"You are really good in a language when others no longer compliment you on it"

The classical joke is “your Chinese is so good!” after you managed to say “nihao”

I believe there is a lot of truth in the statement of the title. In Chinese, I am way past the nihao level, but I still get compliments, which makes sense according to that logic since I am still far from fluent.

The foreigners I know that speak really good German are no longer complimented on their proficiency. It is just a given and people converse with them as if they were German even though they might know that person is not a native speaker or has an accent.

Do you agree?


我同意 (I agree, for non Chinese learners) :slight_smile:

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Yeah, another way to understand that you’re not that good in a language is to be asked: “So where are you from? What is your native language?” after just one phrase uttered in a conversation. :melting_face:


I never thought about it that way, but I guess you could be right. It makes sense to give a compliment if you think the other person really needed to put effort into doing something. And a high proficiency means it isn’t an effort anymore, I guess.

This makes me wonder if a native speaker ever got complimented by a foreigner for their language skills :smiley:

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Not necessarely. You can have a high proficiency but an accent that makes it clear you are no native speaker. So the question could also be out of curiousity.


I totally agree.

We don’t tell fluent English speakers that their English is good. They would feel insulted.

It does depend on the language you’re learning. I’ve never had a French-speaking person compliment me on my French, but just saying “How are you?” in Mandarin got me called a “language genius” multiple times. Eventually you realize it’s not an official evaluation of your abilities but simply an expression of surprise that a foreigner opened their mouth and some understandable Chinese words came out. Never mind that there are probably millions (or at least hundreds of thousands) of Chinese people who can speak English fluently.

I like to turn it around and reply with something like - “You speak Chinese REALLY well!”


I take your point as a general guideline.

However. I must say if you look like your icon and name, I suspect people, including the Chinese, will be complimenting you forever. :slight_smile:

Tough luck!

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Perhaps not quite to the point, I’m reminded of Steve Kaufmann’s compliment to some French politicians speaking English.

They still have very strong French accents – no one mistakes them as native speakers – but otherwise they speak wonderfully complex, articulate English. I doubt they get complimented much, aside from Steve, for their English because their accent is so poor.

It also reminds me how hard it was to get accents right in the pre-digital age. One either had to immerse among native speakers or spend ungodly amounts of time in a language lab playing and rewinding audiotapes.

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I think it’s more of a cultural and racial thing. For ex, being a south eastern asian, don’t really get compliments for trying to speak mandarin as if I’m expected to speak really good mandarin just because I look the part. It might be different for others. I think if you look more like you’re part of the culture, you’re less likely to get compliments unless there’s an obvious indication that you are a foreigner or someone that looks like you don’t speak their language :rofl:

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