Alright, so I am one of the few hundred thousand, or few million, non-monolingual Americans residing in America at the moment.
I can speak, read, and write a few thousand words in Mandarin Chinese. However, my spoken Chinese skills are the most deficient.
I didn't get where I am now, with my credentials, by simply sitting around in Chinese bars all day and asking "How do I say ____ in Chinese?"
I sat down, with a book, for at least one hour each day, transcribing characters into simplified script, and more recently, traditional script. Now, I can read most any generic news articles from Taiwan or China as long as the material in them is not overtly specific (economics, psychology, etc.).
I have taken proficiency tests in Chinese as well. The HSK for instance. Think the TOEFL of Chinese for a moment, and I have passed it. Therefore, if I wanted to, I could study at a university in mainland China.
But if it's one thing that I find oh-so-irking, it would have to be the American that is disillusioned into thinking that they speak German / Korean / Japanese / Insert language here just because they spent a year or two wherever while they were in the military. I kind of have a reputation where I come from, people know I speak Chinese because people talk big about me here. At times I find it annoying, really. People think I'm god because I'm a Caucasian that speaks Chinese, but Chinese people that speak English get zero praise, wtf? Moving on, some guy talks to me about it at the university here, and then another guy says he speaks Japanese fluently I guess because of the flawed thought process many Americans possess which influences them to think that Japanese and Chinese are similar (They both come from two completely different language classes, thousands of years ago. Aside from the fact that Japanese uses its own unique character set along with a large portion of Chinese characters. Grammatically, it has much more in common with Korean, or even Turkish.)
And finally, to the dialogue that ensued.
"I was in Osaka for three years. Almost got married. I speak Japanese fluently."
"Can you read Katakana Hiragana or Kanji?"
"BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA DESU!"
"No, bro I don't speak Japanese, I was asking you if you could READ it, you know, Katakana, Hiragana?"
"I got no clue what you're talkin' about."
"Have you taken the JLPT or the DLPT?"
"I got no clue what you're talkin' about. I took classes at the education center on base."
--The Next Day--
"I speak Japanese fluently."
"How do you say 'nuclear reactor' in Japanese?"
"I don't know."
How to properly demonstrate language fluency:
A degree in a foreign language doesn't mean shit to me, because I had a classmate in his senior year that couldn't read the Chinese character for "Beer" correctly, and it's such a painfully common word in Chinese.
Take proficiency tests. I cannot say this enough. When the U.S. Government is considering hiring their applicants, the applicants must take the DLPT (Defense Language Proficiency Test) for the language they want to translate for. Said applicants need demonstrable fluency in said foreign language, and usually it is all of these other little non-government proficiency tests which get government certified translators in the door with their first gigs.
/rant. this is just something that annoys the fuck out of me.