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Is it immoral to not tell people talking in other languages that you understand them? Watch

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    I know this sounds like a really random question!

    Have you ever been sitting somewhere and could understand what people talking in another language were saying? Is it eavesdropping if you don't tell them you can understand them?
    What do you think is ethical in these two situations?

    Firstly: there is a student on my course doing some research with children in multicultural schools.
    A lot of the children have a mother tongue that isn't English, and because it is their private language, they speak in this language with each other on the playground/in the classroom so they can freely express their opinions without other people hearing them.
    The student actually speaks three different languages, but didn't know whether it's ethical when she overhears the children, because they are probably saying these things in their own language in order to be private.


    Secondly: I working with a group of international students recently and they all spoke in their mother tongue together. I have been learning that language so I understood maybe 60% of what they were saying, even though they probably assumed that I couldn't understand them. Should I have said something?

    Was I eavesdropping, and is this ethical?

    A dilemma for an increasingly multicultural society
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    what were they saying?
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    Nope. Why should I tell them?
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    That happens in French - the teachers gossip whilst we're working thinking we don't understand them, although we do. All the other teachers wonder how we know which teachers fell out and which ones are retiring and which ones are unpopular.

    Not that that answers your question.
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    (Original post by Abused Tampon)
    what were they saying?
    Oh, just chatting about the work. Nothing rude or secret. As I said, I could only really understand half of it. I still felt really guilty afterwards though.
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    No, it is they who make the assumption that you cannot understand, you are doing nothing to reinforce that. If it's private then people should be more careful and speak quieter.
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    These people normally have tedious conversations. Not worth learning a new language just to eavedrop frankly.

    Also no it's not immoral. Are there any laws saying you can only speak one language. If they want total privacy, go indoors
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    I don't tell them.
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    no its not immoral to tell them.

    where i work we have people a lot of people who are bilingual in English and an Asian language (kurdish, hindi etc) and they talk in thier own language at time even though its against company policy. the only time it bothers me is if they are sat at a table with myself and others then i say something as its just rude.
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    I don't tell them as it would usually be really awkward - cutting into someones conversation and then them knowing that you understood everything would make them feel embarrassed.

    But my mum always speaks welsh to me when we're in public assuming no one else can understand!

    Once, we were at a cousin's wedding and she commented (audibly) on this woman's dress - saying 'isn't it a shame that whenever girls decide to wear red dresses they always go for a size or two too small' (not in a *****y way, just a kind of random observation way).

    A couple of hours later someone told us that she actually presents a welsh programme on tv!! (awkward as she must have heard and understood!)
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    (Original post by -mai-)
    I don't tell them as it would usually be really awkward - cutting into someones conversation and then them knowing that you understood everything would make them feel embarrassed.

    But my mum always speaks welsh to me when we're in public assuming no one else can understand!

    Once, we were at a cousin's wedding and she commented (audibly) on this woman's dress - saying 'isn't it a shame that whenever girls decide to wear red dresses they always go for a size or two too small' (not in a *****y way, just a kind of random observation way).

    A couple of hours later someone told us that she actually presents a welsh programme on tv!! (awkward as she must have heard and understood!)
    Ooo that's a bit embarrassing!!! I remember sitting in a seminar and this girl explaining how she and her friends will speak in their language intentionally because they know other people won't hear, and so they can say really offensive things about people to their face (to let off steam)

    I thought this was a bit mean/unfair... but then I wonder when I go on my year abroad if I will grumble and complain in English when I'm stressed out... I hope I don't... but it sounds like something I'd do!
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    No more so than eavesdropping on people speaking your own language.
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    It would probably look like you were showing off or something if you just randomly proclaim that you can understand them or something :p:
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    Welcome Squad
    when i was a kid, my mother always used to speak to me in polish if she wanted to point out some offensive observation on somebody she might see passing in the street (like "wow that person is really really fat"). it really annoyed me that she felt the need to be rude about other people behind their back tbh.

    she couldn't do it these days, there's more poles in this country than god knows what lol. they'd all understand what she was saying.
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    That they talk in their mother tongue does not necessarily mean they want to speak privately. It's just that they do not have to use English so they don't because it's easier for them to speak in the language they know the best. And also as has been said before - you don't make them think you don't understand. If they think you don't it's their problem. Unless they ask you and you tell them an answer. Then, of course, it would be immoral if you lied.
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    I wouldn't tell someone having a loud conversation in English that I can understand them...

    Besides, it can be very funny to have someone swearing at you in a language they think you don't know - the look on their face when you say "That's not nice, I didn't call you a *******" in English is priceless! :rofl:
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    We had this on a sixth form trip where a French woman made some comments about our group to her friend while we were sat at a cafe. My friend turned round and explained to her in perfect French that she was quite capable of understanding and would the woman mind not airing her opinions quite so loudly. I've never seen someone so lost for words.
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    Not if they were already ****ging you off.
    *shakes fist*
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    No, it's their own fault if they make assumptions. You shouldn't feel bad. They may not even be doing it deliberately to be secretive anyway. They probably just prefer their mother tongue. :dontknow:

    I never assume anything about people around me and their linguistic knowledge anymore. When I was 12 I was in a water park in Greece with some friends. As usual, we were speaking in Welsh. We didn't think it remotely possible that anyone around us could speak Welsh too, so we happily discussed and passed comments on the other people that were around the place. Then came the awful moment when a woman sitting on the grass near us picked up her towel to shake grass off it, and, to our horror, we saw it was emblazoned with a Welsh flag. She called to her son in Welsh, glared at us, and then walked off, having heard us being horrible about several individuals sitting near us.

    It certainly taught my pre-teen self a lesson. I hope I'm less mean and judgemental these days.
 
 
 
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