Transcript: Zuck Speaks 普通话

Drake Ballew
Oct 23, 2014 · 11 min read

On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg spoke Chinese publicly for the first time and the Western world freaked out…without understanding a single word. Let’s fix that.

他刚说什么呢?What’d he say?

On October 22nd, as a a newly appointed member of the advisory board for Tsinghua’s School of Economics and Management, Mark Zuckerberg hosted a Q&A at Tsinghua University’s x-lab.

To everyone’s surprise, nearly the entirety of the 30-minute Q&A was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and after posting the video on his Facebook page, my inbox quickly filled with news of the event. I clicked through to watch.

Before getting into it, let me say that Zuck’s is a fantastic little Q&A. He has been practicing his Chinese lately and hangs on fairly well throughout. Sure, there are plenty of pronunciation mistakes and grammatical errors, but overall he’s intelligible, which is impressive for someone who runs the 22nd largest company in the world and studies in his spare time.

I had heard that Zuckerberg was practicing his Chinese and was curious to see what he’d posted, though I wasn’t shocked to see him speaking the language. But what was shocking was that there were no subtitles or transcript! How could all of these (mostly American) people who were messaging and emailing me possibly understand what he was saying?

And then it dawned on me: they couldn’t.

The Transcript

Below is the transcript of Zuckerberg’s October 22nd Q&A at Tsinghua University. For the most part, it is complete, though there are a handful of words and phrases — some of them important to Zuck’s intention — that are awaiting translation from members of Unbabel’s Editor community. As soon as they’re ready, I’ll update the post to reflect the changes. In the meantime, if you have an alternative translation, please highlight it and leave a comment! This is a working transcript so don’t be shy.

As a final note, I’ll say that I stuck fairly closely to the exact words that Zuck and the other speakers used — not a lot of my own interpretation in the translation. This sometimes results in awkward or even half-English translations, and occasionally blips of Chinglish. Regardless, it’s understandable and revealing of Zuckerberg’s abilities in the language.



Mod: (Speaking in English) Now let’s introduce the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuck: (Speaking in Chinese) Hi everyone, thanks for having me. I’m happy to be in Beijing. I love it here. My Chinese is terrible, but today I want to try using Chinese. I might need to practice.

Host: Mark, everyone’s shocked you can speak Chinese. Why did you want to study Chinese?

Zuck: [Because] It’s fun. There are three reasons: the sec-, the first, my wife is Chinese. Her second language is Chinese, but her grandma only speaks Chinese. I wanted to speak with her (the grandma). One day last year, my wife and I decided to get married, so I told her grandma [the news] in Chinese. She was REALLY surprised.

H: Priscilla is your wife.

MZ: (English) Alright! Yeah… (Chinese) Second, I think, isn’t it… I want to study Chinese culture. China’s a great country. I think that studying the language helps me study the culture so I think I should study the language. The third [reason] is Chinese is hard. I only speak English, but I like challenges!

H: So, everyone, how about tonight we give Mark a challenge: I’ll go ahead and use Chinese. How many times have you been to China?

MZ: Four times. I’ve been to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Tianjin.

M: **Expressing surprise** Tianjin?

MZ: (English) Yeah. (Chinese) While we are in Beijing, I want to ride the high-speed rail. I also want to see the Huo Yuan Jia (霍元甲 or “Fearless,” the Jet Li movie) statue. I like this movie so I want to see its statue.


H: Mark’s a big Huo Yuan Jia fan so of course he’ll go to see its hometown’s statue. So what city’s your favorite?

MZ: They’re all the same. Uh…I might like Beijing the best because it’s got a lot of history.

H: So what’s your plan for this trip to China?

MZ: Um…I didn’t hear you.

H: (Emphasizing pronunciation) What’s your plan for this trip to China?


Z: (English) Yeah…(Chinese) This week, I will take part in the Tsinghua University Economics and Management Committee meeting. I came to join the Committee meeting.

I think Tsinghua’s students are great. Facebook has more than 140 Tsinghua friends. (To moderator) You’re one!

H: I am one.

MZ: Next year, we’ll be in China recruiting the best engineers. Right, just last month we recruited 20 Chinese students.

H: Yes. Last month, we had 20 students [recruited]. Next year, they’ll work at Facebook.

(To Mark) So what about you? Why do you want to participate in Tsinghua’s Economics and Management Committee?

MZ: First, I want to thank Dean Qian. (English) Umm. yeah and… (Chinese) I’m very flattered to join the committee.

