Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's talk in Chinese

Hey guys, iaing has shared a video link to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent Chinese talk to staff & students at Tsinghua University faculty of Economics. http://tech.qq.com/a/20141023/004696.htm

Edit: original FB source Redirecting...

It was a very humorous, entertaining and heartwarming talk! It is very interesting for several reasons, but here’s what stands out for me the most:

Firstly, the warm, non-judgmental friendliness of the students and staff, as Mark somewhat struggled to speak at some length in Chinese.

He was introduced to the audience, and then to everyone’s surprise and delight, he launched into Mandarin, instead of the English they were expecting. He speaks slowly and often struggles (though it’s 10x better than mine!), his tones are often off, yet the audience atmosphere is great! He had the confidence to keep speaking, knowing he was making mistakes. Most of us would have retreated back into the safety of English. In turn, some of the students’ English wasn’t “perfect” either, but no one cared in that atmosphere of acceptance and respect.

For me, it’s not too hard to form an emotional connection with the few Chinese people I’ve met. They’re the kind of people I want to practice my Mandarin with (and make friends with regardless) when I’m ready: warm, friendly, interesting people who enrich your life just by having the pleasure of meeting them.

The ideal situation to practice speaking: friendly native-speakers who won’t point out each and every error, or make you feel uncomfortable etc.

1 Like

Edit: iaing will pop in later and comment on the interesting aspects of the talk itself.

That’s one great thing about learning Chinese; the natives are welcoming and encouraging, especially at beginning stages. They practically do backflips out of excitement that you can say 你好 or 谢谢. It’s definitely a confidence booster. :slight_smile:

They tend to chill out once you’re at higher levels and can carry on a comfortable conversation. So it’s not that annoying and you can have normal speaking experiences with them. You go from superhuman back to regular human who can speak another language, which is a good thing.


Hey julz, thanks for starting a dedicated thread on this. The original FB post is below, for those interested in seeing the original vid, and all the FB comments etc: Redirecting...

Personally, from a cultural perspective, I think this is really interesting. The more China-West bridges that are open, rather than not, the better. This may, also, likely spur an interest in learning languages generally, particularly in the US.

Some of the comments on the FB page:

“I can’t understand a thing but I can’t stop watching. So impressive. Makes me want to pick up another language!”

“This video will inspire thousands of young Americans and others across the globe to learn another language. No money can buy what you acquired thru study and very hard work to learn a very difficult but most important language. Leadership and Inspiration! Thanks for sharing.”

By opening with his motivations for learning Mandarin; wife, in-laws, cultural learning and challenge – he is ticking a lot of boxes, particularly from a Chinese perspective. Moving then onto the Huo Yuanjia / Tianjin trip also really sets him up well, for the local audience, I think.

I am not sure which Huo Yuanjia movie he is referring to. Does anyone know? I’m guessing, Fearless? I think that comment is great, and also textbook language learning 101, find something you are interested in, and then expand and develop on it in that language.

From a business perspective he is clearly (and necessarily) across potential Chinese alliances and competitors – including mentioning having dinner with Lei Jun, and his comments on Xiaomi, Lenovo, Weixin, Taobao, etc. Being in Beijing and dining with the likes of Lei Jun is exactly what more western technology CEOs need to be doing. Did Tim Cook meet with Lei Jun when he was in BJ. Maybe, who knows?

It is also amazing how relaxed he is. You rarely see him like this in English discussions. This kind of reconfirms (for me, at least) the sociology view that you don’t have a core persona, but rather personas for different stages / people, and languages can help you move between these stages.

I guess people may comment on his language skills, but I don’t think this is the interesting bit. His level is what you would expect from someone who is very, very part time and studied for only a few years. He also, reportedly, uses Benny-like methods, so he is a mixed bag – his ability to make small chat is better than his listening, his vocab is surprisingly good, but his tones are perhaps not the best.

I was reminded of Julien Gaudfroy’s comment on learning Mandarin – “Some people believe talking a lot is key. Can be true, but don’t forget that talking a lot means repeating your own mistakes all the time! Then it becomes harder and harder to get rid of them. Talking a lot works only if you pay a lot of attention to listening all the time and always assume that you’re still missing something.”

But, good on him for putting in the effort to get this far. China, and Chinese culture, is something the world can’t really ignore.

My favourite bit of the talk:


Rough translation:

Host: Next question, between you and your wife, who has the better Chinese?

Zuckerberg: Using Chinese, I can speak a lot more words, but my wife’s listening ability is much better than mine. One day, I asked her, “why is my (Chinese) listening ability so bad”? She said, “your English listening ability is also terrible”.

1 Like

Yeh, they say that when they stop complimenting you on your Chinese, then you know you’re getting somewhere:)

Yes!! - the latter is my favourite part of the whole thing:) Also, when he said his dog “Beast” had its own Facebook fans - haha!

