What's your excuse?

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What's your excuse?

Postby eskandar » 2017-05-12, 16:59

Most people on Unilang have probably had the experience of being asked why they know someone's language, whether it's because they speak a lesser-studied language or just know a few words of it. For some reason I never feel comfortable giving a truthful answer (that I'm a weirdo and know a few words and phrases of dozens of languages for no reason) so I always make up a story. For example, last night I ate at an Uyghur restaurant and exchanged a few words in Uyghur with the waiter. When he asked why I knew his language I told him I had Uyghur friends from whom I'd learned, which is not at all true, but seemed to be a satisfactory answer. What kind of excuses do you usually make? Or are you more honest in your answers?
Please correct my mistakes in any language.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-12, 17:02

I tend to lie when asked about Korean because I don't want to admit that I'm so bad at it after having studied it for a year at college (even if that was nearly three decades ago). People generally aren't that surprised by the others.
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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-05-12, 17:23

When people ask me why I know a language (and more often than not, they're specifically curious as to how I came to know how to say anything in their language), I just tell them the truth: I studied it at home by myself. (If they also want to know how, then I say through books, the Internet, and (specifically in the cases of French, Spanish, German, Russian, Hebrew, and oddly enough, Guarani) CDs).

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby voron » 2017-05-12, 17:42

For Syrian Arabic, I tell that I stayed in Istanbul and my Syrian friends taught me some of it. It's true that they taught me some words, but most of it I learnt by myself.

Whatever story I come up with, when people find out that I speak Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian Arabic, they immediately conclude I'm a spy. :D

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Prowler » 2017-05-12, 18:33

Excuse? You make it sound like I should feel bad for speaking a language most people in my area don't speak :P

I don't study very exotic languages per se so I don't get eyebrows lifted, but people do tend to be surprised when they find out I speak some German.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby IpseDixit » 2017-05-12, 19:02

I'm pretty much an out-of-the-closet language weirdo, so I always say the truth. There was a time when I kinda hated the deer-in-the-headlights kind of reaction of some friends of mine when I told them I was studying more obscure languages, but I don't care about that anymore, actually I take pride in that.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2017-05-12, 22:09

None of the few languages I currently bother with are that weird, although in the past I had to bullshit some half-hearted explanation about just liking the culture. Now I don't even care.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby הענט » 2017-05-13, 7:11

voron wrote:For Syrian Arabic, I tell that I stayed in Istanbul and my Syrian friends taught me some of it. It's true that they taught me some words, but most of it I learnt by myself.

Whatever story I come up with, when people find out that I speak Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian Arabic, they immediately conclude I'm a spy. :D


Yes. I spoke some MSA and Syrian Arabic to the kebab sellers and when I added French and English, they thought I was a CIA agent. :)

I do make things up as having friends in Syria etc. When I was speaking to some Congolese, they aske where I learned French and I told them my mom's ex was from Belgium. Which is true, although he was Flemish speaking.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby ich » 2017-07-08, 23:38

I lie a lot about my language knowledge. On one side of the spectrum, I lie about my Spanish degree. I usually tell people I only have a German degree. I am so ashamed of my language capabilities in Spanish, that I feel that I don't deserve my degree. I never let any native Spanish speaker know. On the other side of the spectrum, I lie about how many languages I have dabbled in. People tend to get a bit freaked out, and I think some think that I am trying to just flaunt my intelligence. (It's not intelligence....it's just effort and interest, people!!) Therefore, I just tell people about one or two languages, basically the ones that are relevant in the conversation at the time, so different people know about different languages, that I have learned. I do, however, enjoy when someone brags to me that they can speak such and such language or they list off a bunch of languages. I start rambling off in one of them and then they are just dumbfounded. Hehe. Oops, busted! :D I caught quite a few people lying about their language capabilities.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Yasna » 2017-07-09, 1:33

It varies, but I usually start by just confessing that I like languages. Most people seem to find that reasonable enough.
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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Meera » 2017-07-09, 18:43

I used to never care and just be honest but I am starting to make it up because people think it is weird/nerdy to study so many languages.
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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Trapy » 2017-07-09, 19:56

Meera wrote:I used to never care and just be honest but I am starting to make it up because people think it is weird/nerdy to study so many languages.


