Communication difficulties between English-speakers & Chinese-speakers is about more than just language...
Recently I was reading an interview with an American linguist who has written a book about her time living in Beijing and studying Mandarin Chinese.
culture affects what words we use and what things we choose to talk about.
From the point of view of a Westerner: "How can you suddenly leave off the 'please's when you have lived a life where 'please' and 'thank you' are drummed into you from the get-go? Or how can you not be taken aback when asked about your earnings, your rent, your age, or asked which of your children you like best?"
Westerners meeting someone for the first time (or even the second or third time) would never ask such questions. And as children, English-speakers are taught to always make requests with 'softeners' like "please" or "could you...?" And to say "thank you" when receiving something. A native English-speaker might feel a person is being rude to them if these 'softeners' are not used.
And from the point of view of a Chinese person: "One Chinese woman told me an involved story about her childhood experience with a western missionary couple. The couple took her and some school friends on a picnic, [during which] the husband asked his wife to “please” pass the water. The schoolgirls were shocked – horrified – that this husband would ask his wife for something in such a formal way."
So remember: when communicating with people from another country, consider their language AND their culture to avoid unwanted offence or confusion.
G.A.L.E.S.L. / joe3
Some tips and links on learning English.