Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone in the audience by speaking fluent Chinese while interacting with students over a 30 minute chat.
While many spend hours each day scrolling through Facebook, the 30-year-old billionaire has been busy running his company and learning Mandarin, something he chose as his “personal challenge” in 2010.
Zuckerberg impressed the crowd at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Wednesday when he participated in a 30-minute question-and-answer session entirely in Chinese.
He later posted his Chinese-speaking debut to his Facebook page, drawing raves from some of his 30 million Facebook followers.
“Wow, just wow,” one commenter wrote. “Speaking Chinese for an entire Q&A is already beyond mind-blowing. But then cracking jokes in Chinese and getting the whole room to erupt in laughter?? That’s seriously taking it to a whole new level!”
While this may be the most public showing of the payoff of his famous personal challenges, Zuckerberg has previously tasked himself with other ambitious goals. His attempts to woo and win over Chinese hearts has had mixed reviews from Chinese speakers.
News outlet Quartz described his 30-minute chat as making him sound “like someone was stepping on his face”.
Others were kinder. “This CEO is so cool, I want to cry,” wrote one.
Mr Zuckerberg was in Beijing as a newly appointed member of the advisory board for Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.
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 commented: “Oh my god… this is terrible… but apart from the tones, he seems to have learnt the vocabulary and grammar pretty well.”
One tonal slip-up led Mr Zuckerberg to claim that Facebook had just 11 mobile users instead of one billion.
While most agreed that his pronunciation was far from fluent, most were also impressed that he had attempted it at all.
Mr Zuckerberg, who is married to Chinese-American Priscilla Chan, set himself the goal of learning Mandarin in 2010, in part so that he could communicate with his Chinese relatives.
But Facebook as a company is also keen to improve relationships with China. There is currently a ban on the use of the social media site, which dates back to 2009.
There was no explicit chat about the ban and Mr Zuckerberg described China as a “great country”.
“The Chinese language is difficult, and I speak English, but I like challenges,” he said.
If you think you are too old or too busy to learn a new language, take a cue from this 30 year old entrepreneur who runs a $205 billion company with more than 1.3 billion daily users.