The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has been described as sounding "like someone was stepping on his face" after conducting a 30 minute interview session in Mandarin Chinese.
Zuckerberg was in Beijing at the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, whose advisory board he has just joined. As part of his new role, he met students of the school for a half hour chat – which he decided to conduct in Mandarin.
While it is extremely admirable that the American technology entrepreneur attempted to communicate in a language other than English, the reaction to the session has been mixed.
One blogger wrote: "It's hard to describe in English what Zuckerberg's Mandarin sounded like but I'd put it roughly at the level of someone who studied for two years in college, which means he can communicate like an articulate seven-year-old with a mouth full of marbles."
Others, however, were fairer in their comments. One wrote "apart from the tones, he seems to have learned the vocabulary and grammar very well."
Most critics agreed that Zuckerberg's Chinese pronunciation could use some work (one tonal slip-up meant that he claimed Facebook had just 11 mobile users instead of 1 billion) but they were still impressed he had attempted it at all.
The Facebook founder first started learning Chinese after marrying his wife Priscilla Chan - who is of Chinese-American descent – so he could communicate with her family.
Now the skill is also coming in handy as Facebook moves to strengthen ties with China, where the social media is currently banned. Zuckerberg made pains in the talk to describe China as "a great country," and said "We are already in Chine. We help Chinese companies gain customers abroad. We want to help the rest of the world connect to China."
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