Becoming mute and miming words

I can totally understand, but not accept, that a lot of people ASSUME foreigners are generally useless when it comes to understanding, speaking or reading Chinese and hence all the unprompted ‘help’ they give you. But why do some people lose the power of speech and become mute and start mouthing words and gesturing. Gesturing is bad enough on its own but don’t they realise how ridiculous it seems to mime words?

Scenario number 1: Obviously the waiguo ren does not understand Chinese but I can not speak English so I will just pretend he can understand and I speak Chinese as I normally do to other people and just feel foolish when they actually reply in Chinese, but I continue as if nothing happened.

Scenario number 2: Obviously the waiguo ren does not understand Chinese but they and I can both speak English so I will do just that and look amazed if they do not understand and ask to speak in Chinese.

Scenario number 3: Obviously the waiguo ren does not understand Chinese but I can not speak English so I will just start gesturing until they ask me in Chinese why I am gesturing, in which case I will let out a nervous giggle and compliment them profusely on their Chinese ability.

Scenario number 4: Obviously the waiguo ren does not understand Chinese but I can not speak English so I will just start mouthing words and gesturing and when they ask me in Chinese what I am doing I continue with the act and pretend I am actually mute - until the next customer comes in, in which case my cover is blown.


Welcome to Taiwan! We are assumed to have no ability to speak any language beyond English and have little capacity to take care of ourselves.

I’ve had to lose it on people with this shit.


People say I shouldn’t take it personally, that it is based on their lack of experience…but I can not help but get upset when people assume I am stupid - It’s like you are assumed stupid until proven intelligent.


Totally feel you. I feel the same way. I usually like to give righteous idignation.

Cannot is one word, isn’t it?

Maybe your Chinese is difficult to understad.

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How can my Chinese be difficult to understand if I have not spoken a word yet in all the above scenarios?

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I don’t know man, take it easy and don’t make other people pay for your frustrations…

They are the cause of my frustrations…if their behaviour makes me frustrated then logically they should pay for it.

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47 posts were split to a new topic: Cannot or can not

A lot of scenarios there dude.

One thing is for sure. If you go in loud, guns blazing, schlong hanging out, (ok maybe not that last one), and get every tone right without mangling one, the conversation will not degenerate into mime.

Otherwise, see the below quote.

“To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man.”

I don’t know why I should always go in with all guns blazing…just because I am assumed to be dumb (not mute). Besides sometimes I am quietly contemplating some menu items and as I turn round to catch the server’s eye the mining begins. Because they have been observing you in the meanwhile and spring into action instantly. In other words they are faster gun-slingers.

99.99% of bignoses don’t speak Chinese, ergo you most likely don’t speak Chinese. It may not be true in your case, but the logic is easy enough to get.


First of all it’s only 99% and not 99.99% lol. However I did say I understand the assumption they make, but I can not (or is it cannot) fathom the point of miming. That’s all.

Miming is often used when two people without a common language are trying to communicate.


I meant moving your lips without producing sound. There is a common language. Chinese! But they continue mouthing words silently even when I speak to them and other people clearly understand my Chinese. I think it’s a just a mental block they experience. Have you never seen it?

Yes, I have. I’m just yanking your chain.

Personally, no.
I’m local but I’ve seem people struggle with foreigners. Never seen that before.

Oh so that’s common here? Then I dunno what they’re think too. Maybe I shall ask when I see it.

It looks a little like when a robot starts short-circuiting in a sci fi movie. I think it’s a combination of fear of losing face because of poor (or non-existent) English skills, embarrassment (or excitement) at the prospect of interacting with a foreener, and assumption that foreigners just don’t have the cognitive skills necessary to gain any level of fluency in Chinese.

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