It really doesn't make sense to me as so much in Japanese is context driven with lots of aisatsu and inference. Why is it that slight mispronunciation seems so often to be catastrophic?
Or, is it just me being wrong again...
In my experience much of it is the "deer in headlights" panic situation of many having to deal with us outlanders as it were. In some cases they are so worried about having to "hear" the English they think is coming that they simply seem to turn off any listening skills in their native language with the end result being something like when you catch a tune on the radio on the wrong beat and you know you know the song, but it is just all wrong until something changes to resent the rhythm back to what you are used to. I remember back in my first semester of uni I went to Tokyo to meet up with some people and the annual Yasukuni embu was happening so I decided to check it out. The map I had was a bit unclear (as Japanese maps usually are) so while I knew I had to take one of two major roads branching out from the station, I couldn't tell which one. I asked an older lady selling food at a stand at the station in Japanese which street Yasukuni jinja was on. She freaks out and starts saying "Eigo wakaranai! Eigo wakaranai!" After going back and forth she finally "hears" Yasukuni jinja. I show her my map (written in Japanese) and ask which of the two streets we are facing is the one on the map with Yasukuni jinja on it. She freaks out again "Eigo yomenai!! Eigo yomenai!" Eventually she runs off and brings back an old man to help me instead. Thinking the problem is finally solved I repeat my original question (keeping in mind this entire discussion has been in Japanese from the start). His reply..... "Nnnnn.......Eigo wakaranai ne." Eventually I just went to the police box across the street and asked the officer standing there who just grunted and pointed me in the right direction.