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China Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin At Tsinghua University In Beijing 217

HughPickens.com writes Abby Phillip reports at the Washington Post that that Mark Zuckerberg just posted a 30-minute Q&A at Tsinghua University in Beijing in which he answered every question exclusively in Chinese — a notoriously difficult language to learn and particularly, to speak. "It isn't just Zuckerberg's linguistic acrobatics that make this a notable moment," writes Philip. "This small gesture — although some would argue that it is a huge moment — is perhaps his strongest foray into the battle for hearts and minds in China." Zuckerberg and Facebook have been aggressively courting Chinese users for years and the potential financial upside for the business. Although Beijing has mostly banned Facebook, the company signed a contract for its first ever office in China earlier this year. A Westerner speaking Mandarin in China — at any level — tends to elicit joy from average Chinese, who seem to appreciate the effort and respect they feel learning Mandarin demonstrates. So how well did he actually do? One Mandarin speaker rates Zuckerberg's language skills at a seventh grader's speech: "It's hard not see a patronizing note in the Chinese audience's reaction to Zuckerberg's Mandarin. To borrow from Samuel Johnson's quip, he was like a dog walking on its hind legs: It wasn't done well, but it was a surprise to see it done at all."
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Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin At Tsinghua University In Beijing

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  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @05:07PM (#48216395)

    "One Mandarin speaker rates Zuckerberg's language skills at a seventh grader's speech:"

    The linked article is headlined "Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin Like a Seven Year Old." Significant difference between seven years old and a seventh grader.

    • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday October 23, 2014 @05:11PM (#48216421) Homepage Journal
      I'll say. I was 23 when in seventh grade.
    • to be fair, that's still bragable

      when it's said that someone is at "X year old level" in a language, they mean sentence complexity and vocabulary, not complexity of thought or level of intelligence

      YMMV, but in my experience, you only need 2 verb tenses and maybe 300 words of vocabulary to be "yourself" in another language...most human uses simple words to make complex thoughts so you don't need that much to have an identifiable "personality"

      • YMMV, but in my experience, you only need 2 verb tenses ... to be "yourself" in another language...

        That would explain why Chinese is so difficult then -- not enough tenses. How can you be yourself in a language that only has one tense?!?

      • by gerddie ( 173963 )

        YMMV, but in my experience, you only need 2 verb tenses and maybe 300 words of vocabulary to be "yourself" in another language...most human uses simple words to make complex thoughts so you don't need that much to have an identifiable "personality"

        I have to disagree. I'm German and live in Spain since seven years now, and there are still many moments when I can not be myself because the languages are too different. Languages also expresses a mindset of a people, and when you touch a point where the mindset between your culture and that of the other language is different, then you will have difficulties to be yourself in that other language.

        • I have to disagree.

          do you? what are you disagreeing with?

          YMMV means "your milage may vary"...it's a way to qualify your statement so pendantic people won't respond the way you have

          so are you disagreeing with me when I indicated YMMV? do you NOT think the phenomenon varies by person?

          or do you disagree that what I said was what i experienced? are you saying that I was NOT able to 'be myself' within the constraints I laid out?

          if you are sure then you should have more detail...i said "2 tenses" and so if not 2 then how many? how

        • One of my engineers is a native of Iran. He suggests that he feels he is in many ways a different person when he speaks English as opposed to Farsi. I personally am struggling my way through learning Japanese. Though I count myself by no means competent in the language, I can see hints of this in how my thought processes must bend around the language. I don't feel this so much for Spanish, but then I also found it to be a comparative cakewalk to Japanese.
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      Given that his wife speaks Cantonese natively, and speaking Mandarin with his wife might have been the bulk of his practice, that rating might be par for the course.

      Some Mandarin speakers would rate any attempt of a Cantonese speaker at Mandarin at about 7-year old level (think of how a stuck-up French journalist might rate a person's speech who learned French from a Franco-Canadian, yeah)...

    • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @06:56PM (#48217109)

      A guy worth many billions of dollars can pay for someone to teach them a language, and has time to learn the language. Who'da thunk it possible? What a grand and glorious day for all of the people of the world.. er wait a minute...

