It gives you a chance to re-iterate in the other person's language what you meant. Or you could just consider it useful for good will and generally smoothing your relationships. You can't go wrong improving your language skills.
Having lead off-shore Chinese developments teams since 2006, I wish I'd invested time in learning the language. The smattering of German I learnt at the Goethe Institut a few years ago really helps me with my German colleagues, even if it's an opportunity for them to laugh at me over a beer. It does give me a better sense of what is being discussed if they're talking to each other in German though.
Anyway, the story is about somebody in the US mid-West. That's a brutal time difference for working with Chinese colleagues. I did it for a number of years from Toronto (12-13 hours time difference). I'm much happier doing it from London now: I'd rather start work at 06:30 than have to come back to work at 21:30 after being out for dinner and not know when I'm going to escape so I can go to bed.