The Challenge of Learning a New Language

On October 22nd, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of the social-networking website Facebook, posted a video of himself addressing an audience in Mandarin Chinese at the Tsinghua University in Beijing, much to their delight and absolute surprise. He even successfully conducted and completed a question-and-answer session in his new language.  Zuckerberg has been both praised and criticised for his decision to communicate in Mandarin Chinese. Critics found that his grasp of the grammar and pronunciation, among other things, left a lot to be desired. One major voice of dissent is Isaac Stone Fish, “China expert” and second language learner of Mandarin, who maintained in his reaction to the speech that Zuckerberg’s level of Mandarin Chinese was comparable to that of a seven-year-old Mandarin-speaking child. And yet, it can’t be denied Zuckerberg’s 30-minute speech is, to a certain degree, rather impressive. It’s a considerable accomplishment for someone whose first language is not Mandarin to address an audience for 30 minutes in Mandarin Chinese and Zuckerberg prepared extensively for the occasion by studying Mandarin Chinese every day for a year. It is entirely probable that the interview at Tsinghua University had been carefully rehearsed beforehand, but that does not detract from the admirable feat of clearly learning and absorbing the important aspects (basics) of the language. Mandarin Chinese is a complicated language for Westerners to learn. The difficulty lies in the structure and the fundamentals of the language, which strongly differ from those of Western languages. In Mandarin the pitch pattern of a word – tone and intonation – determine its meaning. A word articulated in a high level tone changes...
Social Media Localization

Social Media Localization

New marketing strategies to engage with customers have led many companies to be active on social media. In traditional push marketing, the marketeer aims to be in control of all the interaction. Pull marketing seeks to understand what messages and content will meet an audience’s needs. Content is placed where the audience is already engaged and seeking information. Localizing social media content requires the use of native language speakers with knowledge of the local culture, trends and use of colloquial words and terms. All localized websites should lead to local social media, which emphasizes the importance of cohesion in language. At Localization World Conference we attended a session with representatives of database software giant SAP. They had a few interesting facts: In 2012 among Facebook’s top languages, those that saw the greatest rate of growth were Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish and French. Chinese is soon set to overtake English as the Internet’s most widely spoken language. In 2011, two-thirds (60%) of new Twitter accounts were registered outside the U.S. More than 50% of all the tweets per day were written in a language other than English. Large local social media platforms to keep an eye on: Orkut (Brazil), Nasza-Klaza (Poland), VKontakte and Odnoklassniki (Russia), Café (South Korea), Baidu and QQ...

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