      The proceeding message was brought to you by a cynical old guy who learned to read/write and speak 2 1/4th additional languages (German, Spanish *and currently working on Russian*) on his own time without billions of dollars to do so. All while raising a kid as a single parent and working full time. Sorry, he's nothing special in terms of intelligence and definitely lacking in morals. Being high on his ego does nothing for me.. Next!

      • The fact that you took an interest in learning languages whilst baby sitting, does not make the fact that he bothered to learn Mandarin while running a multi billion dollar company any less. In fact it seems (from me at least) to make you somewhat petty. I agree that he could have a person trailing behind him all the time repeating the Mandarin words for things and phrases like an intelligent tape recorder, and that would make the entire process a lot easier. I still think that it was a job well done on
    • ...Unless Chinese schooling starts at age 1. Then a seventh grader would be 7 years old.
  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @05:13PM (#48216439) Journal

    China and it's totalitarian, authoritarian government and lack of individual rights make great synergy for facebook.com

    also: his wife is Chinese

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

      also: his wife is Chinese

      I couldn't find what citizenships she holds, if any. But she is the US born child of an immigrant from Vietnam.

      • i read she was Chinese somewhere...hmm...

        • i read she was Chinese somewhere...hmm...

          She is a native born American citizen. Her parents came to America from Vietnam. She is ethnically Chinese. Calling her "Chinese" makes as much sense as calling Barack Obama "Kenyan".

          • by slew ( 2918 )

            Actually many ethnically Chinese people from Vietnam prefer to call themselves Chinese or Chinese-Vietnamese or Hoa [wikipedia.org]... They often speak Chinese (often Cantonese) and sometime speak Vietnamese poorly if at all and refuse to fully integrate with the local Vietnamese population. Many of them were came to the united states during/after the Vietnam war as they were often the local "capitalists" in the Vietnamese economy (by some measures controlling 70% of the GDP prior to the Vietnam war) and thus were quite

          • calling her "Chinese" makes as much sense as calling Barack Obama "Kenyan"

            so you're criticizing the dumb Time article or w/e it was that I read?

            are you saying I'm wrong somehow for saying "i read she was Chinese"?

            i demand an explanation

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          I think one of her Vietnamese parents were of Chinese ethnicity, but anyone can play up (or down) those types of things.
    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @05:29PM (#48216539)

      actually his wife is a US citizen born of a Chinese-Vietnamese refugee. Source: Forbes

  • To borrow from Samuel Johnson's quip, he was like a dog walking on its hind legs: It wasn't done well, but it was a surprise to see it done at all.

    Maybe his language ability is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.

  • News for Nerds eh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Who gives a shit? Seriously? Mark Zuckerberg did a thing that has nothing to do with tech or anything important, are we going to get reports of him hang gliding or surfing next? Oh boy, a person in the tech world has a reasonably impressive but totally uninteresting life skill, lets make a big deal about it for no reason.

  • Impressive (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mantle ( 104724 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @05:32PM (#48216563)
    I am a Mandarin speaker. Yes, his accent was horrible. However, this is what impressed me: He understood everything the interviewer asked in one pass. His response was a genuine expression of his thoughts rather than a textbook answer. He did not have to rely on inserting English words. His grammar was basically correct.
    • >Yes, his accent was horrible.

      Yeah. I flinched at it. And his sentences were pretty basic. (Wo tai tai shi zhong guo ren, for example.)

      That said, it's a nice gesture. When I went to China, people were constantly surprised at seeing a foreigner speak their language. It's a really diplomatic move on his part.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Like the one W had?

    http://www.salon.com/2004/10/09/bulge/

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @05:54PM (#48216679)
    They usually dont admit people unless thay have multiple talents. Mark was good an computers, learning languages, and probably a few other things.
  • How do you say "Dumb fucks" in mandarin?

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @07:00PM (#48217139)

    "The best classroom is the bedroom."

