Mark Zuckerberg speaks Chinese. Who knew?

The Facebook founder spoke with students in Chinese at Tsinghua University in Beijing Wednesday.

We knew he was a tech whiz, but who knew he was also a linguist?

Mark Zuckerberg conducted a 30-minute question-and-answer session entirely in Mandarin Chinese with a group of students from Tsinghua University in Beijing on Wednesday. During the session, Mr. Zuckerberg discussed everything from Chinese innovation to why he is studying Chinese.

“Hello everyone. Thanks for coming,” he told the group in Mandarin, as translated by The New York Times. “I’m very glad to be in Beijing. I love this city. My Chinese is really a mess, but I study using Chinese every day.”

Though his Mandarin is far from perfect, and supposedly spoken with a Shandong accent, his opening statement got a roaring round of applause from students and faculty.

“Perhaps I need practice,” Zuckerberg said jokingly.

Zuckerberg was at the school after joining the advisory council of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management earlier this week.

Zuckerberg's been working on his Chinese for a while. He announced on his Facebook page in 2010 that he was going to begin learning Mandarin as a personal challenge. He said learning a language is the best way to learn about another culture, and he wants to learn more about Chinese culture. 

Zuckerberg is reportedly had lessons in the morning with a tutor, according to The Los Angeles Times. His wife, Priscilla Chan, whom he married in 2012, is the daughter of immigrants who spoke Cantonese at home. He said he knows more Mandarin words than his wife, but she has better listening comprehension. 

“One time I asked her, why is my listening comprehension so bad?” Zuckerberg said. “She said, ‘Your listening comprehension in English is also bad.’”

In China, Western websites like Google and Twitter are blocked because of the government’s concerns about the free flow of information. Facebook has been blocked in China since July 2009 when there was a violent riot in China’s Xingjiang province, where almost 200 people died. During the session, Zuckerberg was asked about the site’s plans on coming to China.

“We’re already in China,” he said. “We help Chinese companies increase foreign customers, they use Facebook ads to find more customers.”

Last spring, Facebook signed a three-year lease on an office space in Beijing’s business district, according to Bloomberg News. Zuckerberg said Facebook has been helping Lenovo advertise in Indonesia, and has worked with some Chinese cities to attract foreign visitors via Facebook.

“We want to help other places in the world connect to China,” he said.

Zuckerberg wasn't the only tech CEO to make their way to China this week. Apple's CEO Tim Cook met with Chinese vice primer Ma Kai to discuss data privacy. The meeting came two days after Chinese hackers, backed by the government, tried to attack Apple's iCloud. 

During his trip to China, Mr. Cook went to one of the Foxconn factories in north central China. Apple and Foxconn have come under fire for poor working conditions and employees working excessive hours. 

China's first Apple store was opened in 2008, and the country has since become a major market for Apple. During his trip, Cook said, "[I]t’s just a matter of time [before China] become[s] Apple’s biggest revenue contributor.”

After Zuckerberg completed his session with students, he reportedly accessed Facebook's website within Chinese borders.

“When he finished the Q&A, Zuckerberg scaled China’s Great Firewall secretly and posted the video of on his Facebook page,” Zhuang Xiaopi, a Weibo user from Fujian, noted on his account, according to the Los Angeles Times.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.