One day last week I was walking through town and saw a couple walking nearby – a Chinese woman with a Western man. I wondered what language they were speaking to each other, so I eavesdropped and heard that it was Mandarin. This surprised me as it’s rare, in my experience, to hear non-Chinese people speaking Mandarin, especially round here. I was considering going over to introduce myself and finding out how the guy had learned Mandarin, but by that time they’d gone off in different direction.

If you speak a lesser-studied language and hear someone speaking it in public, would you go and talk to them?

This entry was posted in Chinese, Language.

4 Responses to Eavesdropping

  1. Leonardo C. says:

    I did once. I heard a couple talking in Russian at a bus stop in São Paulo and couldn’t help going talk to them a few words in their language. Surprisingly their Portuguese was very good!

  2. MadFall says:

    I’ve surprised Catalan visitors overheard in London on a couple of occasions by bidding them “benvinguts en Londres” (welcome to London). Unfortunately I can only continue the conversation in Spanish but they are pleased I could at least distinguish them from the plethora of Spanish speakers who are everywhere in London.

  3. It’s absolutely okay to talk to the people (non-Chinese) to know how they have learned a particular language. This way you will know what techniques or resources they have used. You never know, any suggestions from them will be useful for you.

  4. Ashley says:

    I rarely stumble upon German speakers in my town – but when I do, I usually have to settle for eavesdropping. Considering where I am, I should provably open up more and let them know that even there, people are studying their language!

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