My mom speaks fluent mandarin, at least that’s what I thought. The family was at a Shanghaiese restaurant (Shanghai Park in Highland Park if you are wondering) and my mom was doing the ordering. Listening to her speak for the first time after starting my studies clearly shows she has a Cantonese accent. And yet, the server knew exactly what she said (her hand gestures helped too I guess).
With a multi-tonal language like Chinese people tend to worry they might frack up and say something embarrassing. But I learned that, having recognized that a lot of words sound the same, context is a must when communicating in Chinese. I guess when listening you have process whole sentences instead of breaking down each word or phrase in order to understand. And at least in Mandarin, if your pronunciation is a bit off it’s not too big of a deal.
Just ignore the funny looks.