I've been surprised at how tolerant the Chinese are when you take the trouble to speak Chinese, embarrassingly so. I had to deliver a little speech at a wedding last year and no sooner had I said 大家好 dàjiāhǎo that everybody clapped their hands. And if you can get into the most basic conversation, they'll soon latch into full speed and might be surprised that you don't understand.
I've also be commanded on my ability to read and write, as if it was quite a feat (oblivous to my struggle and again limitations as if reading/writing some meant I could read all). My former Chinese teacher is one of them, he's encouraging me to go work in China on the basis that with my reading skills (sic) I'd have no problem.
On the other hand he's also suggesting that when I meet Chinese colleagues, I should just say nǐhǎo and a few such politeness, then don't bother, switch to English for the real thing. I've heard this before, there's even a Chinese-Speaking Professional who suggest as much in the <a href=http://www.laits.utexas.edu/orkelm/chinese/>Cultural Interviews with Chinese-Speaking Professionals</a> from UTexas/Austin
So what goes, what are they really saying? Is it assumed that the language is so special only the DaShan of this world will ever make it, no hope with others they're just showing respect? Are they just being pragmatic, no wanting to waste anybody's time?
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