I really care about education. In America, I’ve done a to support education. I hope to join this Committee because it’s a good opportunity to let me study [Chinese] and support Chinese education.

H: Very good, Mark. It’s great seeing that Mark would like to support Chinese education. This month you’ve also been to other great countries. What’s the purpose of this trip?

MZ: Yeah…um..I’ve been to India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan. We wanted to see how help the people use the internet. Today, most of the world — about 65%, about 500 million people — don’t have access to the internet. Some people — about 15% — don’t have a network. Some people, about 30%, don’t have the money to pay for the internet. But most people who don’t have internet don’t have it because they don’t know why they’d want to use it. If I were to ask you, if you didn’t have a computer, cell phone, or the internet, and I asked you if you wanted to use the internet, you might ask me why I’d want to use the internet in the first place. So there are a lot of problems. But we need to stay connect with the world. The internet creates work, opportunities, and economic development. It’s really important.

H: Mark is very serious about connecting the world. When did you start wanting to connect the world?

MZ: In 2004, I founded the first version of Facebook because I wanted to connect all of the students at Harvard. I’ve always thought that there should be a product that connects the world but I thought that other companies were making this. I remember when I was in college and I’d go out with friends to eat pizza and talk about the future, (English) you know… (Chinese) One day after I founded the first version, I told my friend “I’m happy to connect students, but some day there will be a product to connect the world.” But we were only students. I thought another company — I thought that Google, Microsoft — other companies had more than 10 thousand engineers and a trillion **corrects self** 100 million, users. and we’re only students! But we always believed that global media is extremely important. Other companies didn’t believe this, and we did, so we built this [company] and now we have 1.3 billion users.


H: So in the past decade, Mark’s built up a fantastic company. There are a lot of students here who also want to found companies. What kind of advice do you have for them?

MZ: Umm…to start a company? Yeah. Umm…I think that the best companies aren’t started because the founders want to start a company but because they want to change the world.

If you decide you want to found a company, you might or develop — (English) sorry — (Chinese) you need to develop the initial idea. [For example], you might [want to] recruit a lot of workers (a recruiting company).

But you might have a lot of ideas and you don’t know which one is best. And if your initial idea is bad, then your company will be bad too. But if you decide to change the world, you’ll need to come up with more ideas, and if any of them are fantastic, then you start a company.

H: Great advice. First develop a good idea, then found a company. So with regards to when you decided to establish Facebook, in the hard times, what kind of tips do you have?

MZ: The best thing is you can’t give up. Developing a company is really hard. Most things don’t just happen in passing. You’ll need to make really hard decisions. You’ll need to fire some employees.

H: You aren’t saying you’re going to fire me tomorrow, are you?

MZ: **Laughs, shakes head** These are all difficult. If you don’t believe in your mission, giving up is easy. Most founders give up, but the best founders don’t. So believing in your mission and not giving up is the most important.

H: Well, it can be said that you are one of the most successful founders out there. What are your thoughts on Chinese innovation?

MZ: (English) Yeah, I mean…(Chinese) I think Chinese has a many of the world’s most innovative companies. Last night, I ate dinner with Xiaomi’s (CEO) Lei Jun. Is that right?

H: (English) Yes, yes, yes, yes.

MZ: Xiaomi is an extremely innovative company. They develop different products very quickly. They (their products) are very cheap. I think they’re, Xiaomi, will grow very quickly. Tencent’s Weixin is also very big. Most Chinese people use Weixin or QQ. Taobao is also very innovative. Taobao creates work opportunities. I believe that China has many of the world’s most innovative companies.

H: So Mark has very positive opinions towards Chinese innovation. Speaking of China, I’m going to ask Mark a difficult question which may be impolite. I hope I won’t get fired tomorrow. So what is Facebook’s plan for China?

MZ: ** Drinks water with smile on face as students laugh, raises a finger to ask for a moment to swallow. Crowd applauses. **

H: A difficult question.

Z: We’re already in China. **laughter** We help Chinese companies grow their international customer base. They use Facebook Ads to find more customers. For instance, Lenovo uses Facebook in Indonesia to sell new cell phones. **Asks host a question: “I forgot…Lenovo’s…”**

H: **Answers Mark’s question **

MZ: Yeah, that. (English) So um…(Chinese) In China, I also see a developing economy. We’re very impressed. (English) Yeah…it’s…it’s amazing.

** Crowd laughs **


MZ: So we want to help other places in the world connect to China. For example, big cities, countries, parks…(English) Yeah, I mean, so…(Chinese) Hangzhou and Qingdao also have great pages on Facebook. We cooperate with these cities to develop their pages and share Chinese culture.