I tell them it's kinda like Sudoku, or painting or gardening. It's just a fun hobby and something you can do alone or in a group, and you get to challenge yourself mentally.
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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby n8an » 2017-07-20, 13:25

Meera wrote:I used to never care and just be honest but I am starting to make it up because people think it is weird/nerdy to study so many languages.


Exactly my situation 8-)

My combination of languages often leads people to think I'm a spy :rotfl: so sometimes I let them go with that image haha

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby księżycowy » 2017-07-20, 22:32

I don't often find my self in situations where people ask me about my language studies, but then again I don't tend to talk a lot about myself. When people find out and ask, I just tell them. I don't usually care how nerdy people think I am.

I am nerdy after all. :wink:

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-07-21, 21:14

n8an wrote:My combination of languages often leads people to think I'm a spy :rotfl: so sometimes I let them go with that image haha

One of my mom's friends always told me I should work for the CIA. During the Bush administration here in the US, I deliberately avoided studying Arabic, Persian, or Pashto because I was worried people could get suspicious or the government would draft me into the army or something. :P

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Palmisano » 2017-07-23, 6:47

księżyceowy wrote:I don't often find my self in situations where people ask me about my real gaming reviews site but then again I don't tend to talk a lot about myself. When people find out and ask, I just tell them. I don't usually care how nerdy people think I am.

I am nerdy after all. :wink:


Nobody ever asks me. :|
Last edited by Palmisano on 2020-07-18, 9:40, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Saim » 2017-07-23, 12:00

I just tell people I like languages, which seems to work fine. I also say I'm studying/studied linguistics, and then people are like "aaah" (as if studying linguistics automatically means you have to study loads of languages for fun :lol: ).

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-07-23, 12:20

Palmisano wrote:Nobody ever asks me. :|

What languages do you speak?

(Incidentally, I always thought it was kind of funny that in TY (Modern) Greek, that's the second dialog in the whole book).
Saim wrote:I also say I'm studying/studied linguistics, and then people are like "aaah" (as if studying linguistics automatically means you have to study loads of languages for fun :lol: ).

Yeah, I also get "of course!" for the same reasons. I tell people I've been learning languages longer than I can remember because I have. This is fascinating to them, but they don't really probe any further into it FWIR.

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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Karavinka » 2017-09-03, 14:55

I usually don't say a thing in a language unless I can handle a sustained conversation smoothly without making any unnatural pauses and asking the person to repeat anything. And those that I can, I usually have good reasons to speak it, so I don't need a generic excuse. I'm a native speaker (Korean), everyone speaks it (English), I used to live in Austria (German), I live in Montreal (French) and it's my job (Japanese). Japanese used to be the odd one because my excuse used to be: I'm an otaku. A job sounds better.

Other than that, most languages that I do know a few things about are already dead, and I just use the majority language when I speak to other immigrants. I may eavesdrop, but I usually don't even bother letting them know I understand something.

In rare cases where a non-native talks back to me in Korean, I talk back in the majority language. Taking to the non-natives with less than natural language is taxing and tiring; I'd rather avoid it myself, and I don't want other native speakers to feel that way about me either. The highest common denominator language does the job better in almost every case.
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Re: What's your excuse?

Postby Ciarán12 » 2017-10-14, 6:05

For most of the languages I know, I'm now so bad at them that I tend not to use them at all with native speakers for fear they will (reasonably enough) assume a greater level of fluency than I have and start, you know, actually trying to converse with me in it! In general though, if I'm found out, I just admit to being a language weirdo and try to off-set the awkwardness by making fun of myself about it.
For the ones I'm still confident enough to speak though, it's not so weird and I have a fairly good reason.


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