I'm a PhD student who likes to work in the lab on weekends because I'm more focused and can work longer at my desk which is nicely set up.

We've had two new Asian PhD students (I'm Asian as well) who now come in on the weekends as well. They both practice 'speaking English' by using some popular apps on their laptops and while I admire the effort, most of my afternoon is me trying to get stuff done while I hear words like 'couch', 'giant merger' or 'determination' or any other random words talked out loud and with heavy enunciation. The speaking practice goes on for well over an hour.

My question is, is it too rude for me to ask them to maintain quiet in the lab or should I accept that any workplace has some 'noise' at any given time?


  • 1
    Can't you agree on times? – Captain Emacs Oct 8 '17 at 21:29
  • 1
    It's not unusual for some (most/all?) labs to have written sign/policy about not behaving in ways that disturb others that need to do work in the area. Is there such a thing at the lab you're in? If so, you can try the advice given, but if said advice doesn't work out, then you could rely on the sign/policy as a last resort. – code_dredd Oct 9 '17 at 4:42

Their speaking practice isn't a work activity; the lab is apparently just a convenient place for them to do it. Yes, every workplace has some noise -- stray conversations and the like -- but pre-meditated noise is something you can reasonably ask them to adjust, if you do it politely.

You said that the sound from the computer is what's distracting you, not any speaking they're doing. If so, you could ask them to use headphones. I've done this with coworkers who are taking online video courses or listening to presentations.

Tell them what you've told us: It's great that you're working on this (and you've been there too, if you have), and you appreciate that they're doing it in "off" time, but you're trying to do work too and could they use headphones? That way you and they can both use the lab without interfering with each other.

Another answer suggests that you wear headphones. You can do that if you want, of course, but in my experience it's not unreasonable to ask the people generating controllable noise to make a change. If you were bothered by them having any conversation with each other, or by somebody's cell phone occasionally ringing, that would be on you. But that's not what you're describing.

Be prepared to help them look around the lab for some USB headphones.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This is the definite answer. Anybody who wants to listen to music/courses/exercises in a shared room should be required to wear headphones for that. – NoBackingDown Oct 9 '17 at 9:16

is it too rude for me to ask them to maintain quiet in the lab

It's not rude if you ask politely. But they're there for the same reason you are and equally entitled to be there. So you might get flipped off.

My advice would be to wear headphones or something and try and ignore them rather than make an issue out of them trying to better themselves in a place they have every right to be.

Better yet, ask them when they'll be finished, go drink some hot chocolate or contemplate nature for a while and then use the lab after their hour is up.

| improve this answer | |
  • Since it's only one hour I think this advice suits better, otherwise I would go for Monica's way. – Walfrat Oct 9 '17 at 11:04

is it too rude for me to ask them to maintain quiet in the lab or should I accept that any workplace has some 'noise' at any given time?

Just nicely ask them to use a conference room or other office with a door, so that you can concentrate on your work.

If it's on a weekend, there should be plenty of places for their practice that won't disturb others.

| improve this answer | |

is it too rude for me to ask them to maintain quiet in the lab or should I accept that any workplace has some 'noise' at any given time?

It is never rude to ask someone a request, just make sure you do it in a polite a professionall way.

Now, remember they have the same right as you to use the Laboratory facilities, and it may be they also find it a calm place to study. In a way every workplace has its baseline noise level as you say, but also seems to me that a research lab is no good place to practice languages out loud.

I suppose that people in the lab should be doing study-related work, and seems to me that learning English (although it is studying per se) is not something that seems related to their PhD and should be done elsewhere if possible.

I suggest you try first to see if you can tolerate those words spoken out loud. Then, if you can't, you could try asking them your request. If they don't cooperate you could escalate this and use the argument exposed in the previous paragraph and other resources to make them stop. This could be going too far for such a problem, so procede at your own risk and judgment. Hope this words help you out.

| improve this answer | |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .