This study investigates the interlanguage behavior of Chinese learners of American English, focusing on how they offer ‘compliments’ in a second language (L2). In this paper, the behavior of Taiwanese ESL (English-as-a-second-language) learners in the United States is compared with that of Taiwanese native speakers of Mandarin Chinese and with that of native speakers of American English, in order to reveal how the ESL learners perform this speech act in naturally occurring contexts.The results showed that the linguistic strategies and options employed to realize compliments by native Chinese speakers were very different from those used by native speakers of English. For example, Chinese speakers were much less inclined to offer compliments than were English speakers. This tendency was also visible in the L2 of Chinese ESL speakers. Therefore, although there were some similarities between the learners and the target language speakers, the performance of the former, in terms of the use of strategies, positive semantic carriers, syntactic formulaic patterns, supportive moves and/or small talk, could often be seen to reflect native language (L1) communicative styles and the transfer of L1 socio-cultural strategies into L2 behavior.