  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @07:40PM (#48217315)

    To borrow from Samuel Johnson's quip, he was like a dog walking on its hind legs: It wasn't done well, but it was a surprise to see it done at all

    Hmm. Well, few Chinese speakers ever learn to speak English very well either. Not without intensive, lengthy immersion, anyway. But it's no longer socially acceptable to make fun of them for it, nor very logical, for that matter.

  • Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg has a face that looks like it needs to be slapped, but damn this is a tough crowd.

    Good for him for putting effort into that.

  • News With a Bullet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zanadou ( 1043400 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @07:57PM (#48217389)

    Wow. [White] Anglo guy come to China and speaks Mandarin ("Holly Shit! Look, THE DOG'S DOING CALCULUS!!11"), but a Chinese tech CEO (Jack Ma? Charles Chao? Robin Li? pick one) coming to The USA and speaking English in a meeting... well, obviously that's not news-report worthy. Hell, everyone important in the world speaks English without question, right? And, if not - what's their excuse??

    Holly crap Anglo world, get over yourselves, will you? Of course Mark Zuckerburg speaks Chinese... in China. What would we expect him to speak, French?? Notice how everybody focusing on how he spoke, rather than what he said.

    • by silfen ( 3720385 )

      Well, basically, yes. English is the lingua franca of the world, and if you don't speak it, you're cut off from global culture. Mandarin is neither culturally nor commercially very important; having traveled to China many times, I can't think of anything I'd have missed out not speaking Chinese. In part that's because of a long history of self-imposed isolation, stagnancy, and xenophobia in China, in part because China destroyed much of its remaining culture and fell into poverty when it adopted communism.

      B

  • by enter to exit ( 1049190 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:00PM (#48217671)
    The former PM of Australian Kevin Rudd could also speak Mandarin. During one diplomatic spat, the Chinese embassy reminded [embassy.gov.au] him that:

    "To speak Chinese is not to know China. Many examples can be found of people who speak Mandarin to a high level but who do not understand how China works. They may have learned their Chinese shut up in their study reading the Analects."

    I think the Chinese regard this as an irreverent amusement more than anything meaningful
    • "They may have learned their Chinese shut up in their study reading the Analects."

      I had a professor who literally did learn his Chinese reading the Analects. He couldn't speak a word of the language. When he took a taxi in China, he had to write on paper to communicate with the driver.

    • by diakka ( 2281 )

      It's common for foreigners to go on game shows and speak a little Chinese. For some reason, this is very entertaining to some of the locals, but I never opted to do anything like this during my stay in China as I felt it was like being a performing monkey, and somewhat degrading.

      However, in this case, I think that in the case of Mark Zuckerberg, it's more than just being a performing monkey. I think this effort might serve to increase awareness of our attempts to show that Americans and other western nati

    • To speak Chinese is not to know China. Many examples can be found of people who speak Mandarin to a high level but who do not understand how China works.

      So? That sounds like a pointless thing to say either to make the Chinese seem somehow more mysterious or because the target is a complete idiot.

      In other news:

      USA is not England
      Brazil is not Portugal
      Mexico is not Spain
      Canads isn't England or France.
      The DRC REALLY isn't France.

      From this it ought to be blindingly obvious that merely knowing a language gives yo

  • And every time he farts we get to hear it as news?

  • ... notoriously difficult language to learn and particularly, to speak.

    Is that so? I would be interested to hear what that assessment is based on - having learned the languages myself, I didn't find it hard, on the contrary.

    Chinese is notable for having probably the simplest syntax of any language, pronunciation, this is no harder than are other languages, and the national transcription system, pinyin, is very consistent and accurately represents the pronunciation of the words, unlike for example English - for an illustration, see Mark Twain's famous satire on a similar subje

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      English is not my native language (French is), but as virtually anyone in engineering has to, i learnt it. It didn't take that long or much effort, no real format training...just guessing at the word's meanings when playing video games and watching TV and eventually I picked it up... now I live in the US and most people can't tell I'm not a native speaker unless they see my first name. My writing could be better, as you probably can see, but I'm even worse in French, so its more that I suck at writing in ge

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