When it comes to Mandarin, Bill Gates is no Mark Zuckerberg

When it comes to Mandarin, Bill Gates is no Mark Zuckerberg

Two years ago, Bill Gates admitted one of his life regrets was never becoming conversant in any foreign language.

Mr. Gates, 61 years old, has made some progress. Over the weekend, he gave a 12-word welcome in Mandarin in an opening video for his new blog on Chinese social network WeChat.

"Hello," he said in Chinese. "Welcome to my official WeChat account."

Mr. Gates is the latest US tech executive to risk ridicule by speaking publicly in Chinese, joining Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Uber's Travis Kalanick. But his brief, accented remarks made clear that while he might rival Mr. Zuckerberg in entrepreneurship and philanthropy, the Microsoft Corp. founder is a less formidable challenger in Chinese oration.

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Happy Lunar New Year! 春节快乐! This is a moment of renewal and celebration each year. I hope you have a wonderful time...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, 18 February 2015

"His Chinese pronunciation is not quite as good as Zuckerberg's," announced China's official Global Times newspaper on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

Chinese viewers online gave mixed reviews, with some encouraging his effort ("Great!") and others panning it ("There appears to be a big difference between his Chinese and English").

Mr. Gates had praised Mr. Zuckerberg's fluency in Chinese as "incredible" in a 2015 Reddit question-and-answer session.

Read also: Prince William and Mark Zuckerberg give Chinese New Year greetings in Mandarin

"I feel pretty stupid that I don't know any foreign languages," wrote Mr. Gates in the Reddit Q&A. "I took Latin and Greek in high school and got As and I guess it helps my vocabulary but I wish I knew French or Arabic or Chinese. I keep hoping to get time to study one of these-probably French because it is the easiest."

Mr. Gates's attempt at Chinese was occasioned by the launch of his new WeChat account "gatesnotes". In China, public figures often use WeChat official accounts to share their opinions and musings with fans. For foreign business leaders, WeChat has become a go-to option as both Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China.

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