I just got back from a business trip to China, where I visited Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. I listened to and spoke a lot of Chinese, and while I can't yet get by in a business negotiation without occasional-to-frequent interpretation, I think my interpreter wouldn't have survived if I hadn't been able to get most of what people were saying on my own. Plus, I made a very good impression whenever I dropped some Mandarin. I can be proud of how much I can still converse in Chinese now, almost ten years after I stopped taking Chinese classes. (Thanks Skritter for maintaining my vocabulary all this time!)
But the real demonstration of my language skills was when a guy came up to me to hand me a flyer for a Chinese kung fu club that was just opening up. "Chinese gongfu! Very interesting!", he said.
“对不起，我没有时间。” Sorry, I don't have time.
After this basic response with good pronunciation, the guy was excited by my apparent comprehension, and redoubled his efforts. After a bit of conversation, I decided to tell him I was flying out tonight and so couldn't possibly come see the fight: