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Mark Zuckerberg Delights Tsinghua Audience by Speaking Exclusively in Putonghua

Posted: 10/23/2014 2:31 pm

zuckerberg speaking chinese at tsinghuaMark Zuckerberg’s visit to Tsinghua University yesterday revealed some important announcements, but it wasn’t what he said so much as the way he said it that has delighted Chinese audiences.

The founder and CEO of Facebook spoke exclusively in Putonghua at a sit-down interview in front of Tsinghua students. For 29 minutes, Zuckerberg spoke fluent Chinese and smoothly answered questions despite having a hard English accent and with difficultly getting his tones correct.

Zuckerberg received a round of applause by beginning the talk with “大家好” (hello, everybody), and continued to astound the awestruck crowd by continuing in Chinese. The only English spoken during the talk was by the host when he introduced Zuckerberg.

zuckerberg speaking chinese at tsinghuaZuckerberg announced some of his plans, such as the hiring of about 20 Chinese nationals to work abroad, something that has happened annually for awhile. But Zuckerberg usually fielded much simpler questions, all pertaining to China.

When answering “Why did you learn Chinese?”, Zuckerberg said that his wife Priscilla Chan is Chinese, a statement that drew a large round of applause from the audience. He explained that her grandmother only speaks Chinese, and he wanted a way to converse with her.

Besides saying he wanted to learn more about Chinese culture, Zuckerberg said that Chinese is a difficult language to learn, and that he wanted a challenge. To this, the host said, ”Today, let’s all challenge Mark.”

zuckerberg speaking chinese at tsinghuaZuckerberg had earlier met Chen Jining, the principal of Tsinghua, had and held talks about cultivating talent and opportunities to work together. Zuckerberg has agreed to serve as an advisor at Tsinghua.

Zuckerberg has been learning Putonghua since at least 2010.

Here is video so you can hear Zuckerberg’s Putonghua for yourself:

Photos: screencaps from QQ


Chinese Becomes Second Most Spoken Foreign Language in the USA

Posted: 10/15/2014 6:39 pm

history_of_chinese_calligraphyThe Chinese language is now the third most-spoken language in America, and in second place among foreign languages behind Spanish.

The number of Chinese heading for America is on the rise, as we told you previously. One survey found there were 2.6 million Chinese there in 2009, increasing to three million today. But there must be more at play than mere immigration. Confucius Institutes, which teach Chinese, are proliferating and there is increasing interest in the language among Americans.

“Chinese” also isn’t broken down into dialects in the survey, but it’s well-known that Cantonese remains widely-used. But that is changing, according to Haipei Shue, the president of the National Council of Chinese Americans (NCCA):

“It’s an inexorable demographic change that Mandarin has become the ruling language among Chinese Americans. Now you can order food in Mandarin in any Chinese restaurant here.”

Dong Kun, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ institute of linguistics, said the popularity of Mandarin is good for the promotion of  Chinese culture worldwide.

Widespread immigration means the USA is increasingly becoming a society that doesn’t speak English. Sixty-two million people in the USA have a mother tongue that isn’t English, representing 21 percent of the total population.


Photo: arts cultural


400 Million People in China Can’t Speak The National Language

Posted: 09/23/2014 12:45 pm
david beckham chinese writing

David Beckham doesn’t speak Chinese, but it’s written on him.

Putonghua, or Mandarin, has been pushed by authorities in Beijing as a national language to resolve communication problems stemming from a multitude of regional dialects. The idea is no matter what your native tongue, you’ll be able to do business in Putonghua. But while it may seem like everybody now speaks it, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Approximately 400 million Chinese citizens, or about 30 percent of the population, do not have the ability to converse in Putonghua, reports Xinhua News Network. The claim was made by Li Weihong, Deputy director of the National Education Department and head of the National Language Writing Work Committee, at an activity to promote Putonghua.

Li clarified that 70 percent of China’s population has acceptable Putonghua ability, and that 95 percent of the population can read Chinese characters. However, Li warned that only 10 percent of Chinese are actually fluent in Putonghua, and that modern spoken vernacular is taking over literary Chinese.

The government justifies its expansion of Putonghua to “(eliminate) the estrangement between dialects for the sake of social communication”, but some regions and cultures naturally view a top-down, Beijing-pushed national language as a threat to local culture.

That is particularly acute here in Guangdong, where Cantonese seems to be continually under threat. A rumor that local news programming would drop Cantonese anchors in favor of Putonghua speakers has caused outrage in the province. But this isn’t the only pocket of resistance. A Shanghai subway driver was reported to be making announcements in Shanghainese, in defiance of an order to use Putonghua. And it’s not as though these fears are unfounded: the Manchu minority that once ruled all of China is now down to its last two native speakers.

Nevertheless, despite its position as the official language, Putonghua still faces challenges of its own. A generation of computer and mobile phone use has resulted in writing skills being atrophied, with many born-and-raised Chinese people forgetting how to write certain characters. This may be the inspiration behind a currently televised competition simply about writing in Chinese.

Putonghua remains such a problem for many of its users that there are regular Weibo posts that teach Chinese the proper usage of commonly mispronounced characters.

But the biggest threat to Putonghua may be lurking from within. For a generation, Chinese students have been valiantly trying to learn to read and speak English. The efforts so far have produced a basic enough understanding to create the memes “ungelibable” and “no zuo no die“, an improper use of Chinglish for comedic effect. Yet, one day, enough Chinese may learn English well enough to give the official language a run for its money.

[h/t Sinocism]

Photo: ahradio


Chinese Signs in Canada Criticized for “Undermining National Identity”

Posted: 07/15/2014 6:10 pm

chinese sign controversyBus shelter advertisements in Vancouver, Canada written in Chinese have been criticized for undermining ”traditional English and French Canadian identity,” reports the Vancouver Sun.

Brad Saltzberg, a spokeperson for the advocacy group Putting Canada First, wants the signs taken down. Last April, the group was successful in taking down Chinese-only ads belonging to the social service agency SUCCESS. Saltzberg states that if Chinese signs continue to proliferate, ”our whole city will appear to be Asian.”

West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith does not see anything wrong with the signs, which usual market real estate and financial services, and are also written in English. Smith said, “I believe in personal freedom. If you pay your money you should be able to advertise your sign in any language you want. I’m not a racist. I don’t see why anybody would be offended by an advertisement in a different language.”

West Vancouver’s sign bylaw does not cover language issues.

Saltzberg said “I’m proud to say I’ve never believed in multiculturalism for even one minute of my life.” Multiculturalism, a policy that promotes and encourages the proliferation of diverse world cultures, was nationalized in Canada during the 1970s.

A 2011 census of Vancouver revealed that there are 163,230 ethnically Chinese residents. In total, Chinese residents constitute 27.7 percent of the total population of Vancouver. The white community is expected to become the minority in Vancouver by 2031.

The largest and oldest component of the Vancouver Chinese community are Cantonese, who write using Traditional Chinese characters. The Chinese written on the contested signs are written in Simplified Chinese, the language used by mainland Chinese, commonly alluded to as the newest immigrants to the Vancouver diaspora.

However, mainland Chinese have come under fire for causing Vancouver’s real estate prices to skyrocket. Their antics have lead to the inspiration of a reality TV show called Ultra Rich Asian Women that only stars Putonghua-speaking Chinese women.

Photo: Vancouver Sun

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