What is the most amazing thing you overheard because people didn't think you understood their language?
So so many…
When my wife (Chinese) and I (Hispanic) were at a Chinese grocery, an older Chinese lady saw us and asked her, right in front of me:
“Why are you with one of those people?”
To which I responded, in Chinese:
“I love her unconditionally”
She turned white.
Had another one, this time at a Latin grocery near our house. My wife is starting to like sliced turkey so we go to their deli counter and I'm translating from Spanish to Chinese. This other Hispanic guy is also standing there waiting:
“Hey, your wife's Chinese?”(in Spanish)
“Yes” (in Spanish)
“How'd you do that?” (in Spanish)
I lived in Japan for a fair amount of time so I can communicate pretty well. Ten years or so ago my parents, sister and I stumbled into a tiny restaurant. Before I could let them know I speak Japanese, the staff start shouting in Japanese:
“We can finally use the English menus!”
“Try not to f*ck anything up!
My dad was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War, and speaks Thai rather well. We went to Chiang Mai and were in a cab when the driver started talking on his cell phone in Thai:
“I'll probably take them the longest way I can. I want a big fare.”
Dad leans forward and says, in Thai:
“Take us straight to the hotel or drop us here, bastard”
Nobody expects the little Hispanic guy to speak Thai.
EDIT: Wow 6.5k? I'm surprised. OK, bonus round;
When my wife and I were dating, her friends were divided into two camps: one that liked me and one that hated me. Now at the time, I had just relocated for work after having a Chinese roommate for a decade. While my Mandarin wasn't spectacular, I could understand speech pretty well. Anyway when she, I and some of her friends went to dinner, one of her friends in the “hate” camp decided to bad-mouth me right in front of my face. This is a close approximation of the experience.
Friend (in Mandarin): “You shouldn't get involved with Western men. They don't want Chinese women. He just wants to date you because you're Chinese. He will never marry you.”
Me (also in Mandarin): “Why would I not want to marry her?”
That was the last time she ever said anything bad about me, not in front of me, and according to GF (now wife) never said anything bad to her about me either.
EDIT 2: 18k? Ok I got another one. This isn't really a language one, but rather interesting anyway. When my wife and I were just dating, she mentioned she'd never been to a rodeo. Being that we were in Texas, I was kind of surprised by this and decided to take her to some local rodeo in the Denton area. We went, she thought it was pretty interesting, seeing so many different people cheering for Black/White/Hispanic/etc cowboys as they rode out. We got to talk to one guy, probably the most stereotypical Texan you'd ever seen. Wife noticed he had a Chinese coin on a necklace next to a cross. She asked him and was surprised he could speak Chinese. Not just Chinese, but really, really good Chinese. So the three of us were staying there, in the Texas heat, at night, speaking Mandarin Chinese while people were looking on. It turned out he had done some kind of American rodeo show in China for a year and had picked up the language pretty well. Small world. SOURCE