As a Chinese teacher, it’s always a delight for me to discover people who are able to speak Chinese, and in this case famous people. Recently the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has impressed us all with his Chinese skills by doing a Chinese Q&A at Tsing Hua University in China. Have you watched his interview yet?
My question is: do you want to speak like Mark Zuckerberg? It’s possible, and better yet, it’s easier than you think.
While I’m impressed by his Chinese skills, I’m particularly enjoyed his confident and assuring attitude in speaking Chinese. He seems quite relaxed and doesn’t seem to speak from a written script but more from his thoughts. Let me give you a close analysis on Zuckerberg’s Chinese and you can see what you need to do to speak like him. Generally learning Chinese can be “disassembled” into a few areas:
Pronunciation & Tones: in fact this is the weakest part of Zuckerberg’s speech to me. His tones are not very accurate. For example his fourth tone is not down enough and his second tone is not up enough, making all words sounding relatively flat. You can easily hear that this is a foreigner trying to speak Chinese but who managed to do so mediocrely. I assume that he didn’t pay special attention to train his tones in his Chinese study. For you, a bit of focused trainings on tones will give you better result and make you sound better than Zuckerberg.
Vocabularies: Zuckerberg has a good range of vocabularies. In my opinion, an intermediate level. This may take a while to accumulate. Extensive reading and speaking is a must in order to acquire a good amount of vocabulary. In this part, I’d say Mark Zuckerberg did a good job.
Grammars: A good news in learning Chinese is that the grammar is not a difficult part to start with. Many people are not aware of how logic Chinese grammar can be. To name a few, the language of Chinese is characterized with:
- No conjugations of verbs. a verb stays the same in whatever situation
- No clear tenses like in most other languages
- No articles: you don’t need to think whether to use a / the, het/dat, este/eso…etc
- No plurals: thus no need to worry if it one of or many of somethings
- No gender: no such thing as feminine or masculine words
The list of how easy and logical of Chinese grammar goes on. Now think about how you can easily make sentences in Chinese!
Attitude: at the very beginning, Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he likes challenges. To maintain a good attitude is important. And the fact the Zuckerberg’s wife is Chinese descendant, may help with his Chinese learning. And he is not afraid of embarrassment, no matter what kind of mistakes he makes. I tend to think this is one of the hardest part in learning Chinese: persistence and willing to make mistakes.
So that’s all it takes to speak like Mark Zuckerberg. And yes, his tone is not perfect, he makes grammar mistakes, his speech isn’t in-depth, but he made himself understood and he is able to communicate on some topics solely in Chinese. Is this also your goal?
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