扎克伯格:我有一只狗 “Beast” 一只牧羊犬。
Zuckerberg: I have a sheep dog, “Beast”.
Moderator: You made a page for your dog?
Zuckerberg: Yes, it has a lot of fans.

1 Like

Zuckerberg’s reasons for studying Chinese:




[几年, 去年? 以前]我和Priscilla决定结婚。所以我告诉她奶奶用中文,她非常吃惊。第二,我觉得[是不是/学习]我想要学习中国文化中国是伟大的国家我觉得学习语言帮助我学习文化,所以我想学语言。第三,普通话很难,我只说英文,但我喜欢挑战。

Host: Why do you want to study Chinese?

Zuckerberg: There are three reasons. Second [misspoke]…first… my wife is Chinese. Her family speaks Chinese. Her grandmother only speaks Chinese. So, I want to speak with them (laughs).

Last year/before, Priscilla and I decided to get married. So, I told her grandmother using Chinese. She was really surprised (laughs). [Host: Priscilla is your wife. Z: Right].

The second, I think, right, I want to study Chinese culture. China is a very big country. I think studying Chinese helps me study (Chinese) culture. So I want to study (Chinese) language.

The third? Mandarin is very difficult. I only speak English. But I like a challenge.

Reason for going to Tianjin:


主持人:天津? 你为什么去。。

扎克伯格:我在北京的时候,我要坐很快的火车,我也要做不一样事情 […去天津看看霍元甲的家乡…]。我喜欢这个电影,所以我要去看[…]。


Host: Tianjin? Why did you want to go there?

Z: When I was in Beijing, I wanted to catch the high speed rail, and I also wanted to do something different […go and see Huo Yuanjia’s hometown…], I really like that film [Fearless?], so I wanted to go have a look […]

Host: [to the audience] He’s a really big fan of Huo Yuanjia, so he wanted to see his hometown…

-what is the word they are saying at the end of those sentences?


I know the Chinese call the movie霍元甲 (Huò yuán jiǎ) after the martial artist Huo Yuanjia, but it was released as “Fearless” for westerners.

I’m stumped by the incomprehensible part, especially as his tones aren’t too good. Although in part non-sensical, to my ears it sounds like he’s saying

“Wǒ zài běijīng de shíhòu, wǒ yào zuò hěn kuài de huǒchē, wǒ yě yào han bù yàn jia de su xing hao bu wo …[too noisy] Wǒ xǐhuān zhège diànyǐng, suǒyǐ wǒ yào han ta le suxing”.

Hope a native speaker will enlighten us.

Woohoo! I could understand some words and phrases from their speach. I didn’t expect to understand anything.

Not “我也要做不一样的事情”, but “我也要看霍元甲的塑像” (I also wanted to see the statue of Huo Yuanjia). I like this movie so 我要看他的塑像. :slight_smile:

The host then says; "原来马克是霍元甲的大粉丝,所以他一定要去天津看一下霍元甲的家乡和塑像。“ (It turns out Mark is a big fan of Huo Yuanjia so he had to go to Tianjin to see Huo Yuanjia’s hometown and statue.)


statue! I knew LFJ would come to the rescue :slight_smile: That’s great listening.

To be fair, the host was kind of slurring that part. There were many -a/-ia syllables in there (看,下,甲, 乡,像) so it all sounded like “yayayaya” through all the noise the first time. :stuck_out_tongue:

The biggest problem I’ve found in speaking Mandarin in China: many people can’t speak it well!

Especially in smaller areas or further inland, like in Henan for example, but also the older generation here in Shanghai, or anywhere there’s a local dialect really. They sound like they’re mumbling so much it’s really hard to understand them. The 外地人 I buy fruit from often speaks to me and to be honest, there have been times where I didn’t catch a single word of what he said. Just had to smile and say thanks for the bananas, bye-bye!

Check out this article. It says 400 million Chinese can’t even speak Mandarin:


And the Chinese source article, if you want to read it:


Really ? That is a very useful thing to know ! I am going to check the video out, it sounds very interesting.

“It is also amazing how relaxed he is. You rarely see him like this in English discussions. This kind of reconfirms (for me, at least) the sociology view that you don’t have a core persona, but rather personas for different stages / people, and languages can help you move between these stages.”
This is a very important point. I couldn’t agree more. As as bilingual person I am constantly banging on on how each language I speak pulls out different sides of my character but nobody really believes me, but this video shows it quite clearly. He is painful to watch speaking English, and in Chinese he is so relaxed !

This video is seriously impressive and it is really sending a great message. The cheering is so wonderful, I want some of that too! :wink: Thanks for the in depth analysis of the language, very interesting