it's interesting how we can never be aware of certain things until some one points it out to you, otherwise it would never have really occurred to us.
the other day at work i was talking to an elderly English lady who had an appointment, she was sat down waiting to see the doctor and i do tend to have a chat with her when she comes in.
whilst chatting away, an Arab patient walks in and makes an appointment, talking to me in Arabic and of course i would reply back in Arabic.
when the Arab patient left, the English lady turned around to me and asked:
'so how long did it take for you to pick up the language'
at first i thought she meant the English language, and before i could answer she added:
'there language, how long did it take for you to learn that language that lady was talking to you in?'
to which i replied 'Arabic you mean?'
old lady: 'yeh, whatever it is'
me: well since a child really, my background is actually Arab'
old lady: 'what? your one of them?'
old lady: 'i would never have thought it, I'm gobsmacked'
me: laughing 'whys that then?'
old lady: 'well, darling don't get upset or nothing, its just that whenever we come ere, your always offering us smiles and asking about us, and your all friendly like, and its always a pleasure to talk to you and to see you'
me: 'aaaaaaw thanks' (blush blush)
old lady: 'but what really gets me is sometimes when I'm sat here in reception, and there are a bunch of ladies talking in there language, i cant but help thinking that there talking about me, they would look over at me then turn to each other and start talking in there language, and i know your probably thinking there not talking about me but i cant help but think they are, and it really is one of my pet peeves, i cant stand it.
me: 'oh right, well no one likes to think there being spoken about'
old lady: 'yes well, i have spoken out before like the other day at the corner shop where every day for the past few months every time i walk in there, 2 Asian girls are doing exactly what i explained to you, and it reached a stage where i came up to them and said, listen young girl I'm old enough to be your mother! so if you have something to say to me then i would appreciate some common courtesy and say it to my face in a language i understand'
me: how did they take it?
old Lady: oh they where apologetic, telling me they meant no harm and that they weren't talking about me, but how am i supposed to know that.
now you could argue that this particular lady is one paranoid woman, or extremely nosy, but either way she does have a point to some extent, even in Islam it tells us that if there are 3 people in a room then don't whisper or talk quietly in front of the 3rd person for fear of making that person feel left out, feel that there being spoken about etc..
and we can easily do that in the presence of others through talking in a different language, and it can be frustrating.
i come from a circle of friends from many different backgrounds, and if i am with one friend who speaks Arabic and another who doesn't, then i wont speak Arabic, i will speak the language that we all share which is English so as not to make the person feel left out.
i thought it was interesting how this lady presumed i wasn't 'ethnic' due to the fact that i make an effort of 'smiling, talking to her in English, asking about her etc'.
we have to be aware of how we are seen by others.