H: [In answering] such a difficult question, Mark only said one sentence. Give him a short applause. **crowd applauses** So after a difficult question, let’s lighten up a bit. We’ll ask Mark some personal questions, some easier questions, about the details of his life. **As if speaking to a child** We’re going to ask you some questions about your life, okay?

MZ: Okay.

** Crowd Laughs **

H: The first question is: what kind of colors do you like?

MZ: Blue. I can’t answer red or green because Facebook is blue.

H: **Mentions something about the backdrop being Facebook blue** What Chinese food (i.e. dishes) do you like?

MZ: Hmm…When I’m in Beijing, I’m always eating snacks from the Hutongs.

H: Hutong snacks?

MZ: But I also like Beijing duck.

H: (Laughing) You like Beijing so much that you like Hutong snacks and Beijing duck. Outside of work, what kind of activities do you do?

Z: Outside of work?

H: (English) Yes.

MZ: I don’t have any time outside of work.

** Everyone laughs **

MZ: On Sundays, Priscilla and I cook dinner.

H: If I remember correctly, you also have a pet.

MZ: Yeah, we also have a dog. His name’s Beast. He’s a sheepdog. He’s super cute. I love him.

H: Mark, your dog also has a facebook page.

MZ: Yeah, I made Beast’s facebook page. Beast has 2,000,000 fans.

H: Between you and Priscilla, whose Chinese is better?

MZ: Using standard Mandarin, I know more words, but she can also speak Cantonese. Her listening is also better than mine. My listening is bad. One day, I asked her why my listening is so bad and she told me, “Your listening in English is also bad!”

** Laughter **

H: Thank you so much Mark. We still have a few minutes left. Next, let’s invite a few students to ask some questions. Dean Qian, come handle this.

Dean Qian: (English) So this is an occassion where Americans speak Chinese and Chinese speak American. We only have very limited time for a couple questions. So let’s see…where’s the microphone? (To student) Yes?

Student 1: (Chinese) Should I use English or Chinese? Chinese?

MZ: Uh…**hesitates** okay.


S1: When Facebook was first developing, how did it distinguish itself from competing social networks?

MZ: Uhh…? You asked me why I…?

S1: (English) Umm..Let me use English.

MZ: (English) Yeah.

S1: (English) How did Facebook establish the competitive edge towards the other early social network sites, and what’s the biggest challenge? And the second question is at what moment did you get a leap of faith and decided to leave out the school and devote to the enterprise? (sic all)

MZ: (Chinese) The second question — I was very lucky. How could I not decide to leave? Harvard students can suspend their classes. I founded the first version of Facebook my second year. I developed Facebook while I was taking classes. It was too much [for me]. But I was very lucky because I only suspended taking classes. I’m still a Harvard student. Sometimes Harvard’s President tells me “You can come back…”

**Laughter **

Dean Qian: We’ll ask Tsinghua’s President later.

MZ: But now I can’t go back. The first, your first question, the biggest challenge. Our biggest challenge might have been in 2004, we needed to change Facebook into a company. One day, in 2012, we were growing very slowly, our revenue was growing very slowly, and everyone was unhappy. But we changed Facebook into a company, and now we have 1 billion users who use Facebook on their mobile phones.

Student 2: Hi, Mark Zuckerberg, my name is Yang Zhileng from the School of Social Work and also a member of x-lab and I’m very glad here to ask you a question. And from the internet mobile internet we know that the progress of science and technology has greatly accelerated our human society especially the revolution. And from your perspective, what is the next big advance in technology? (all sic)

MZ: Umm…this year, Facebook is 10 years old.

H: (Clarifying Zuck’s pronunciation) 4 years? 10 years? Facebook is 10 years old.

MZ: **Looking confused** Okay, alright. So I’m asked, in the next ten years, what will we try to develop? I’ve decided that we’ll develop three things. One, we’re going to connect the entire world. So we need to help everyone to use the internet, this Two, we want to make (English) artificial intelligence. (Chinese) I don’t know how to say that [in Chinese].

H: A very difficult word, “artificial intelligence.”

MZ: I think that 10 years from now, computers will be better at seeing, speaking, listening, languages. So we’re developing this. Three, once everyone is using cell phones, I believe the next platform is “Virtual Reality.” I also don’t know how to say this. Occulus is the first product, but we hope to make many products.

S2: Thank you.

DQ: Very good.


    Drake Ballew

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