When he’s not running Facebook, or walking the family dog (you know, the one with more than two million likes on the social network), Facebook overlord Mark Zuckerberg seems to like hitting the books. Specifically, the language books, as he just gave his first-ever Q&A in Mandarin at Beijing’s Tsinghua University this past Wednesday.
Of course, Zuckerberg wasn’t just there to practice his conversational skills. As he noted on his official Facebook page, Zuckerberg officially joined Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management Advisory Board earlier in the week.
“Tsinghua is an amazing center of learning and research, and it has been inspiring to be with so many talented future Chinese leaders,” Zuckerberg wrote.
So how did the CEO do? Well, this writer doesn’t speak Mandarin, but it did appear as if Zuckerberg was able to hold his own throughout most of the 30 minute session, only needing a bit of assistance once audience members were allowed to start tossing in their own questions. He even had the audience laughing at points. I doubt I was very funny during my few years of high school Spanish.
It’s unclear just how much Zuckerberg has been practicing the language, but he did indicate in 2010 that one of his yearly goals—which he intended to pursue with zest—was to learn Mandarin.
Foreign Policy’s Isaac Stone Fish put Zuckerberg at about two years’ worth of college-level practice, given his speech patterns and verbiage.
Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin “like an articulate 7-year-old with a mouth full of marbles,” Fish says.
“Most of what Zuckerberg said was guessable because of the context — even though he mispronounced most of what he said — and the audience applauded supportively.”
As for what Zuckerberg might do with his new appointment, which makes up more of the meat of this week’s events in China, it’s speculated that Zuckerberg is using the opportunity to enhance Facebook’s knowledge of China’s technology market—advertising, data centers and, most importantly, how Facebook might be able to lay the groundwork to relaunch its social network in the country following a 2009 ban.