”

“My girlfriend used to scold her parents also in Japanese, and this has been the case for the last 2 months.”

“I’m not necessarily offended, but I find it extremely funny that they think I don’t know and talk about everything in Japanese, thinking I’m lost in the conversation. (It is worth mentioning that they keep the conversation 97% of the time in Portuguese.)”

The OP’s parents met Lara’s parents during a recent visit.

“My parents came over this weekend, and Lara’s parents insisted that we go to their house, so they could get to know each other.”

“At some point, my mother had to leave the table to talk to my grandmother, and when she came back, she said in Japanese, ‘Your grandmother sent a kiss.'”

“I replied, ‘Send one of mine to her later.'”

“I know Lara and her parents were surprised, but they didn’t comment, and dinner stayed that way for the rest of the night.”

The OP’s girlfriend called her out on the interaction later.

“After I dropped my parents off at the hotel, Lara asked to talk to me via video call and said that I embarrassed her parents because they didn’t know that I understood and spoke in Japanese.”

“She said they talked about family things in another language, precisely because I would not understand and would not make it boring.'”

“I replied, saying, ‘Just like how they badmouthed me, didn’t they? But I didn’t want to talk about it and you never asked, despite knowing that a part of my family is of Japanese descent.'”

“She still stood her ground, saying that I could have said something and avoided all the awkwardness at her parents’ dinner.”

“I didn’t really do it on purpose, I just responded unintentionally to my mother talking in a language I’m fluent in.”


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 thought the girlfriend’s parents were rude to gossip in front of the OP.

“NTA. If they’re going to badmouth you within earshot, they should be embarrassed regardless. Disappointed your GF isn’t defending you, though.” – alalal982

“This post is precisely why intentionally speaking a language the people you are socializing with don’t is considered rude AF (as f**k).” – FloweredViolin

“The girlfriend’s family was rude. They definitely should be embarrassed, and instead, they’re deflecting on OP.”

“Whenever my parents visit, we speak our native language (they don’t speak English), but if my husband is in the room, I’ll translate for him and translate back for them. NTA.” – MarionberryIll228

“NTA. But you know who is? The people who s**t-talk a person to their face and use another language to hide it.”

“Yes, you could have told them you spoke Japanese to short-circuit their bad behavior, but it is not your job to prevent a girlfriend’s parents from embarrassing themselves.” – jsodano

“NTA. They shouldn’t be talking crap about people in any language, especially while they’re in the room. I think this kind of thing is funny and maybe it will teach her parents a lesson to not embarrass themselves with bad manners.” – VariumOntarious

“Why does OP need to say it when it was her girlfriend’s family that blatantly badmouthed her in front of them? ‘Eavesdropping,’ more like listening to them talk down and s**t about her and the only reason OP’s girlfriend and family consider it embarrassing is being they were openly s**ttalking.”

“Do you talk s**t about someone and think it is eavesdropping when they can hear you? Girlfriend’s parents shouldn’t have talked badly about in front of them regardless of the language used if they didn’t want to be made out to be idiots.” – OceanChameleon

Others also placed the fault on the girlfriend’s parents for making assumptions.

“It always gets me when someone badmouths a person assuming they can’t understand, and every single time when they are found out, they blame the other person for knowing the language.” – Heavn4Me

“In my opinion, with the rise of anime culture, especially amongst young adults and teens, that led to many at least entertain the idea of learning the language it’s… strange to believe that people don’t even get the basic gist of a lately relatively popular language.”

“Especially if you know that your guest has blood ties to that language!” – MeiSeusse

“NTA! I’m white-passing Latina, and I embarrass people on the regular because they speak Spanish in front of me, assuming I don’t understand.”

“That assumption is their fault, not mine.” – heretic8921

“In general, it’s pretty common in that culture not to share something unless directly asked.”

“Also, considering that the girlfriend’s parents had been rude from the start, it would be considered rude to tell them she knew Japanese.”

“Avoiding the issue is a way of letting the parents save face. In the Japanese culture, this is a way of being respectful.” – PuzzledheadedWasabi77

“NTA. Why did Lara or her family assume you couldn’t speak it if you’re of Japanese descent? You made her specifically aware that you were, at some point. She just never put any thought into it, I guess?”

“Not your fault, though, that they didn’t bother considering or asking.” – Trouble_In_Mind

“How can they be mad that OP knows Japanese and Japanese culture?”

“Not drawing attention to people being rude to you, and keeping things about yourself to yourself for then it to be revealed by a third party naturally is VERY Japanese.”

“Honestly, this sounds straight out of an anime.” – ohno_spaghetti_o

But some thought the OP was blatantly eavesdropping. 

“YTA it’s a normal courtesy that when people speak a language around you, you let them know that you can speak it.”

“I’m surprised you are pretending that you don’t know this is common courtesy.”

“Did you choose to not do this so you could feel superior? If not, why?”

“‘yOu nEveR aSked’ doesn’t cut it.” – PattersonsOlady

“Lying by omission for 5 months to the girlfriend is the real YTA move here.”

“The point of dating is getting to know one another, not hiding stuff so you can eavesdrop on her family. It’s a red flag that would cause me to reconsider a relationship.”

“If you’re lying about simple things like the language your family speaks at home, then one has to wonder what else you would lie about.” – rainniier2

“Yes, the parents are a**holes for making comments about OP, but assuming OP actually likes her girlfriend, it’s really weird not to bring it up.”

“She wasn’t just eavesdropping on her parents. She was eavesdropping on her girlfriend. This isn’t a ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ situation. It’s a rude thing to do and if you’re going into a relationship with a tit-for-tat mindset, you’re not a very good partner.”

“And honestly, if you found out someone you were dating spoke another language and you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, me too’? You think it’s totally normal to just ignore that?” – The_Trash_Particle

“YTA to your girlfriend. It’s not that your Japanese never came up, it’s that you were having fun eavesdropping on their family. It was pretty bad that they would talk smack about you in Japanese, it was also bad that you chose not to tell your girlfriend you could understand them.” – fakezzzfake

The subReddit could get behind the idea that the girlfriend’s parents were in the wrong for gossiping in front of the OP and for making assumptions about her without ever asking.

Where the sub was torn, however, was in the OP’s actions. While it wasn’t required of her to disclose that she spoke Japanese, some found it weird that the girlfriend didn’t know, despite being in the picture for five months already.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit