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Cruise Passenger Gets A Hilarious Lesson On Why You Should Never Assume People Around You Don't Speak Your Language

A cruise ship passenger made a wisecrack about a hunky male employee in another language.

It turns out McSteamy had been listening and understood the entire conversation.


Redditor "throwtempawayyesxxx" was gobsmacked and admitted TIFU (Today I F'd Up) "by abusing the language barrier" in the embarrassing situation that happened a week ago."

The Original Poster (OP) and his family were among the few passengers on a cruise ship from South Africa—where the multilingual population is fluent in at least two languages, including Afrikaans.

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language that evolved from the Dutch vernacular of Holland, with 90% - 95% of the Afrikaans lexicon being of Dutch origin.

Its name was derived from the Dutch term, Afrikaans-Hollands—which means "African Dutch"—and is the third most spoken language in South Africa.

Based on observation, the OP thought nobody would understand Afrikaans.

The OP thought wrong.

"This being the case we felt pretty comfortable talking in our native language (Afrikaans) about strangers in front of them, since nobody understands."

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"This being the case, we stopped by an island as part of the cruise, and everyone embarking and disembarking has to get their tickets checked and walk through a metal detector."
"At this particular stop, there were two lines, and at the front of the row checking tickets on one side was the most gorgeous guy."
"He had a full sleeve tattoo, muscular and tanned from working in the sun, basically a dreamboat."

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"As we're getting in line, a metal detector goes off while an older gentleman is walking through, and dreamboat has to do a pat-down."
"I quickly jumped to the other line to go past him, and while the line slowly advanced I was joking with my mother that I really hope I picked up some metal somewhere so he has to pat me down as well (all in Afrikaans of course)."
"Well I'm sure you can see where this is going... I get to the front of the line, walk through the metal detector (nothing went off (damn), and as he hands me back my ticket he looks right into my eyes, smiles, and says 'Baie dankie' (thank you very much in Afrikaans)."

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"Well, I thought I might die right on the spot, as he heard all the back and forth teasing we did in line, but unfortunately I just had to take my ticket and keep walking."
"He was on-board the rest of the trip, and I could not muster up the courage to even be in his vicinity for the rest of the trip."

This Redditor encouraged the OP to seize an advantageous moment and also mentioned that Afrikaans is a language that can be recognizable by Dutch-speaking people.

"You can use it as an ice-breaker slash pickup tactic, but you'd have to muster up the courage."
"BTW, using Afrikaans is risky; anyone who speaks Dutch will probably be able to puzzle together what you're saying." – JM-Gurgeh
"I speak german, english and grew up close to the dutch border."
"I can understand what afrikaans speaking people are talking about sometimes, but it's still pretty difficult." – C6500

Dutch and Afrikaans may share lexical similarities, but there are still very significant differences—a major one being the grammar and morphology of Afrikaans.

Day Translations gave an example of mutual intelligibility – where two speakers of related languages understand one another – being more apparent in the written forms of Dutch, English and Afrikaans over the verbal forms.

DayTranslations

This does not mean the language is easily understood.

"I've spoken to a few south African people before, and while I can understand most of it, it still is quite a different language."
"A lot of the words are very old Dutch words not used anymore. A kitchen in Dutch is keuken, where as in south African it is a kombuis. Which would translate to a ship's galley/kitchen." – Superior91
"I speak Afrikaans but I've never really looked too deeply into how Afrikaans came about, however when I was in Bali I noticed words here and there that were pretty much the same as Afrikaans."
"The one sign I remember specifically was the post office. In Afrikaans it is pos kantoor and in Indonesian it's kantor pos."
"Not sure if it's the Dutch influence in Indonesia or Indonesian/Dutch influence in Cape Town that brought about these additions to the language but it is always interesting whenever I see a word cross between languages."
"I do also get a kick out of being able to understand some Dutch and German here and there, can't read it though, it makes no sense." – – annzybananzy

People began Comparing other languages with mutual intelligibility and their dated terminologies.

"Kind of like French v. Canadian French. If you're French, people in Quebec don't drive cars, they still drive carriages."
"So many old words in quebecois French." – imperfectkarma
"Then there are the Acadians. My best friend in junior high was Acadian, and we were in French immersion together."
"I thought she would breeze through it because she had been speaking French all her life. I was actually getting better grades than she was because she found the transition from her native dialect, to Parisian French very difficult." – rondspub
"That's a fun fact in the 'kitchen' vs 'galley' difference. Nautical, like those who would have settled originally from Europe. It reminds me of one example I've heard of."
"In Canadian Quebecios French, supposedly the phrase 'embarquer' is/was often used in place of 'monde.' 'board' as in a ship, vs 'enter/climb into' my house, the car, etc. , all because a large section of the early population were sailors and developed there own dialect." – crazymurph

This Redditor shared a similar experience as the "dream boat" from the OP's anecdote.

"I'm biracial (black/Chinese) and one time after leaving a Chinese grocery store, my Chinese dad and I walked past two people speaking in Mandarin trying to bet on if I was his daughter or girlfriend."
"My dad approached them and said 'She's my daughter, my wife is older than me!' The woman insisted she could see facial resemblance but the guy thought she was nuts, pretty funny." – Endless_Spells

A different English dialect sounded like a foreign language for this Redditor.

"This reminds me of eating in a restaurant in Paris years ago with my mom and my husband. At one point, husband begins talking with a couple at the table behind us who clearly (to me, anyway) speak a foreign language."
"I sat there, dumbfounded, as he spoke to them in English, and they replied to him in their weird sounding foreign language that seemed like maybe every 20th word was the same as English."
"And he seemed to understand them!"
"I was floored-- my husband, who barely passed high school French, knew a foreign language well enough to understand it, even if he couldn't speak it!"
"After they left, I asked in amazement how he understood their words since they weren't speaking English."
"'They were Scottish; that was English,' he answered."
"Mind blown." – Mama_cheese

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"Op, that's awesome. I also speak Afrikaans and also just assume it's safe to speak when you are abroad."
"But sometimes out of nowhere there are fellow afrikaans speaking people and feels so natural when they speak to you but at the same time you feel so vulnerable because you can't say whatever you like anymore."
"But to add to the Dutch....we were at a world festival for an activity we participated in and our buddy team was from the Netherlands. One girl kept abandoning her team and photobombing our team pictures."
"I ranted a bit because I didn't like how she was following us. I totally forgot that she could understand me and she kept her distance. We still hung out, she just stopped posing with us. I felt bad." – TheRedditMe123

The South African language brought strangers together in another part of the world.

"I'm from South Africa (Xhosa speaking), don't really speak much Afrikaans, but due to the history of South Africa we've borrowed a lot of phrases and words from Afrikaans."
"So this other year (2011), me and a group of friends are traveling in India, and we are conversing in our normal Xhosa lingo a friend of mine blurts out an Afrikaans swear phrase 'Jou naai (sp)' we in the middle of India not expecting anyone to understand, and a guy (obviously South African) screams out 'aweh ouens' (which is basically a SAn Afrikaans slang greeting)."
"Then we had a long chat about where we are from and what we were doing there, and we immediately made a friend." – thasaleni

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People can surprise you.

"Yeah happened to me and a couple of friends back in my days in Seattle."
"All speaking Vietnamese at a restaurant when a waitress, she is black, approached and asked us in Vietnamese about the orders."
"It was dead silence at our table. Turned out she has one Vnmese parent and obviously is fluent in Vnmese."
"We were young and talked sh*t very often back in the days, luckily we did not make any dumb comments at that time." – namvu1990

There is a possibility that McSteamy did not understand the language beyond "hello."

"I worked for South African Airways and although I don't speak Afrikaans I often told my passengers Baie dankie, so maybe he didn't understand you but only identified the language!"
"Plus: working at the airport you learn quickly not to talk about other people in languages you THINK they don't understand." – cstrovn

Yours truly experienced a similar situation when I was ten years old. I'm a bilingual Japanese-American, and I converse exclusively in Japanese with my parents.

My mother was ready to cash out at the checkout counter in a grocery store when she noticed how the blond bag boy recklessly tossed our purchased items into the paper bags.

"Look at how that incompetent worker is throwing our food like broken toys," said my mother, in Japanese.

The bagger looked up and told my mom with a deadpan expression, "I understand what you just said." In perfect Japanese.

Our faces froze. We were impressed, but we were still not forgiving.

Careful of the things you say in public.

You just never know who might understand your sneaky sass.

If you don't have the advantage of being multilingual, you can travel with the CM Smart Instant Language Translator, available here for under $90.