Is it Rude To Speak Another Language In Front of Others at Work?

In today’s workplace, you are likely to encounter workers speaking languages other than your own native tongue. 

But, when and if speaking another language in front of other workers (who don’t understand), is considered rude?

Read on below and find out! 

Is it Rude to Speak Another Language In Front of Others at Work?

The main language of your workplace is always the most proper language to use in front of others. That is why, when you were hired, you most likely were tested on your proficiency in the language.

Speaking a foreign language in front of others at work, especially others who don’t understand it is one of the rudest things you can do at work (maybe even worse than eating someone’s lunch from the fridge in the breakroom!).

How Rude Is it?


Speaking another language in front of others at work (specifically in front of others who don’t understand the language) rates 9 out of 10 on the rude meter. 

Even if you are merely replying to someone who has initiated a conversation in another language (in front of others), your actions will most likely be considered rude by other workers.

Why is it Rude?

It is practically always considered rude to purposefully say something in front of others in a language that they don’t understand. It is even more so considered rude to do so at your professional workplace.

Speaking another language at work that other people don’t understand is only ok if no one hears you (or you explain to them, in their own language, what your words actually mean). 

Other Options to Do Instead

If you don’t understand the primary language spoken at your workplace, there are several other options to do instead of speaking another language in front of your co-workers (who don’t speak the said language):

  • Speak with your eyes and hand gestures
  • Take language lessons and practice as much as possible
  • Use a phone or pad of paper to write messages to co-workers
  • Speaking into a voice-to-text translator application

Common Questions

Is it rude to speak a foreign language in front of others?

It is only rude to speak another language in front of others if you choose to do it because you know they don’t understand what you are saying. Further, at work, you should use the primary language used by the company’s workers to the best of your ability.

Is it rude to speak with an accent?

It is never rude to speak in your natural accent, as it is simply part of you. Speaking in a fake accent, however, may be seen as rude if it is done so in poor taste. That’s why it is best practice to skip using fake accents around people you don’t know well.  

What do you do when someone speaks a language you don’t understand?

When someone speaks to you in a language that you don’t know, it can be very frustrating. The best way to respond is by making a universal hand gesture/shoulder shrug indicating to the speaker that you don’t understand what they are saying. You can also shake your head, smile, apologize, and tell them slowly in your own language that you do not understand.